Spearfishing is a thrilling water sport that has been gaining popularity in Florida over the years. The sport of spearfishing combines diving skills, hunting techniques, and a love for the ocean, making it a great time for anyone who enjoys the water. Spearfishing in Florida offers a unique opportunity to catch a variety of sport fish such as Spanish mackerel, black grouper, mahi-mahi, and lionfish.
In this article, we’ll explore the best spots to spearfish in Florida. We’ll cover each region of Florida, so no matter where you’re going you can find a spot to enjoy. We’ll also help you find dive shops or spearfishing guides so you can have a great day out on the water.
- Florida Spearfishing Regulations
- Types of Fish Found in Florida's Waters
- West Florida / Florida Panhandle
- North and Central Florida
- South Florida
- Southwest Florida
- The Bottom Line
Florida Spearfishing Regulations
Florida has strict laws and regulations in place to protect the underwater ecosystem and ensure sustainable fishing practices. So before heading out, it’s a good idea to review the laws and regulations.
One of the most important regulations to note is the species you cannot take by spearing. That includes sturgeon, shark, goliath grouper, and tarpon. It’s also important to keep in mind bag limits, which vary by species. Be sure to check out regulations for the fish you want to catch before heading out.
You’ll need a saltwater fishing license to do any kind of fishing, including spearfishing, in Florida.
Important rules to keep in mind (directly cited from the FWC website):
- Spearfishing of marine and freshwater species in freshwater is prohibited. Possession of a spear gun in or on freshwater is also prohibited.
- Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed.
- Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea – except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline.
- In Monroe County from Long Key north to the Dade County line.
- For any fish for which spearing is expressly prohibited by law (listed above).
- In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection, Recreation and Parks. (Possession of spearfishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored.)
- Volusia County — You may not harvest by spearing in Volusia County inland waters with the exception of flounder and sheepshead, and only by the use of a barbed spear with three or fewer prongs.
When it comes to spear guns specifically, Florida has specific regulations in place to ensure safe and responsible use. For example, it’s illegal to use a powerhead in Florida waters.
Types of Fish Found in Florida’s Waters
Florida is a paradise for sport fishing enthusiasts, offering some of the best fishing opportunities in the world. There are many types of sport fish that can be caught in the state, including Spanish mackerel, black grouper, mahi-mahi, trophy fish, and lionfish.
The Spanish mackerel is a popular game fish in Florida, commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico. The black grouper is another popular sport fish found in Florida, known for its large size and hard-fighting nature. It is commonly caught in deeper waters.
Mahi mahi, also known as dolphin fish, are known for their bright colors and acrobatic jumps. They can be caught in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, often near floating debris or weed lines. Trophy fish such as sailfish, marlin, and swordfish are also found in Florida waters.
While lionfish are not a traditional sport fish, they are an invasive species in Florida waters and can be caught by spearfishing. They are known for their venomous spines and voracious appetite, and efforts are being made to control their population to protect native marine life. You can do your part by removing them from Florida’s waters. Thankfully, they also taste great and restaurants have even started serving them. If you’re interested, there are also Lionfish Roundups throughout the state you can participate in.
West Florida / Florida Panhandle
The Gulf of Mexico’s clear, warm waters offers spear fishers some prime opportunities to get big game fish. Even better, Okaloosa County has been very active in creating structures and sinking ships to provide opportunities for fishing and diving.
Niuhi Dive Charters offers spearfishing charters and the Captain, Andy, has a license for both state and federal waters. That allows you to go out to deeper waters than many charters, where you can get the big fish. Benthic Ocean Sports in Destin is also highly rated and their guides are very experienced. For Panama City, check out Panama City Diving.
Panama City Diving
We offer scuba classes and dive charters for all skill levels from novice to Trimix Technical Diving.
Destin and Pensacola
South Walton Artificial Reef is a great shore-accessible site. The South Walton Artificial Reef Association has set up over 700 reef structures across 16 sites throughout Walton County (close to Destin). Divers can expect to find depths ranging from 50 to 70 feet and commonly catch snapper, cobia, and king mackerel.
Interestingly, the association also set up the nation’s first permanent underwater sculpture garden. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out! Also, of you’re traveling with your dog and looking for a place to stay, be sure to check out our post on Dog Friendly Hotels in Destin, FL.
There are hundreds of wrecks and sites, so these are just a few of the highlights. Be sure to check out the full list here.
The Oriskany: One of the top spots for spearfishing in Pensacola is the Oriskany, a sunken aircraft carrier that attracts a variety of fish such as amberjack, snapper, and grouper. The dive depth ranges from 85 to 212 feet, so it’s not for beginners.
Miss Louise is a sunken tug boat that sits offshore and is popular with scuba divers and spearfishermen.
The Russian Freighter, also called San Pablo, is another popular spot, with depths ranging from 60 to 100 feet and a variety of fish including amberjack, cobia, and king mackerel. As always, be sure to check local regulations and obtain the appropriate permits before spearfishing in Pensacola.
Cedar Key / Steinhatchee
One of the popular spots for spearfishing in Cedar Key is Seahorse Reef. This 10-mile stretch of “reef” is actually a sandbar with depths ranging from 10 to 30 feet. It is filled with grass that is a natural habitat for a variety of fish species such as red grouper, hogfish, sheepshead, and snapper. The waters here are generally calm, so it’s an ideal spot for beginners.
Located about 30 minutes north of Cedar Key, Steinhatchee Reef offers depths ranging from 10 to 45 feet and is home to a wide variety of fish, including hogfish, snapper, grouper, cobia, and kingfish.
Other good sites include Redbank Reef, Spotty Bottom, and Seven Brothers.
North and Central Florida
Jacksonville, Tampa, and the Space Coast are three major areas for spearfishing in North/Central Florida.
Jacksonville is a great destination for spearfishing, with over 100 artificial reefs that are perfect for diving and fishing. The depths of these reefs range from 50 to 110 feet, making them suitable for divers of all levels of experience.
Tampa, Florida, despite sometimes getting a bad rap, is actually a top destination for spearfishing. You can spear some big fish in this area. Like everywhere, if you’re visiting you’ll probably do better if you go with a good, experienced guide.
Egmont Key is known for its shallow waters and diverse fish population, including snapper, grouper, and hogfish.
The Skyway Bridge is a great spot for catching cobia, snapper, and kingfish, with depths ranging from 30 to 60 feet. As always, it is important to check local regulations and obtain necessary permits before spearfishing.
If you’re planning on doing some spearfishing here, you may also want to check out the Tampa Bay Spearfishing Club. Join their Facebook group and ask for some friendly advice before going out.
Titusville / Space Coast / Indian River
It is possible to spear in this area, especially if you’re able to dive deep (either are an excellent free diver or using scuba), but unfortunately the visibility in this area can be pretty low. Some spearers, though, prefer low visibility because they can sneak up on the fish more easily.
If you’re coming to this area with your RV, check out the RV parks in Cedar Key.
One of the top spots for spearfishing in Titusville is the Indian River Lagoon, which is home to a variety of fish species such as snook, redfish, and sheepshead.
Located at the mouth of the Sebastian Inlet, in the Indian River Lagoon, the Sebastian Inlet State Park offers easy access to a variety of fish species such as snook, redfish, and spotted sea trout. The north and south jetties of the inlet are known for snook fishing, and schools of Snook can be found in the area between May and September.
Some people also spear at Pepper Park Beach. There are a series of reef ledges far enough offshore to be legal but still within reach for a shore dive.
Bathtub Beach Reef is also a regular spot for spearos. Check out more info on this spot on the spearfishing board.
South Florida has the clearest water in the state and attracts thousands of visitors every year for a variety of water sports. This area has some of the best spearfishing in the state.
For more information, check out my post on flights between Atlanta and Miami.
Palm Beach / West Palm Beach
Breakers Reef is a well-known spot for spearfishing with a variety of fish. Named after the Breaker’s Hotel, this reef is just off Breakers Beach and is a popular open water drift dive site as well. Depths here range from 29 feet to about 60 feet.
Jupiter Inlet is a great spot for experienced spearfishers, as the depth can reach up to 80 feet. The area is known for its strong currents, but it also attracts larger fish species such as kingfish, cobia, and amberjack.
Palm Beach Drop-off: Located just a few miles off the coast, the Palm Beach Drop-off is a popular spot for experienced spearfishers. The depth ranges from 60-100 feet, and it is home to a variety of pelagic fish species such as sailfish, wahoo, and tuna.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a popular destination for spearfishing enthusiasts. If you’re headed to the Keys, note that lobster season runs from August to March, so it’s a very busy time. You may want to snag a hotel as soon as you can.
Spearfishing is prohibited anywhere north of Long Key to the county line, in the Dry Tortugas National Park, in the Everglades, and in any of the State Parks. Be sure to download this brochure of Monroe County regulations before leaving for more details.
However, if you take one of the Key West Fishing Charters, you can get out of state waters (defined as 3 nautical miles from shore) and fish in these areas. Here, you can experience some great deepwater fishing and catch Hogfish, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and more!
Islamorada Spearfishing Adventures
ISA welcomes beginner to advanced divers and spear-o’s to join us! Scuba Diving, Spearfishing, Free Diving, Sunset Cruises we do it all!
Outside of that, there are some great shore dives too, especially in the Middle Keys. The waters around Duck Key offer a variety of fish species, including grouper, snapper, and hogfish, that can be targeted by spearfishers. The dive depths around Duck Key range from 10 to 30 feet.
The Adelaide Baker, a wreck located 4 miles off Duck Key, offers some great spearfishing too. While not a shore dive due to its distance, 4 miles is close enough you could get there with small boats.
Be sure to print out this brochure if you’re spearing in Monroe County (i.e. the Keys):
Southwest Florida includes the areas of Fort Myers and Naples. There is some seriously good spearfishing in this area, although most sites are off-shore.
One great spot is the Edison Reef, which is a man-made structure located about 10 miles offshore. Here, you can expect to find depths of up to 45 feet and catch species such as hogfish, snapper, and grouper.
The Naples Beach Reef is a shallower dive, with depths ranging from 20 to 30 feet. Here, spearfishers can expect to catch species such as Sheepshead, Snook, and Mackerel.
Offshore Naples Fishing charters ventures farther offshore and always finds the fish. We explore wrecks, Reefs, Artificials, Towers, Springs, Live bottom and much more. Capt. Bill has unlimited spots and can take you anywhere and put you on any fish.
Lee County has also published a guide to artificial reefs in the area so you can learn more.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, Florida is a spearfishing paradise with a plethora of prime locations to explore. From the Indian River Lagoon to the Florida Keys, the Sunshine State offers spearfishing enthusiasts an abundance of warm waters, diverse marine life, and stunning underwater landscapes to discover.