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Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater Fishing

Florida’s Urban Fisheries

Everyone seems to know that Florida is a popular destination! The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that Florida was one of the fastest growing states in the last several years. A great year-round climate, miles of beautiful beaches, and vast natural and recreational resources are among the many reasons that people flock to the Sunshine State.

Our state’s incredible fishing opportunities are a big part of Florida’s popularity with millions of resident and visitor anglers looking for a fun family fishing trip or an opportunity to land a personal best largemouth bass, Florida’s iconic freshwater gamefish. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s urban fisheries provide access to islands for recreation in an urban setting.

While names like Okeechobee and Toho are recognized by anglers across the globe, Florida has also provided lesser known but specially managed Fish Management Areas (FMA) for decades. The recognition of the need to focus on these locations as easily accessible “urban fisheries” began in the 1980s. Though some are located in rural Florida, many are within easy driving distance of Florida’s larger population centers. Most of these urban fisheries are managed in partnership with other municipalities engaged in similar efforts: county park and recreation departments, state and national forests, and smaller city and town parks and natural areas. It’s a cooperative venture that often results not only in great fishing, but recreational locales that are safe, well-maintained, easy to get to and to fish. They often offer other amenities like walking paths and playgrounds to round out a relaxing day outdoors for the whole family.

Of course, the FMAs focus on fishing. The most direct management action is stocking—putting fish directly in the water so that anglers can catch them, sometimes right away. Sunshine (hybrid) striped bass and channel catfish are among the most popular species stocked in Florida’s urban waters. The catfish in particular grow large, are easy to catch, and are frequently attracted to the fish feeders that dot many FMAs. If you know when the fish feeders go off, you’re almost certain to get a bite! Sunfish, stocked or not, are also attracted to fish feeders and are very cooperative biters—possibly the most caught freshwater fish across the entire state. While largemouth bass won’t eat the fish feed, they are attracted to the sunfish and shiners that do, making a fish feeder a good place to connect with Florida’s favorite freshwater game fish as well. Fish attractors made of brush or PVC pipe placed in the water provide cover that will also attract fish and are usually marked by a conspicuous buoy.

Fish attractors are not very helpful if good native vegetation is not already present to provide cover in the lake—cover that is also the basis for a healthy food chain of minnows, insects, and grass shrimp. Management of nonnative plants, combined with plantings of native species, make FMAs an ideal place for not only the fish that anglers enjoy pursuing, but many species of Florida wildlife as well. Turtles, herons, ducks, and ospreys all benefit from good fish management—what is good for the fish is good for the lake, and everything else living in it. Management of other vegetation, such as bushy shoreline plants or excess vegetation around fish feeders, boat ramps, and piers, helps make urban pond access easier—especially for the youth anglers who are the future of Florida conservation.

A great way to double your fun fishing urban ponds is to participate in the FWC’s Big Catch program. This program recognizes outstanding catches of 33 species of freshwater fish, rewarding participants with a frameable certificate for meeting a minimum weight or size. It’s fun to participate, and smaller youth category requirements for anglers under 16 makes it easy for the whole family to join in (see Freshwater Fish of Florida). FMAs can also produce outstanding largemouth bass fishing, and anyone catching one 8 pounds or heavier can document it and submit it to TrophyCatch for some great prizes.

The FWC’s urban fisheries are increasingly important natural and recreational resources as Florida continues to maintain its popularity and draws tourists as well as new residents. Find one of the nearly 80 FMAs nearest you at You may find easy and fun fishing only a ten-minute drive away!

Florida’s Urban Fisheries: Angling for Millions