I love a place with acres of grass flats and miles of mangroves where I can sight cast for feisty game fish. Matlacha (pronounced MAT-lah-shay), Florida is just such a place. The former commercial fishing village has transformed into an eclectic artist enclave and sunbaked flats fishing hotspot. Don’t miss Matlacha’s fun local attractions, plus fantastic coastal fishing that will have you knee deep in the action.
Fish the Flats of Matlacha, Florida
In the language of the Calusa Indians, who fished here a thousand years ago, Matlacha means “knee deep.” The name sums up the great fishing opportunities around this island paradise.
Paddlers launch from the Matlacha town dock and immediately start looking for snook, sea trout, redfish and tarpon. Work through the maze of islands, creeks, bays and coves, and search the flats and mangrove edges with light tackle and soft plastics.
Where to Eat in Matlacha
The Olde Fish House, a family-run restaurant, serves the freshest catch from its on-site seafood market. Eat beside the docks while listening to live music or bring your instrument and join the Sunday jam session.
Where to Stay in Matlacha
View this post on Instagram
Stay in a colorful “tiny house” at Matlacha Tiny Village. The whole island is within walking distance. Launch your boat from the Village’s kayak-friendly dock. Cook your catch on the outdoor grill beside the canal.
Area Outfitters and Guides
Matlacha Fishing Tips
Matlacha serves up a Florida smorgasbord of skinny-water heavy hitters including snook, redfish, spotted sea trout, tarpon, snapper and cobia.
Florida Fishing Season
Fish year-round. Locals consider November to May to be prime time. April and May are best for snook. Hurricane season makes September to October touch and go. For online fishing regulations, look up myfwc.com.
All Rigged Up
Live shrimp is the go-to bait. Mullet is second favorite. Sharpies prefer artificial lures and flies that imitate shrimp and mullet. A live crab pays off in the mangroves. A seven-foot, medium-action spinning rod covers the bases. For fly fishing, use an eight-weight combo with floating line and 0X leader to a 30-pound bite tippet.
Essential Kayak Gear
Bring a GPS unit. It’s easy to get lost in the mangroves. For sight casting, use a standup paddleboard or super-stable kayak. Leave extra gear at home, a lighter kayak is easier to stand on and paddle.
Pine Island Game Plan
Nestled on the back side of Pine Island, the current flows north and south around Matlacha. A rising tide brings cooler, oxygenated water and hungry fish into the mangroves. First, fish the south side of Fishing Bridge, then hit the north side.
This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 45. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.
Snook on fly. Need we say more? | Feature photo: Lisa Ballard