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Fishing in the Florida Panhandle - From Blue Marlin to Sea Trout, There's Something for Everyone
by Kirby Collins

The Florida Panhandle offers some of the best fishing opportunities on the Gulf Coast. Species range from small sea trout to huge Blue Marlin well over a thousand pounds.

One of the contributing factors for the great fishing is the lack of development in the Panhandle. Clean water and a lack of polluted run off from a small population keeps estuaries and back water suitable for fish spawning and bait fish reproduction.

Another factor is the relatively close access to deep water compared to other areas on the Gulf Coast. The De Soto Canyon is a sharp drop into deep water that's famous for nearly world record Blue Marlin. The De Soto Canyon is only 95 miles from Destin Pass, 85 miles from Fort Walton Beach and 80 miles from Pensacola.

Other popular offshore species include Dolphin, also call Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Sailfish, and Red Snapper. Most of those can be caught within 30 miles of shore, especially in the warm summer months.

Closer to shore, anglers will find Kingfish, Cobia, grouper and the occasional Tarpon. Spring fishing for Cobia, sometimes called ling by the locals, is some of the best in the country. Anglers fish close to shore, usually following bait pods of pilchards and threadfin herring. Boats have towers, used to spot the Cobia and rays that sometimes have Cobia following as the rays kick up crabs and other tasty morsels the Cobia feed on. When a ray is spotted the fishermen will sight-cast to the fish often with a live pilchard or a squid-tipped jig on their line.

But you don't need a boat; pier fishing from Cobia often yields results. Pier anglers will stand by the pier rails with rod in hand waiting for a Cobia to swim by then cast to the Cobia with a squid-tipped jig.

Pier fishing is very popular in the Florida Panhandle. The Pier at Pensacola Beach is a favorite, with plenty of parking and a place to eat. Fort Walton Beach Pier is not only great for fishing, but is next door to great food and entertainment. As the sun goes down, there are many places to experience the Panhandle nightlife also.

Pier fishermen usually target Pompano, Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Flounder, Sheep head, Black Drum, and Croakers. Most of the Panhandle beach piers have bait shops, complete with rods and reels for purchase or rent. Many also are willing to give their expert advice on which rigs to use and what bait has been working the best recently.

Fishing inside the bays and sounds on the Panhandle are also very productive. The usual catch includes Sea Trout, Redfish, Black Drum, and Founder. The Choctawhatchee Bay sound near Destin is a favorite spot as is St. Andrews Bay near Panama City Beach. Small flats boats are popular for those areas. Fishermen use both artificial and natural bait.

Charter boats for inshore, offshore and bay fishing are available throughout the Florida's Panhandle and your won't need a license. Florida residents don't need a fishing license if they are fishing from land or a fixed structure such as a bridge or pier. Non-residents need a fishing license to fish anywhere except from a licensed charter boat with a vessel license.

About the Author

When heading to the Florida, you'll find plenty of things to do in Pensacola, FL. Whether its water sports, golf, boating, fishing or hanging out at Florida Panhandle Beaches, you'll be find many activities to keep you busy.