While the largemouth bass is the most common freshwater fish spotlight in Florida, there are a few other Sunshine State fish species that shouldn’t be forgotten that can be fun to catch. Wondering which freshwater fish are underrated in Florida, but this is a great opportunity for beginners? Check out this list of five species of fish in Florida that are worth targeting.
1. Florida Gar
You don’t have to search far to find a pond, lake, river system, or canal with a thriving gar population. This is a species of fish native to Florida that can thrive in warm, deoxygenated waters where other species cannot. Aside from the abundance of the Florida Gar, they are athletic fighters that can be caught using flies or light equipment. Try artificial minnow baits and bait fish fly patterns.
2. Jaguar guapote
This freshwater fish is an alien species (native to Central and South America) found in the canal systems of southeast Florida. The toothed jaguar guapote may be viewed as bycatch by anglers looking for peacock or largemouth bass, but they are eager to hit flies or small artificial baits.
3. Mayan cichlid
If you are planning on spending time in South Florida, don’t forget to add the Mayan cichlid to your list of freshwater fishing destinations. Mayan cichlids will test your skills against fish as they are known for making long, powerful runs when addicted. Take the kids to a lake, canal, or pond and try using natural baits like worms, grass shrimp, or crickets for lots of action. Experienced anglers can use artificial bait or flies.
The canals and water sanctuaries near the Everglades offer world-class fishing for a spunky non-native fish known as Oscar. Use crickets, worms, small jigs, and small spinner baits to experience the thrill of one of these small (average size under a pound) but energetic freshwater fish from Florida.
5. Channel catfish
If you’re fishing in Florida with the kids, be sure to buy stink bait early in the morning or evening or use mullet to catch a few channel catfish. Channel catfish can be easily overlooked as they are often stored in the same public waterways that largemouth bass are kept. Don’t forget that catfish can also be a delicious addition to your dining table!
While these five species of fish might not be the most glamorous of freshwater species, they each have properties that make them worth your time. If you don’t already have a freshwater fishing license, just buy your freshwater fishing license online now and check state regulations.
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, advocate of sport fishing for women, IGFA world record holder and freshwater guide in southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has been featured in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @ shefishes2.