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Where to Fish for Tilapia in the US? | Detailed Guide

where to fish for tilapia
Written by Immanuel Baranov
Last Update: July 24, 2023

If you’re planning on catching tilapia, you need to do your homework first. Choosing the right fishing spot is an essential part of the job.

Here is a detailed guide on how to find the best spots to fish tilapia in the US.

Where to Fish For Tilapia?

Native to the Middle East and Africa, Tilapias are now found in Texas, North Carolina, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and California.

Blue subspecies are habituated in central and south Florida. Some of them are isolated in inshore marine habitats in the north.

Check out the Brice Grogan lake, Okee tantie marina, Fisheating creek, Fine pass, Okeechobee waterway, or Anglers marina in Florida to catch Nile subspecies.

What to Consider When Looking for the Right Fishing Spot?

Choose the spawning season for tilapia fishing

Tilapias are attracted to baits for territory protection and hunger.

They are territorial during the spawning period and attack anything that comes near their spawning beds. This increases your chance to catch the fish.

Tilapias spawn till the temperature of the water lowers below 60° F so you get enough time to use fishing rods and reels to catch as many of them as you can.

Your chances to land tilapias with spinning reels and fishing lines drop right after the spawning period ends.

Know the different types of water

Tilapias live in freshwater ecosystems but can tolerate water that contains a low salt level.

The warm waters of Texas, Alabama, and Florida are rich with the blue tilapia.

They also love to live in brackish water so you should know different fishing locations with these water types.

The Nile subspecies prefer water temperatures between 60 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. They dwell six to 20 meters deep in the water or at the surface.


Since tilapias aren’t native to the US, you have to find lakes where they’ve been introduced as an aquaculture organisms.

You may also find waters in Florida where they have escaped aquaculture industries or aquarium fish firms.

where to fish for tilapia

Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus): Female (left) and male (Right)

Nile tilapias pick complex habitats with sandy, muddy, or gravel bottoms to shelter themselves from predators but you may also find them in open waters.

They swim in shoals when active but retire to rest at night.

Go fishing at the edge of small ponds, in shallow canals, and along riverbanks for good luck.

The blue subspecies are available in power plant discharge ponds up to the north of Idaho. You may find fishing at tilapia-rich rivers and canals a fast-paced and challenging task.

Head south to get more of them. There are plenty in the colorado river through the imperial valley in California. The Salton Sea at the southern end of California probably has the densest concentration of this species in the world.

Use the right tackle

Light tackle is the key to effective tilapia fishing.

Ultralight fishing rods let you feel the bite on time, which allows you to retrieve the line before the fish tears it up with the delicate mouth.

These fish are relatively small so you won’t have a hard time landing a catch with a small hook and a light line.

Use a number four hook and six to seven feet rods that feature a spinning reel. Spool the reel with a four to eight-pound test monofilament fishing line.

Visit your fishing spot at the right time

Mornings during the sunrise and evenings during the sunset are the best time of the day to fish tilapias.

You should also consider mid-day to visit the fishing spot.

Tilapia Fishing Tips

where to fish for tilapia

  • Choose an area for fishing that you have surveyed a few days before
  • Bait with frozen corn or peas to make tilapias go crazy for successful fishing
  • These fish prefer suspended so make sure the bait is right at the front
  • Place frozen corn on a hook, and place frozen peas on another
  • Shallow waters are great for angling. There is adequate vegetation in the shallow water that allows them to hide from predators during the spawning period
  • Always use short lures so that you get a strong hook and see if the tip of the hook is mouthed by the fish. Take your time to practice how to hook different lures
  • Tilapias are shy and easily spooked so don’t get too close to their spawning beds. Fish them from the shore so you don’t miss opportunities or make them run away
  • Know the right posture for fishing to avoid getting back pain or stiff neck. Do downward sweeps in instead of holding the rod vertically or horizontally


1. Is it illegal to catch and release tilapia in Texas?

Ans: Possession and consumption of tilapia species are prohibited in Texas. They must be gutted or beheaded upon capture to reduce their impact to some level.

2. Can you catch and release tilapia?

Ans: The catch and release practice is recommended for many fish species including trout and brass but not for tilapias. You have to keep, kill, and cook whatever number of the species you catch.

3. Are tilapias illegal in California?

Ans: You require a restricted species permit from the CDFG to possess Tilapia Zilli. CDFG will discharge an importation permit if you ask to import the species into California.

About the author

Immanuel Baranov

My life is pretty much defined by my avid outdoor activities. I’m generally obsessed with fishing, skiing and occasional hunting and whitewater paddling. I’ve been active since my early years. I inherited my passion for fishing from my father who made frequent family trips to the banks of Sacramento River. Growing up, I did a lot of fishing in the vicinity. Now that I have two sons, our weekends are full of fishing activities. I would say, you need good spots where you can go out a lot for the thing you love. I had the privilege to grow up near numerous water bodies and I’m proud to say that I made good use of them. It’s also great to do something with kids that helps them learn patience, endurance and preciseness.

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