The sidewalk needs shoveling again, your car has been taking 20 minutes to warm up and you’re tired of piling on seven layers of clothes before opening the front door. Yep, you’re getting cabin fever and have an itch to fish someplace that doesn’t require an ice auger. The good news is that sunny skies and short sleeves are only a plane ride away. Check out some of these economical Florida fishing hotspots if you want to let your casting arm thaw out someplace where the temperatures are warm and the winter bite is hot.
1. Clewiston, South Central Florida.
The city of Clewiston sits on the southwestern rim of Lake Okeechobee and is famous for the trophy largemouth bass that inhabit its waters. Your best bet is to go with a professional guide that fishes the “Big O” on a regular basis, especially if you are only visiting for a short period of time. Bass fishing guides can be booked through Roland Martin’s Marina Bass Guide Service, and accommodations in Clewiston are available at reasonable rates through places such as Roland Martin’s Marina & Resort or The Clewiston Inn.
2. Destin, Northwest Florida.
While offshore fishing on Florida’s “Emerald Coast” can be unpredictable due to higher winds and fronts that come through during the winter months, inshore fishing for redfish or red drum in the bays and backwaters will still be very productive. Sheepshead can also be targeted near pilings, piers and bridges in this area. Hotels such as the Residence Inn Sandestin or the Courtyard Sandestin offer affordable rates and are just a short drive from the beaches.
3. Islamorada, South Florida/Florida Keys.
Although it is often referred to as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada is often overlooked due to the popularity and active nightlife in Key West. Just an hour and a half drive south from Miami, the offshore waters of Islamorada are ideal if you want to target sailfish during the month of January. The weather and waves can be a concern during the winter months when deep-sea fishing though, so be sure to bring along the Dramamine just in case. Local charter guides will know where the fish are biting and the best techniques to use — check the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce website for a list of guides and affordable hotels in the upper Keys
The backwaters and estuaries near Pine Island provide some of the best fishing for redfish, trout and sheepshead. As one of the largest and most secluded islands on the west coast of Florida, Pine Island is an hour’s drive from Southwest Florida International Airport. Cottage or inn rooms can be reserved for reasonable rates in the artsy, quaint village of Matlacha, near the “The Fishingest Bridge in the US.” There are plenty of options for anglers of all levels when it comes to fishing on Pine Island. Visitors can wet a line from the pier at Matlacha Community Park, rent a kayak for the day or book a trip with a local fishing guide. Just don’t forget to check the Florida fishing and license regulations before you go.