Look for these 5 underrated Florida freshwater fish species
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 are 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 a lot 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, de-oxygenated waters where other species cannot. Aside from the abundance of the Florida Gar, they are athletic fighters that can be caught with flies or light equipment. Try artificial minnow baits and baitfish fly patterns.
2. Jaguar guapote
This freshwater fish is an alien species (native to Central and South America) that is 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. Maya 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 in fighting fish as they have been known to make 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. Seasoned 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 spinnerbaits 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 easily be overlooked as they are often kept in the same public waterways as largemouth bass. Don’t forget that catfish can also be a delicious addition to your dining table!
While these five species of fish may not be the most glamorous of freshwater species, they do 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, women’s fishing advocate, 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.