Yes, staying south of Wilmington NC. Actually more interested in opinions on the actual fishing than the living conditions. For west coast of Florida I am looking above Tampa. I know it gets crowded from Tampa down, and pricey the further down you go. Also considering Ocala area and trailoring boat between coasts, not ideal but may be least expensive option and more varied fishing opportunites. Not in any hurry (sorry John) so doing my homework.
Not sure why you think it gets more crowded and more expensive south of Tampa. I'm in the cheapest and least crowded of all the places i've visited or looked at down here. $300k would buy you a beautiful huge "new" house on sailboat water with a pool, dock and boat lift. I paid a fraction of that for basic waterfront.
I've had to drive through Ocala a few times, wouldn't even think about it. But to be fair I guess I never saw the good parts.
Like Barrel said you just never know what you will catch. Fishing has been slow this winter but just this morning got a sheepshead, snapper and a jack crevalle out back just messing around. Missed some other bigger mystery fish too.
The learning curve for fishing is a little steeper than it would be in the Carolinas. Good, but very different.
Taxes and resale value were other reasons I chose the area I did. Florida has no state tax, no inheritance tax, no car inspections..... Free boat ramps and fishing piers everywhere you go....
You aren't in a rush, so i would rent a house in each location you are thinking about for a couple weeks each and the decide. I only paid $50 a night to rent a 3bdr w/pool here while looking, and you learn a lot more than if you stayed in a hotel with the rest of the tourists.