BlogSeptember 2017

Look for These 5 Underrated Florida Freshwater Fish Species

Look for These 5 Underrated Florida Freshwater Fish Species

By Debbie Hanson

Sep 12, 2017

Learn about Florida freshwater fish that are fun to catch, perfect for family fishing trips. These five fish species may not be popular, but are worth pursuing

While the largemouth bass is most often in the Florida freshwater fish spotlight, you shouldn't forget about a few other Sunshine State fish species that can be loads of fun to catch. Are you wondering which freshwater fish in Florida are underrated, but present a great opportunity for beginning anglers? Check out this list of five types of fish in Florida that are worth targeting.

1. Florida Gar

You won't have to do much searching in order to find a pond, lake, river system or canal that has a thriving gar population. This is one Florida fish species that can thrive in warm, low-oxygen waters where other species can't. Aside from the Florida gar's abundance, they are sporty fighters that can be caught on fly or light tackle. Try using artificial minnow lures and baitfish fly patterns.

2. Jaguar Guapote

This freshwater fish is a non-native species (originating from Central and South America) that can be found in the canal systems of southeastern Florida. The toothy jaguar guapote may be thought of as bycatch by anglers who are on the hunt for peacock bass or largemouth bass, but they eagerly strike flies or small artificial lures.

3. Mayan Cichlid

If you plan to spend any time in South Florida, don't forget to add the Mayan cichlid to your list of freshwater fishing targets. Mayan cichlids will test your fish fighting skills because they are known for taking long, powerful runs when hooked. Head to a lake, canal or pond with the kids and try using natural baits such as worms, grass shrimp or crickets for plenty of action. Experienced anglers can use artificial lures or flies.

4. Oscar

The canals and water conservation areas near the Everglades provide prime fishing for a spunky non-native fish species known as the Oscar. Use crickets, worms, small jigs, and small spinnerbaits to experience the thrill of reeling in one of these small (average size is under one pound), but energetic Florida freshwater fish.

5. Channel Catfish

If you're fishing in Florida with the kids, consider buying stinkbait or using cut mullet to catch a few channel catfish during the early morning or evening hours. Channel catfish can be easily overlooked because they are often stocked in the same public waterways that hold largemouth bass. Don't forget that catfish can make a tasty addition to your dinner table too!

While these five types of fish may not be the most glamorous of freshwater species, they each have qualities that make them worth your time. If you don't have your freshwater fishing license yet, just buy your freshwater fishing license online now and check the state regulations.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.