The wind on your face, the salt spray in your hair, and a fish flopping on your line. It’s an angler’s dream, and a daily occurrence at THE Beach. This water wonderland may have more places to wet a line and more year-round opportunities to do so than almost anywhere in the country.
Charter boats ply the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but you can do well standing in the surf or casting from one of the area’s many piers. Here’s a saltwater sampling: king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, bluefish, snapper, grouper, amberjack, pompano, marlin, shark, tuna, mullet, Wahoo, flounder, barracuda, bonito, jack crevalle, dolphin (mahi-mahi), scamp, triggerfish, sailfish, sheepshead, and black drum. Charters take individuals and groups out almost year-round for half-day and daylong offshore adventures. Depending on the type of fish that are running and the time of year, the captain may troll for snapper or grouper or fish deep waters for giant marlin or sailfish. Captains are quite knowledgeable about the best places and times to fish and are patient with novices. Most provide all equipment, bait and licenses, so your fee is all-inclusive.
For charters, Destin is tops with more than 140 vessels from party boats to private charters. Destin is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” and here’s why: Its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico gets you into 100-foot depths within ten miles. More billfish are caught off Destin’s coast than all other gulf ports combined. Charters also offer inshore and bottom fishing for red snapper, grouper, amberjack, scamp and triggerfish.
Pier and bridge fishing has many of the advantages of being in a boat without the rolling waves. The Pensacola Bay Bridge fishing pier, and its counterpart in Gulf Breeze, were once connected, forming the first bridge over the bay in the 1930’s. A new bridge was built in the 1970’s, and the old bridge was severed in the middle. Both sides make dandy spots for reaching the bay’s 40-foot depths to catch white and speckled trout, redfish and flounder. The newly built Gulf Pier on Pensacola Beach takes you out nearly 1/3 of a mile, enabling enthusiasts to hook everything from pompano to cobia and mackerel. Try your luck at other piers, too: The Fort Pickens Pier in the Gulf Islands National Seashore or the 1,261-foot Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier between Destin and Fort Walton Beach, known to harbor 100-pound tarpons.
Cast right from the beach near docks and piers for bull redfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia and pompano. Try the 3,000-foot Destin Bridge Catwalk for speckled trout, white snapper and redfish. Spearfishing is popular here because of the numerous artificial
reefs, concrete pilings and shipwrecks. Certified divers can spear grouper, snapper, amberjack, and several varieties of lobster while taking in the array of underwater sights.
Bays and bayous yield sheepshead, channel bass, croaker, large blue crab, Spanish mackerel, flounder, and white trout seem to like the grass flats of the Intracoastal Waterway.
If you haven’t fished in salt water before, or you’re new to fishing altogether, you can rent a rod and reel and buy some live shrimp and take your chances. But if you really enjoy it, and want to get better at it, there are a few tips on lures and bait you ought to know, since there are as many variables as there are, well, fish. Determine where and when you will use your lures or bait, what type of fish you want to try for, and whether you want a spinning or bait-casting reel. For charter boat fishing, it’s best to stick with what’s provided, which is most likely tried and true. Fishing pier operators as well as tackle dealers are your experts; trust what they tell you.
Fishing enthusiasts visiting Panama City Beach will not leave the resort area empty-handed. The Grand Lagoon, located at the St. Andrews Bay entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, has built a reputation as a world premier sport-fishing destination. Thanks to the balmy climate and calm waters teeming with blue and white marlin, tuna, sailfish, trout, redfish, ladyfish, king mackerel, grouper, red snapper, amberjack and more, fishing is a year-round pursuit in Panama City Beach. Anglers discover a full range of opportunities here, from offshore fishing to structure fishing in inshore waters.
Home to one of the country’s largest sport fishing fleets, Panama City Beach boasts multi-talented captains and crews. Visitors can choose from a 16-foot skiff to fish the shallowest flat or a million-dollar sport fishing yacht to explore offshore hot spots in luxurious comfort.
Panama City Beach has miles of pristine beaches, hundreds of acres of wadeable flats, and three fishing piers extending into the Gulf of Mexico. This is why more than ten major fishing tournaments are held in Panama City Beach each year. At the 2001 Bay Point Billfish Tournament in Panama City Beach, a 1,046-pound blue marlin was caught, setting a new state record and weighing in as the world’s 14th largest catch. Florida’s third biggest blue marlin was also caught in the Grand Lagoon, tipping the scales at more than 998 pounds.
The Grand Lagoon National Saltwater Fishing Tournament makes its debut August 20 – 24, 2008, in Panama City Beach. Hailed as “America’s most all-inclusive sport-fishing tournament,” the Grand Lagoon National boasts six competitive divisions at four marinas for a purse totaling $1 million. The event is poised to become one of the nation’s largest sport-fishing tournaments. It is expected to draw more than 400 boats and 2,000 anglers from across the country. An estimated 40,000 spectators will watch them compete during four days of reel action and adventure in this award-winning Northwest Florida beach destination on the Gulf of Mexico.
Although THE Beach is blessed with an abundance of saltwater, that’s only half of this fish tale. Rivers, creeks, streams and springs as well as stocked ponds offer morefishing diversions inland. Take a canoe out on the Blackwater, Shoal or Yellow Rivers, home to bass, bream, striper, blue gill, trout and catfish. The Escambia River, which divides Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, has a whopping 85 species identified from its waters, which may be the richest variety in the state. A likely source of fish for tonight’s dinner might come from the area’s many stocked ponds, such as the 350-acre Hurricane Lake in Blackwater River State Park, abundant with channel catfish, large-mouth bass, bluegill and shellcracker. Don’t forget to pick up a fishing license before you rent that boat!