At Fish Magnet Fishing Charters, the magnetic force that brings hook and fish together is United States Coast Guard–certified Master Captain Janot B. Vilardell. Aboard his 18-foot fishing boat, he steers anglers into fishing hot spots along the Gulf of Mexico as well as inland waterways such as the Suwannee River. Once anchored, he shares tips and techniques for reeling in the big one: the plug to the ocean's drain. As an added bonus, he supplies all of the tackle and bait.
Anderson's Outdoor Adventure offers canoe and kayak rentals at Manatee Springs State Park, Fanning Springs State Park, and the Santa Fe River. Its camping, biking, and swimming services get people interacting with nature up-close.
Captain Pat Needham of Buck N Bass Sports Center & Outfitters equips adventurers on fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities in the nearly 400,000-acre Ocala National Forest. Beneath the mounted bass and 7-foot standing black bear in the shop's interior, an array of gear inspires a multitude of outdoor adventures, from snaring largemouth bass and catfish to sneaking up on squirrels and demanding your Nutter Butters back. Soft baits, such as Reaction Strike, Warrior, and Yum ($3.75–$8.45), undulate beguilingly at the end of ineluctable hooks and tackle ($1.10–$9.99). Jig heads and bodies, such as Fire-Fly, Road Runner, and Jiffy Jigs ($0.60–$4), dance open water at the end of strong spider-silk fishing line, including Vicious, Berkley Big Game, and Sufix ($1.80–$24.10). Dedicate today's Groupon toward storybook-worthy exploits with rugged rods and reels ($10.75–$174.95), camping and hiking gear ($1.90–$200), or hunting ammo and clothing ($2.50–$300) to spur a quest for the buck that grazed insults into your lawn.
Captain Erika's roots go deep into Florida's water. Her family has lived in the state since the early 19th century, and she started fishing on the river when she was only 3 years old. That passion for the water carried over into adulthood, and to date she has more than three decades of experience as a tour guide. Nowadays, Captain Erika runs A Cruising Down the River. She leads tours aboard her pontoon boat, which she pilots down the Ocklawaha River. Along the way, she points out some of the area's wildlife and hidden features.
Captain Kevin and Cecilia McCarthy have always been fond of the sea. Born and raised in the port town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Kevin sojourned south in 1968 before meeting his wife Cecilia, whose family had arrived on the marshy shores of Fernandina nine generations ago. After Kevin worked as a building contractor for nearly 30 years, he and Cecilia opted to embrace their shared love for being on the water, and founded Amelia River Cruises in the summer of 2000. Twelve years later, their fleet is three U.S. Coast Guard–inspected boats strong, and each cruises steadily along myriad tours of Cumberland Island, Beach Creek, and the shores of Amelia Island. History buffs rejoice in narrated jaunts down the Intracoastal Waterway that lead to the Kingsley Plantation—whose 1797 establishment makes it the oldest surviving plantation house in Florida—before traveling to the historic Fort Caroline National Memorial, one of the first permanent settlements in North America. Two-hour eco tours journey through state parks and aquatic preserves, where hands-on shrimping experiences let guests identify their captured creatures before asking them the current exchange rate of a sand dollar and releasing them back into the wild. The local and surrounding ecosystem, with diverse wildlife that appears most prominently during the summer months, boasts playful pods of dolphins, an abundance of shore birds, and sea turtles who visit to nest on nearby island shores.
On father-son fishing trips, Bart Swab’s dad taught him not only how to cast his line but also how to treat the aquatic ecosystem surrounding him with respect. Now a licensed and insured guide, Swab helps other fisherman appreciate the open water’s beauty, helming kayak trips through Florida’s pristine saltwater marshes. After arming prospective kayakers with safety tips and familiarizing them with their fishing equipment, Swab guides lead paddlers into the water. They maintain a 3-inch draft that allows students in kayaks to sneak up on fish without having to glue sequins to their skin to look like scales. Kayakers can also gaze through binoculars at the diverse fauna roaming the area’s shores. Trips range from a half day to a full day, and for a more structured route, participants can opt for destination trips to seasonal hot spots, where they can search out fish such as black drum, sheepshead, and tarpon.