Suggestions - Fishing one day in Tampa late-Feb

I’m headed to Tampa FL late this month, and will likely have a day free to do some fishing. I need some suggestions on the what/how/where. I’ll have a car, so I don’t mind traveling a little (an hour or so from Clearwater) to get to a great location.

I’m a New England fisherman, so my experience has been mostly in fresh water for bass/trout/etc., with a little experience in salt water has been bluefish, flounder, and stripers.

I have one day, and a relatively limited budget. I don’t mind buying some gear to keep at the in-laws place for future trips, but I’m not interested in chartering a boat (actually, I am interested, just not willing to spend the bucks, unless there is a party-boat scene that is easily available for a walk-up ticket).

I’ve heard about fishing piers which don’t require a state license, and gear is available for rent. I’ve also heard that there is plenty of shore line fishing as well. I’ve been trying to figure out all the ins & outs of the FL Fish & Game laws, with minimal success as I don’t know what half the fish are, so a brief summary of what’s in season Feb22-29 would be a big help.

I’m mostly interested in the fishing experience (catching is always a bonus), and though I’d be happy to bring something tastey back to cook but that’s not my biggest priority. Mostly it’s my “free day” while my wife, MIL, and daughter go off and do “girl stuff.”

Thanks in advance!

I’m not an experienced fisherman, but I did a party boat in Tarpon Springs (about a half hour from Clearwater) about 10 years ago. I think we fished with these guys:

There are other party boats in the area:

You’re never going to have a great fishing experience on a party boat, but it’s not a bad way to go for a one-off. Grouper was the target fish and the boat pulled in a pretty good haul. Snapper is another prize fish, but the boat didn’t get any when I went. My friend and I caught a bunch of Grunts which made for a pretty decent dinner.

There may be some fishing piers that include a license fee with equipment rentals. I know that Florida residents (or it may county residents) can shore fish without a license, but out of state (and perhaps out of county) anglers must be licensed. That was the case 10 years ago, anyway.

For what you’re looking for, I think the party boat is a good choice. If you decide to fish out of Tarpon, you may want to take the wife and daughter up there a day or two before to check out the scene and see the sponge docks. It’s kind of a tourist trap, but they may enjoy walking around for a couple hours. It’s a huge Greek population with excellent Greek restaurants.

Good luck and have fun!

Thanks Jake, I’ll check out the boat suggestions. Heading up there with the family in advance isn’t going to work this time around, simply due to schedules.

Anyone else have any suggestions for shore/bridge/pier suggestions/advice just sot hat I can cover those bases as well?