A Boating and Angling Guide to Tampa Bay A Boating and Angling Guide to Tampa Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo Tampa Bay Estuary Program Logo Florida Department of Environmental Protection Logo Sport Fish Restoration Logo Southwest Florida Water Management District Logo
About This Guide
Natural Resources
Native Habitats
Animals of the Bay
Managed Areas
Resource Directory
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Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

Fish and Wildlife
Research Institute
100 Eighth Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701

Tampa Bay Estuary Program
100 Eighth Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701

Tampa Bay Estuary Program License Plate
Funding for this project was obtained through Tampa Bay Estuary Program specialty license plate funds.

Sport Fish Restoration Logo
Additional funding for this project was obtained through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Fund.
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Tampa Bay is the largest open-water estuary in Florida, encompassing nearly 400 square miles and bordering three counties (Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties). The bay's sprawling watershed covers a land area nearly five times as large, at 2,200 square miles. The bay is host to a wide range of habitats, both in the water and on land. Seagrasses, mangroves, salt marsh and mud flats, and oysters are five habitats that are important to animals within Tampa Bay. Seagrasses provide shelter for many small fish, crabs, and worms. They also also help stabilize shifting sands on the bottom of the bay and improve water clarity by trapping fine sediments and particles. Mangroves provide many of the same benefits, as well as help stabilize the shoreline and help protect it from wave action. Mangroves also serve as nesting sites for many bird species. Salt marshes, while not as expansive as in north Florida or the Panhandle, are no less important. They also provide habitat for small fish and crabs and help protect the shoreline from wave action. Mud flats are home to clams, crabs, and burrowing worms, which serve as food for many wading birds and fish. Lastly, oysters, located mostly near rivers, are a popular habitat for red drum and snook, which feed on small fish and crabs.

Additional information about these habitats can be found under Native Habitats.

With its wide ranging habitats, Tampa Bay is also home to a wide variety of animals. These animals can range in size from a fraction of an inch-long (many invertebrates and small fish), to weighing over 1,000 pounds and 12 feet in length (the Florida manatee). Some of the bay's animals are unusual, like the batfish, horseshoe crab, or goofy brown pelican. Most live here year-round, while others briefly stop by (white pelican). Residents and visitors to the bay area will often stop and spend some time watching a wading bird chase fish along a shoreline or a dolphin swim by. There is always something to see in Tampa Bay.

Animals of the Bay provides information about a few of Tampa Bay's residents: the Florida manatee, sea turtles, and birds of the bay.

For more information about the habitats of Tampa Bay and many of the animals that call it home, please visit the following Web sites:
FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Tampa Bay Estuary Program
Tampa Bay Watch

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this Web site, please e-mail us at Boating_Guides@MyFWC.com.

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