Fishing in Port St. Joe: A Complete Guide
May 19, 2021 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

While you may expect to get lost on Florida’s “Forgotten Coast,” a Port St. Joe fishing trip will allow you to discover a whole lot more. This charming little town is off the beaten track, but that just means that the locals are more excited to see you. The motto of the town is “small town, big heart,” and there’s no better way to test out whether it’s true than by going fishing. 

An aerial view of Port St. Joe

From the golden beaches, across the quiet bay to the St. Joseph Peninsula, and beyond to the Gulf, there’s no shortage of action. In fact, you can even head inland and get your fish on in freshwater! This town revolves around fishing, which makes it an angler’s paradise. Read on and discover how you can make the most of it.

What fish can I catch in Port St. Joe?

With such a range of fishing grounds on offer, you won’t be surprised to hear that there are plenty of fish to catch. The whole Panhandle is renowned for its world-class fishing opportunities, and Port St. Joe typifies it. While we may not cover them all, this shortlist should give you an idea of what to expect.

Scallops

A man and a women crouch either side of a cooler full of scallops caught in Port St. Joe

Okay, so they’re technically not fish, but there was no way we could talk about the seafood opportunities here without mentioning the legendary Port St. Joe scalloping scene. Scalloping is an institution in these parts, with the St. Joseph Bay seabed full of these delicious crustaceans. 

There’s fun for the whole family when the season hits, and it strikes in July and August, meaning that you can make the most of your summer vacation. You can go it alone or go out with a professional guide. Guides usually double up as fishing captains, too, dedicating just the summer months to scalloping trips, so you could even combine your trip with a spot of fishing. 

Whatever you fancy, you’re sure to fill your mesh net with something tasty to take back to shore on a trip as short as two hours!

Redfish

A fly fisherman holds a Redfish caught in Port St. Joe

All around the Gulf of Mexico, one inshore fish rules the roost – the Redfish. This tough-fighting, tasty creature reaches incredible sizes all along the Florida Panhandle, and the Forgotten Coast is no exception. St Joseph’s Bay is full of these prized creatures and, what’s even better, they’re always biting.

Come year-round and get your fill of Redfish, with fall bringing Bull Red season with it. These fish must be released, but there are plenty of smaller creatures for you to take home, along with many more inshore fish. Speckled Trout are also available across all seasons, with Flounder in winter, and Tarpon on the end of your line in summer.

Snappers

A man holds a large Red Snapper after fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

If Redfish are the most talked-about fish inshore in the Gulf, then Red Snapper is the nearshore equivalent. Every year, hundreds of thousands of anglers flock to Florida just to take on these dazzling creatures. Their short season makes them an elusive catch for all anglers, so book your trip in summer early to avoid disappointment. 

But that’s not all you can find when fishing for Snappers in Port St. Joe. The reefs just a stone’s throw from shore are full of delicious Snappers that can be caught year-round. Go after Vermilion, White, Black, and Lane Snappers and head home with plenty of fish to fill the freezer. 

Kingfish

A very happy fisherman holding his catch, a massive King Mackerel

While often overlooked in favor of some bigger fish in the Gulf, Kingfish get the royal status they deserve in Port St. Joe. The nearshore reefs are swarming with these beasts from spring through fall, and sometimes even venture into the bay. Head further out and you’ll find monsters that grow to incredible sizes, giving you plenty of action and even more meat. 

Don’t forget the Kingfish’s smaller cousin, the Spanish Mackerel. These rapid creatures come to the bay and the mouth of the Gulf County Canal and provide some trolling action to go along with your casting action in the St. Joseph Bay. 

Mahi Mahi

A woman smiles as she holds a Mahi Mahi caught in Florida

With the whole of the Gulf of Mexico just beyond the St. Joseph Peninsula, it was no mean feat to pick just one offshore beast to make this list. However, the sheer likelihood of catching a Mahi Mahi made it the prime candidate. If you head out, then chances are you’ll catch a Mahi. 

Some smaller creatures come close to shore to feed on the reefs, but there are plenty of tougher creatures in the deep. You may need a while to get there, but it’s definitely worth it. Target Wahoo and Tuna, as well, but Mahi Mahi is sure to provide you plenty of fun and great rewards. 

And More! 

A group of anglers stand behind a table full of Sheepshead caught fishing in Port St. Joe

We’ve mentioned some of the other popular catches above, but you’d need a whole book to cover all the species you can land out of Port St. Joe. Whenever you come, rest assured that there’s something biting, with the chance of landing some meat even greater.

Target Black Drum, Jack Crevalle, Bluefish, Tripletail, and Sheepshead inshore. Meanwhile, there’s a good chance of landing a Cobia, Grouper, or Barracuda on the reefs. Along with the delicious Mahi Mahi and Tuna offshore, you could battle it out with Marlin or Sailfish, which would prove to be a dream come true for all anglers. 

How to Go Fishing in Port St. Joe. 

So you know what you want to get your hands on, now you just need to find the best way to go about it. As you’d expect from such a fishing paradise, there are plenty of ways to wet your line in Port St. Joe, and here are our picks.

Port St. Joe Surf Fishing

A man baits his hook in the Florida Panhandle while surf fishing

The long, white sand-dune beaches attract plenty of tourists year-round, without even thinking about fishing. Well, that’s their loss, because this is as good a place as any on the Forgotten Coast to cast your line. From downtown to Cape San Blas, all the way around the St. Joseph Peninsula, there are miles of beaches for you to set up camp for the day on. 

Hit the bay waters and cast for Redfish, Trout, Flounder, and other sought-after species. Meanwhile, heading Gulf-side could see you land a Cobia or Mackerel. There’s also the prospect of surf fishing along the Gulf County Canal, which is narrow enough that you can pretty much reach the other side with one cast!

Port St. Joe Pier Fishing

Port St. Joe's small wooden fishing pier

While Port St. Joe may not offer some of the longest fishing piers in the Gulf of Mexico, the small wooden structures that stick out into the water here have a certain charm to them. They’re in keeping with the understated feel of the town, and still provide some incredible angling opportunities.

Hit one of the few piers around the Cape San Blas lighthouse or just out of downtown, and get your fill of fishing. They provide structure which the fish love to feed around, attracting plenty of the inshore favorites, with the added bonus of a select vantage point to cast your line. Don’t forget, you’ll have a stunning view of the town and the beaches as well.

Port St. Joe Kayak Fishing

Two kayaks lay on the shore near the St. Joseph Bay

The calm shallow waters of the St. Joseph Bay are ripe for exploring by kayak, and children can often be found learning the ropes of kayaking on these waters, along with plenty more watersports enthusiasts. But fishing from a kayak? That’s the latest trend in inshore fishing in the Panhandle, and Port St. Joe – as a pioneering fishing town – was never going to get left behind.

Bring your own kayak, rent one, or follow a professional guide and you can learn about fishing in a brand new way. You’re sure to get the pulses racing just by paddling or pedaling your way out, before maneuvering your body to land that all-important fish. The more adventurous among you can even go Gulf-side!

Port St. Joe Charter Fishing

A charter boat on its way out to the Gulf of Mexico from Port St. Joe

Ask any fishing enthusiast and they’ll tell you that the best way to go fishing is on a charter. Needless to say, it’s the only way for you to reach the deep waters offshore and the reefs nearshore, but it can also provide the best experience inshore, too. 

A professional guide will take you from sweet spot to sweet spot, in search of what’s biting, and they’ll show you all the best techniques to land the fish. Not only that, but they’ll also provide you with all the gear you need. If you’re a beginner the captain, and sometimes first mate, will give you a helping hand. Meanwhile, pros will reach the spots they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. 

Port St. Joe Freshwater Fishing

Trees sticking out from the Dead Lakes near Port St. Joe

If freshwater fishing is more your thing, then there are better options in Port St. Joe than pretty much anywhere else on the Panhandle. Head up the Gulf County Canal and you’ll see the Redfish population fade away before the Bass arrive. You’ll then reach Lake Wimico, which is overflowing with the nation’s most-loved freshwater fish. You can only access this body of water by boat, so get ready to lose yourself in the wilderness en-route.

More than that, you’re just a stone’s throw away from some other prime lakes. In just a 30-minute drive you’ll reach the Dead Lakes, which are home to Channel and Blue Catfish, along with some freshwater Bream to keep you excited for the full day.

Port St. Joe Fishing Spots

Speaking of fishing spots, there’s no shortage of places to get your fish on in Port St. Joe. However, choosing where to go can be a bit tricky. There’s a lot of food for thought before you head out to try and catch your dinner, so here’s our pick of the best places to cat your line:

  • Jetty Park: Here you’ll find the best piers and even some natural structures that take you out into the bay, making it a prime surf and pier fishing destination
  • St. Joseph Peninsula: This sparsely-populated strip of land provides bay-side and Gulf-side action along its miles of uninhabited beach, giving you a true Forgotten Coast experience. 
  • Mexico Beach Artificial Reefs Association Reefs: This organization planted thousands of artificial reefs just a stone’s throw from shore, giving you the best of reef fishing in just a short journey.
  • The Gulf of Mexico: We may be cheating a little with this one, but offshore fishing in the Gulf is not to be missed. Head to the deep waters and battle it out with some prized creatures.
  • Dead Lakes: If you’re looking for a wider range of freshwater action, then the short drive to these lakes is well worth the effort. Land monster-sized and tasty fish throughout your trip!

When to Come Fishing in Port St. Joe

Sunset over a pier in Port St. Joe

One of the attractions of fishing on the Florida Panhandle is that it goes on year-round. Inshore fish are biting all the time, with nearshore fish and offshore monsters filling up the water when the season hits. There’s no shortage of fun to be had, although the fact that it’s a small town means that you’ll want to book early to come in the summer months, as the condos fill up fast.

We recommend coming in September when the crowds have died down a little but the fishing is still as hot as ever. The weather is also just right, with the sweltering summer heat just on its way out. However, you may want to time your visit with some other exciting events that take place in Port St. Joe, such as:

  • Florida’s Scallop, Music, and Arts Festival: This festival proves that Port St. Joe is the home of scalloping in Florida, and you can make the most of it in August/September every year. 
  • Bayou Bash Inshore Tournament: Port St. Joe’s signature tournament draws plenty of anglers and spectators to light up the town in May as the fishing season heats up.
  • Forgotten Music Festival: Just when you thought things were winding down, this thrilling event draws some new and classic musicians to town, offering a bit of r ‘n’ r to anglers after a day at sea. 

Anything else?

A sign displaying the words "bait and tackle, fishing licenses"

We’ve already mentioned the closed seasons for some species, but these are always changing and can even change within the same year. Find out the bag and size limits for all your favorite fish and crustaceans at the FWC, and make sure you’re fishing within the law.

Other than that, you’ll want to check whether you need to get a license. Fishing from a saltwater charter will mean that your license is covered, and most fishing piers can also be accessed without getting a permit. However, head out on your own and you’ll have to get a Florida saltwater fishing license. No matter where you go inland, you’ll need to get a freshwater license too. Find out all you need to know, here

And You’re Good to Go!

A sand dune beach looking out towards the Gulf of Mexico from Port St. Joe

Now you know everything you need about fishing in Port St. Joe, you’re ready to discover the Forgotten Coast. Get ready to escape from all life’s troubles and focus on fishing. Come to this little slice of paradise and make lifelong memories – and even friends – that will make you want to come back time and time again.

Have you ever been fishing in Port St. Joe? How was it? Think we’ve missed something out? Let us know in the comments below!

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