3-Day Trip: Fish North Florida’s Hidden Coast

The shorelines of Florida’s northwest counties are known for more than their white, sandy beaches and quaint, coastal cities. Their waters are abundant with a wide variety of salt and freshwater fish, and each county offers an assortment of boating, scalloping and other water activities. From freshwater kayak fishing to deep-sea charters, Florida’s northern shores are home to some of the best fishing experiences in the state. Here’s a three-day trip guide inviting you to a drop a line in the connecting coastlines of Levy, Dixie and Taylor counties.

Day 1: Levy County

Levy County is the perfect place for all types of fishing: inshore, offshore, kayak and small boat trawling. A popular outdoor venue to fish is Cedar Key, an eclectic fishing village located on the county’s shoreline. The city maintains a large city pier where visitors and boatless anglers are welcome to cast their rods. Tackle and bait shops, restrooms and a few of the town’s restaurants are located within walking distance to the pier.

Cedar Key offers various fishing charters for deep-sea fisherman. These charters tour Florida’s famous gulf, providing boats and fishing equipment ideal for catching speckled trout, redfish, shark, tarpon and more. Half-day and full-day excursion packages are available for purchase, and the charters’ guides offer tips and tricks to reel in keepers. Some charters even offer a scenic tour of the area’s waters and lunchtime opportunities. For more information on Cedar Key’s guided fishing charters, please see Cedar Key’s website.

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After a day at sea, fisherman are invited to dine at one Cedar Key’s famous restaurants: the Island Room Restaurant at Cedar Cove, Tony’s Seafood Restaurant or Steamers Clam Bar and Grill. Each restaurant features a taste of Florida’s best seafood and one-of-a-kind dishes suitable for everyone.

From hotels and cottages, to efficiencies and bed and breakfasts, Cedar Key offers lodging options for every traveler. Popular places to stay include the Cedar Key Bed and Breakfast, Cedar Summit and the Faraway Inn. For more information on places to stay, please see Cedar Key’s website.

Day 2: Dixie County

Just north of Levy County is Dixie County. It’s known for its optimal salt and brackish-water fishing, and multiple marinas where visitors can rent boats and fishing equipment. Boats can be used for offshore trawling or for leisure activities, including water skiing or cruising down a river via houseboat.

Another popular area off the coast of Dixie County is Deadman’s Bay. Located on the cusp of both Taylor and Dixie counties, this bay is equally rich in aquatic wildlife as it is in history. It’s situated where the Steinhatchee River and Gulf of Mexico meet, making it a blend of fresh and saltwater. Deadman’s Bay was originally charted by the Spanish in the early 1500s by conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez, and was explored a decade later by Hernando de Soto. Until the18th century, Deadman’s Bay remained filled with plundering pirates and loggers. Today, it’s home to a plethora of shrimp, redfish, crevalle jack and crabs. Deadman’s Bay also attracts many visitors during its winter grouper season, and it’s summer scalloping season, as Steinhatchee is ranked one of the top scalloping areas in the United States.

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Many marinas and hotels pepper the shoreline of Dixie County. A popular spot to stay is the Good Times Motel and Marina, which is equipped with a boat dock and restaurant for travelers’ convenience.

Day 3: Taylor County

The Taylor County shoreline stretches nearly 60-miles long. The county’s mainland has four rivers, numerous streams and creeks, springs, and borders the Apalachee Bay. Taylor County’s shores also house both natural and artificial reefs, which are populated by sea trout, redfish, grouper, sheepshead and more. Visitors are encouraged to fish from the county’s 700-foot pier, shoreline or with a charter guide.

A popular freshwater fishing experience is found at the Econfina River. It’s the prime flats boat fishing location, as its shallow waters are abundant in Spanish mackerel, mullet and redfish. The river’s banks are also equipped with picnic benches and pavilions, which provide perfect lunchtime spots.
There are many places to stay in the Taylor County coastal cities. In Steinhatchee, visitors can comfortably lodge in the River Haven Hotel and Marina, the River Haven Marina or the Keaton Beach Hotel and Marina. A few local restaurant favorites include Deal’s Oyster Bar, Fiddler’s Restaurant and Roy’s Restaurant. For more information on Taylor County’s restaurants, please visit the county website.