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Must-See Marine Species in Tampa Bay

There are a plethora of unique and interesting marine species in Tampa. From playful dolphins to elusive snook, you never know what you might see on your next kayaking adventure.
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From Dolphins to Snook: 10 Must-See Marine Species in Tampa Bay

Whether by kayak, paddle board or boat, you don't want to miss out on spotting these tampa locals

Wondering what fish you’ll see when Tampa fishing? There are a plethora of unique and interesting marine species in Tampa, that call these waters home. From playful dolphins to elusive snook, you never know what you might see on your next kayak fishing adventure. In this post, we’ll highlight 10 must-see marine species in Tampa, complete with information on where and when to see them, as well as tips for observing them responsibly.

What marine animals live in Tampa Bay?

1. Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins are a common sight in Tampa Bay and are always a treat to watch. Known for their playful and curious behavior, dolphins are social creatures often seen swimming and playing together in groups. The best time to spot them is early morning or late afternoon when they tend to be most active. Remember to keep a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them, as it’s important to respect their natural behavior. You can easily enjoy their playful antics from afar.

2. West Indian Manatees

Tampa Bay is home to a large population of West Indian manatees, an endangered species that are protected by law. This gentle herbivore giants are both peaceful and fascinating to watch. The best time to see them is during the winter months when they gather in the warmer waters of the bay. Some popular locations for manatee sightings include Weedon Island Preserve, Apollo Beach, and Three Sisters Springs. Remember to keep a safe distance and avoid touching or approaching them, as they’re easily spooked.

3. Snook (threatened species)

Snook are a highly sought-after game fish in Tampa and can be found in the shallow waters around mangrove islands and oyster bars. They’re most active during the warmer months and tend to feed during low-light conditions. Remember to follow local regulations for snook fishing, including size and bag limits.

 

Our TBKA Campers enjoy the opportunity to see snook up-close during Summer Camp! Our Summer Campers practice catch-and-release fishing at Mobbly Bayou Nature Preserve.

4. Red Drum (threatened Species)

Red drum, also known as redfish, is another popular game fish in Tampa. Found in both shallow and deeper waters of Tampa Bay, redfish are known for their hard fight and distinctive spot patterns.  The best time to target them is during the cooler months when they tend to school up in larger numbers.

5. Tarpon (threatened species)

Known for their acrobatic displays and impressive size, the tarpon is another highly sought-after species in Tampa Bay. The best time to see them is during their annual migration from May through July, especially at night. Look for rolling tarpon in shallow flats and near bridges. Remember to follow local regulations for tarpon fishing, including size and bag limits.

6. Sea Turtles (endangered species)

One of the better-known marine species in Tampa, several species of sea turtles, including the endangered loggerhead turtle, call Tampa home. These gentle giants can be seen surfacing for air or nesting on the beaches of nearby islands. Remember to keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing their natural behavior.

7. Stingrays

Stingrays are a common sight in the shallow waters of Tampa Bay, and are known for their unique diamond-shaped bodies. While they’re generally harmless, it’s important to avoid stepping on or touching them to avoid getting stung.

8. Goliath Grouper (threatened species)

Goliath grouper is a large and impressive fish species that can be found in the deeper waters surrounding Tampa. They’re most commonly targeted during the summer months, but it’s important to remember that they’re a protected species

9. Sheepshead

Sheepsheads are a favorite marine species in Tampa among local anglers due to their tasty flesh and hard-fighting nature. They can be found in the bay year-round and are often caught around structures like bridge pilings and docks. They have a set of teeth that are ideal for crushing hard-shelled prey like crabs and oysters.

10. Sharks

While it’s important to exercise caution when sharing the water with sharks, these creatures are a thrilling sight to see. Bull sharks, blacktip sharks, and nurse sharks are all commonly found around Tampa. Look for them in deeper waters and around structures like bridge pilings or rock jetties. Remember to never approach or harass sharks, and always give them plenty of space.

Remember, when observing wildlife, especially endangered species in Tampa Bay, always keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing their natural behavior. Take only pictures and leave only footprints to ensure these amazing species remain healthy and thriving for generations to come.

How to see Tampa's Must see marine species up-close

Ready to see these amazing species up close and learn more about Florida marine life identification? Book a sightseeing tour or fishing excursion with Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers today! Our experienced guides will help you get up close and personal with Tampa Bay’s most fascinating creatures while respecting their natural habitats and behaviors. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to make lasting memories on the water.

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Tampa Bay Fishing Summer Camp - Shark

Must-See Marine Species in Tampa Bay

There are a plethora of unique and interesting marine species in Tampa. From playful dolphins to elusive snook, you never know what you might see on your next kayaking adventure.

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