Destin Fishing: The Complete Guide

Sep 9, 2022 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

“The Luckiest Fishing Village in the World” needs no introduction. Located on the Florida Panhandle, Destin boasts access to shallow bays, productive reefs, and the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A Destin fishing adventure, therefore, has something for everyone! Go after a range of species unimaginable almost anywhere else as you embark on the angling experience of a lifetime.

With so much to talk about, it’s difficult to cover everything this world-famous town has to offer. But we’ll try to make sure that you know everything there is about fishing in Destin in this post. Read on to discover all about the fish species, sweet spots, and even the town’s fishing tournaments. When you’re done with reading, you’ll be ready to get on the water.

What fish can I catch in Destin?

Fishing in Destin is one of the most exciting things you can do in this part of Florida. If you’d want to compile a list of species you can catch out here, you’d need a whole book. Here are some of the best picks of a Destin fishing voyage. 


A picture of a Redfish being held by a kayak fisherman inshore from Destin

We’ll start our journey in the shallow inshore waters, where one of the Gulf Coast’s most sought-after fish is in abundance. Red Drum or Redfish, as it’s commonly known, is an all-around prized fish. Tough-fighting and delicious alike, it’s a joy from the moment you feel the bite to your last mouthful at dinner. 

You’ll find these creatures year-round in the shallow waters of Choctawhatchee Bay. Come in summer or fall, and you can get your hands on some oversized “Bulls.” Hit these fishing grounds and get your hands on enough fish to fill the boat! There’s also a star-studded supporting cast of Spotted Trout, Flounder, and Sheepshead adding to the menu at the end of the day.


An angler holds a Tarpon near the side of the boat caught while fishing in Destin

Wherever you can find Tarpon, chances are that it’s going to make the list of top catches in the area. The “Silver King” is one of the world’s most prized inshore game fish, and for good reason too. These ancient creatures leap out of the water as they do whatever they can to get off the end of your line. So settle in for the fight of your life.

Destin Tarpon fishing won’t disappoint. The Silver King frenzy on frenzy kicks off in summer, and you’re sure to find one of these beauties in the shallows. Fishing at night yields the best results, but you can combine your daytime trip with going for Jack Crevalle and Pompano for a serious workout.


A smiling angler holds a large Red Snapper back ashore after a successful Destin fishing trip

Anglers from all over flock to the Emerald Coast in summer for some of the world’s best Red Snapper fishing. This elusive, exciting, and delicious fish is subject to strict harvesting regulations, so the chance to land one is a real opportunity for some angling glory.

But Destin’s fishing season is more than just Red Snapper. A whole host of other Snappers can be caught year-round. Hit the shallow inshore waters, the nearshore reefs, or even the deep waters of the Gulf, and you could find yourself hooking into Lane, Mangrove, Vermillion, and Mutton Snapper


A female angler holds a Gag Grouper caught aboard a Destin fishing charter

Where there are Snappers in the Gulf, there are Groupers. While not as attractive as Snappers to look at, these creatures are just as sought-after for their meat and game qualities. Strong and tasty, they’re a staple of the Destin fishing scene, with more than five different species regularly caught here.

Monster Goliath Grouper must be released when caught, but is a sight to behold if you manage to hook one. Then, you’ve got your smaller Scamp and Red Groupers, who make for excellent table fare, before wrapping up with huge Black Groupers and the popular Gag Grouper. The state record Gag was caught from Destin, weighing in at 80 pounds and 6 ounces. Come and see if you can match that!


Two anglers holding a large Cobia caught while fishing in Destin

Another nearshore specialty in the Gulf of Mexico, Cobia is one of the most popular catches out of Destin. Just like their neighbors, Snappers and Groupers, they’re as fun as they are tasty, and make for an incredible fishing experience. 

Another state record was landed in Destin, with a monster 130 lb Cobia caught here. The action kicks off in spring, with a range of tournaments targeting this creature, and the fun continues all summer. They’ll eat almost anything, so get ready to enter battle and get your fill of Cobia fishing when in Destin. 


Three happy anglers hold a large Sailfish caught while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico out of Destin

If Tarpon is the prized inshore fish, then Billfish are the trophy offshore catch. Just like their shallow-water competitor, Marlin also love to leap out of the water in an attempt to wrangle off your line, providing a spectacular show and incredible battle. Their body arches as their bill stays straight, providing an incredible show to all aboard. 

Their sibling, Sailfish, is equally as impressive, with its stunning sail leaving anyone who crosses its path mesmerized. They also won’t give up without a fight, and here they come right up close to shore. 

This fishing is not for the faint-hearted, though. Blue Marlin can reach up to 1,000 pounds, while White Marlin, even though only around 70 pounds, are some of the best fighters – pound for pound. Come from summer through fall and head offshore in search of these majestic creatures. Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna will provide a worthy dose of by-catch, too. 

Destin Fishing: How?

So now you know what you want to catch, the next thing is working out how to do it. The town’s whole economy practically revolves around fishing, so there’s plenty of ways for you to get your fish on. Whether in Destin or Fort Walton Beach, there’s something for you.

Charter Fishing

A large sportfishing boat in the water

Whether fly fishing inshore or kite fishing the deep waters offshore, charter fishing is the best way to do it. The whole Emerald Coast is dotted with boats of all sizes ready to take you on the fishing adventure of your dream. 

From small boats on the flats to big offshore sporting vessels that offer overnight deep sea adventures, and even party boats – everything is possible. Your experienced captain will make sure you get on the fish and will provide all the gear you need.

Yes, charter fishing is a little more pricey, but it’s worth it. There’s no other way to pretty much guarantee success here than with a Destin fishing charter.

Pier Fishing

An aerial view of Okaloosa Island Pier

With seven piers in easy reach from downtown, it’s no surprise that Destin pier fishing is a favorite way for anglers to fill their buckets. These structures stretch way out into the water, getting you right on the fish.

Whichever pier you choose to fish from, you’re sure to get your hands on Redfish, Speckled Trout, and many more. However, time your visit just right and hit one of the piers stretching out into the Gulf. You can land some Mackerel, Snappers, and multiple other species.

Surf Fishing

An image of the rocks looking towards Destin across the bay at sunset

There’s a reason that the Panhandle’s coastline is known as the Emerald Coast. The crystal clear green waters offer up incredible opportunities for sight fishing right from the beach. There are 24 miles of sand stretching along the coast from Destin, giving you plenty of space to set up for the day. 

Bring the family along for a day of sunbathing, swimming, and sandcastles, while you focus on casting away. Popular surf fishing catches in Destin are Pompano, Redfish, Whitefish, Bluefish, Ladyfish, and Rays. Settle in for a productive adventure with everyone satisfied!

Kayak Fishing

A kayak fisherman holds a Redfish caught fishing inshore from Destin

If the species weren’t enough to get you casting your line, how about the chance to fish from a kayak? This ever-growing fad has taken the fishing world by storm in the last few years, and Destin is never one to be left behind.

The calm inshore waters are a great starting point for beginners, while some more adventurous anglers can even head Gulf-side. Rent your own vessel or head out with an experienced guide, and you can catch pretty much any of Destin’s long list of fish, with scalloping and spearfishing trips available, too. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to see fishing through a different lens!

Destin Fishing Spots

An aerial photo showing the road and waters between Destin and Okaloosa Island

No matter if you’re fishing alone or going out with a boat, you always need to know where to go. Destin is full of incredible fishing spots wherever you look. But here’s our pick of some of the best inshore and offshore hunting grounds:

  • Okaloosa Island Pier. Destin’s fishing pier stretches out over 1,200 feet into the Gulf, giving you the chance to land some prized fish. Rarely, you could even catch a Sailfish here.
  • Navarre Beach Pier. This is Fort Walton Beach’s fishing pier and was renovated in 2010 to provide more space for more anglers to get their fill of Gulf fish. 
  • East Pass Jetties. The place to be for fishing from shore. Beware of the drops between the rocks as you cast away for some inshore and nearshore beauties.
  • 100-Fathom Curve. Just 10–12 miles offshore, you’ll find waters as deep as 600 feet, giving you the chance to land monster Groupers, Snappers, Mahi Mahi, Cobia, and more.
  • “The Edge.” Leave America behind and discover the riches of the deep water beyond the continental shelf. This is where your big game fishing takes place, with the prospect of Wahoo, Tuna, Marlin, and more.

When to Go Fishing in Destin

An aerial view looking towards Destin with the harbor on the left side inshore, and the Gulf of Mexico on the right side of the beach

So, you’ve probably made your mind up that Destin is the place to come for your next fishing adventure. Now, it’s about choosing the right time of year to visit. Fortunately, the warm weather means that fishing is possible year-round and, boy, do the locals take advantage of it. Come January through December and the harbor will be full of boats ready to take you away.

Peak season hits Destin in summer, with holiday-makers taking advantage of the red hot fishing and blistering sunshine. This is the time of year to catch the biggest variety of fish, so book early to avoid disappointment!

If you want to avoid the crowds, though, spring and fall can be ideal. Cobia is all the rage early on, while the prospect of an Indian summer may tempt you to take advantage of the big game bite later in the year. Beware of hurricane season, though, and this can occur anywhere from June through November

Destin Fishing Tournaments

Destin wouldn’t deserve the title of the “Luckiest Fishing Village in the World” if it didn’t make the most of it. The town’s fishing tournaments are legendary, and those of you with a competitive streak may want to test your skills here. 

The world-famous Destin Fishing Rodeo lights up the town throughout October, as over 30,000 anglers and many more fans descend on Destin. There are all kinds of fishing competitions, with plenty of delicious seafood served up all day every day. 

If you can’t make it in October then March, April, and May serve up the HarborWalk Marina Cobia Tournament, with November and December showcasing the “Flounder Pounder” competition. Come in summer and join the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic or the Best of the Bay Fishing Tournament, and you can push your skills to the limit!

Destin Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring Florida state flag and text that says "Destin Fishing Regulations" and "What you need to know" against a blue background

Hopefully, everything’s been pretty straightforward up until now, but there is one other matter left to discuss – fishing licenses. Worldwide, regulations differ on whether one’s needed or not, and where one is needed. Thankfully, here in Destin, you can take advantage of the incredible fishing on offer without needing a license in many cases.

Your license will be covered aboard a Destin fishing charter, as well as on Destin’s fishing piers – once you’ve paid the entrance fee. Fish from shore or from your own boat, however, and every angler between the ages of 16 and 65 will need a Florida fishing license. Find out how to get yours with our helpful guide.  

Destin: Home to Florida’s Finest Fishing

An aerial view of the harbor in Destin, Florida, showing the East Pass, the Marler Bridge, and the Crab Island

By now, you should be all set for your Destin fishing adventure. Explore the sandy white beaches, dazzling green waters, and incredible fishery of the Emerald Coast, and you’ll have a fishing adventure like no other. Come and see why this small town has earned the title of “the Luckiest Fishing Village in the World”! 

Have you ever been fishing in Destin? How was it? Let us know all about your experience in the comments below. 

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