Panama City Beach Fishing: All You Need to Know
Jun 17, 2020 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

PCB has grand ideas. If you didn’t already know that, then look at their slogan: “the most beautiful beaches in the world.” It’s a big claim, but one that certainly holds true. Where else on the planet will you find a town offering 27 miles of white sandy beaches? While this resort town already attracts plenty of tourists, the possibility of a Panama City beach fishing trip offers something for every keen angler. 

An aerial view of downtown Panama City Beach with the Gulf of Mexico on the right-hand side

The entire Florida Panhandle is renowned for its fishing opportunities, and the St. Andrews Bay waterways around PCB offer up the largest seagrass bed system on the Emerald Coast. Add that to the hundreds of nearshore reefs, and access to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and there’s no end to what you can do here. So, without further ado, let’s see what’s in store. 

What fish can I catch in Panama City Beach?

With such a diverse range of fishing grounds, it’s no surprise that there’s a wide array of fish you can catch when fishing in Panama City Beach. There are over 3,000 different wildlife species in the bay alone, so there’s no way we could do the fishing scene justice in a single post! But read on, and you can find out our top picks of what you can catch here. 

Redfish

A man holds a Redfish caught in the inshore waters out of Panama City Beach

Probably the favorite inshore fish around the entire Gulf of Mexico, Redfish was always going to make the cut of top species in PCB. This tough-fighting, delicious fish comes in all shapes and sizes in the shallow waters of the bays, and promises a treat during and after your angling adventure. 

These creatures live here year-round, so you can always get your hands on one. But come in fall, and you can get your hands on a true monster. Get ready for a serious battle to land a “Bull” Red, while Trout and Flounder will be biting too. Time your trip right and you could even target Sheepshead, Pompano, and the “Silver King” (Tarpon) here. 

Mackerel

Two anglers hold a Kingfish caught while fishing in Panama City Beach

Often overlooked in favor of some bigger creatures, Mackerel may be a surprising addition to the shortlist of fish here. That is, to anyone who hasn’t come fishing in PCB! These delicious fish are a staple of the Panama City Beach diet, and they can be caught pretty much anywhere and everywhere.

Spanish Mackerel come inshore and love to feed around the mouth of the bays, while Kingfish populate the reefs and nearshore waters in summer. The former can add some spice to an inshore adventure, while the latter grow to incredible sizes. Both are fun to troll for on your way out to bottom fish for some bigger creatures, and are always good table fare at the end of a productive day out. 

Snappers

A young woman holds a Red Snapper in Lighthouse Marina

One fish stands out above the rest when fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s Red Snapper. Panama City Beach’s fishing scene comes alive in summer when Snapper season kicks off, as anglers from all over the world want to get their hands on this strong, dazzling fish. Revered for their taste as much as their fight, these beauties are the quintessential all-round fish, and we suggest you book your trip early to make the most of the season. 

If you can’t make it in June or July, don’t worry. There are plenty of other Snapper species on offer, too. White, Lane, Black, and Vermillion Snapper are reef favorites, with Mangrove Snapper also on offer inshore. Each of these creatures, along with their close neighbors, Groupers, are Gulf favorites, and are sure to keep you on your toes. 

Cobia

A happy man holding a Cobia, with sea behind him

Choosing a second reef species to include on this brief list was tough, but the early arrival of Cobia sets it apart. From mid-March, anglers in Panama City Beach can cast their lines in the nearshore waters in the hope of attracting the bite of Cobia. This lasts all the way through October, as this species migrates from the Florida Keys around the Gulf. 

Head to the deep waters and target oversized, monster Cobia, along with such Gulf specialties as Amberjack. Or, you can focus your attention on the reefs, where you’re sure to get plenty of fish to fill the ice boxes on board. In short, where there’s Cobia, there’s action – and that’s another reason it made the cut!

Mahi Mahi

An angler smiles as he holds a Mahi Mahi caught in the Gulf of Mexico

Choosing just one big game species in the Gulf of Mexico was also a challenge, but the Mahi Mahi is a stalwart of Panama City Beach fishing. With smaller Mahi coming closer to shore quite often, you can catch this strong species more often than any of the other deep-water fish. However, the real rewards come further out.

Head to the heart of the Gulf and troll to entice the bite of this luscious, yet fierce creature. These beauties are sure to put up a fight to get off the end of your line, so you’re in for some serious action, with the promise of a tasty meal at the end of the day. Where there’s Mahi, there’s usually Wahoo, and an offshore fishing trip wouldn’t be complete without targeting Tuna and Billfish, too!

Panama City Beach Fishing: How?

As with most of the Florida Panhandle, life in PCB pretty much revolves around fishing. That means there’s no shortage of ways for you to wet your line. This section will give you the low-down on how to embark on your Panama City Beach fishing adventure, whether fishing inshore or in the deep waters of the Gulf.

Panama City Beach Surf Fishing 

Three fishing rods perched in the sand with a Panama City Beach fishing pier in the background

Naturally, with 27 miles of white beaches facing the Gulf of Mexico, shore fishing is big here. Whether on a busy beach or looking for a secluded spot, there’s plenty of space for anglers of all moods to get their fill of fishing. Bring your own gear or rent some from any of a number of bait and tackle shops, and set up camp for the day. 

Surf fishing can yield great rewards, too, with access to the inshore bays and the nearshore waters. The usual suspects will be biting in the calmer waters, but Gulf-side brings you an even bigger range of fish. Not only will you go after Spanish Mackerel, but Pompano are a popular catch when they turn up in their schools. Sharks are also a possibility, with some lost Cobia and Amberjack even occasionally turning up on the end of a line.

Panama City Beach Pier Fishing

A view from the beach of Panama City Beach's longest fishing pier

Nothing quite tells you that a town loves fishing more than the number of fishing piers it has. The four on offer in PCB speak volumes for local anglers’ enthusiasm for the sport. Not only that, but the town is also home to the longest fishing pier on the Gulf Coast, extending over 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. And the town’s second is just a few feet shorter! Basically, pier fishing in Panama City Beach is not to be missed.

The structure beneath the water that hold up the piers attract a range of prized inshore fish, so no matter where you set up for the day, there’s something for you. However, head as far out as you can, and you won’t believe what you can catch. Cobia and Amberjack are regular features, but even Tuna and Sailfish have been caught from here.

Panama City Beach Kayak Fishing

An angler kayak fishing in Florida

The shallow inshore waters out of Panama City Beach are ripe for exploring by kayak. As a leading fishing destination, PCB has also hopped on the kayak fishing bandwagon. You can find plenty of places to rent a vessel or to head out with an experienced guide to get your fish on in an unconventional yet thrilling way. 

Head to the spots that no other boat can get to, as you peruse the flats and creep up on your target fish without spooking them. Experienced anglers will relish the chance to get right on top of the fish, getting a real feel for the water. Meanwhile, beginners will enjoy the added sense of fun that comes from casting from a kayak! You can catch all the inshore favorites, and more experienced anglers can even head Gulf-side for a serious test of endurance. 

Panama City Beach Charter Fishing

Two large and one small charter fishing boats head out on the choppy waters of the Gulf of Mexico

If you want to get the most out of Panama City Beach’s incredible fishing opportunities, then there’s only one option for you: a fishing charter. Whatever you want, a charter can provide it. From a couple of hours inshore to a few days on the water, there’s something for everyone. 

Yes, fishing charters may cost more than heading out by foot, but there’s no doubt that you get value for money. Don’t forget, all the gear will be provided, and you’ll be able to go from spot to spot with ease, going in search of those prized fish. You’ll have the support of a professional captain, and maybe even a first mate, so beginners are just as welcome aboard as pros to make the most of this world-class fishery. 

Panama City Beach Fishing Spots

No matter how you plan on fishing, you’ll still want to know where to head to get more bang for your buck. PCB is full of incredible hunting grounds, but some stand out above the rest. Here’s our pick of where to go for the best chance of success:

  • Russell-Fields Pier: The largest fishing pier on the Gulf Coast stretches out over 1,500 feet into the water, attracting a range of inshore and nearshore species that you simply won’t find anywhere else.
  • West Beach Drive: Get your waders ready, as this is the best place in PCB to get in the water. Get ready for Redfish – big and small – along with a whole range of other inshore prizes.
  • St. Andrews State Park: If jetty fishing is more your thing, then come here and hit the rocks and beaches. Try nearshore casting Gulf-side when the fish come close to shore, or turn inshore year-round. 
  • St. Andrews Bay network: The bays and lagoons around PCB are so good that it’s impossible to choose just one. Head out on all of them, and get your fish on in style!
  • The Gulf of Mexico: Yes, we know we’re cheating a little! But from the reefs nearshore to the oil rigs offshore, you simply can’t go wrong by heading to the Gulf. All kinds of anglers are welcome.

When to come fishing in Panama City Beach?

An aerial view of downtown Panama City Beach by night

We’ve already said that the fish are available year-round, and the mild weather on the Emerald Coast makes it possible for you to indulge in a Panama City Beach fishing escapade whenever you want. Of course, most fish have some distinct seasons, but you’ll always find Redfish, Trout, Flounder, and something else alongside them biting inshore. 

Nearshore fishing starts in early spring with the arrival of Cobia in March, and lasts through November. These months are your best bet for getting out beyond the inlet, with offshore fishing heating up in summer and going on through fall. Tarpon and Red Snapper also show up in summer, so if you want a taste of everything, then there’s no doubt when’s the best time to come. 

However, if you’re thinking of bringing the whole family, or fancy treating someone special, you may want to think of combining your fishing trip with another local event. While the beaches are full through the summer, the town also comes alive during the following:

  • Panama City Beach Marathon: Every December, thousands of runners and their families sample the delights of this resort, making the most of the holiday season.
  • UNwineD Festival: If you’re a wine lover, or just fancy being sophisticated for the weekend, then this event every March provides the perfect post-fishing tonic. 
  • Gulf Coast Jam: This music festival brings the town to life on Labor Day weekend, meaning you can take advantage of Florida’s free fishing days and unwind while listening to some great artists. 

Anything else?

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

Before you embark on your Panama City Beach fishing adventure, you’ll want to make sure that you’re fishing within the law. First thing’s first: check if you need a license. If you’re fishing on a charter or on a pier, your license will be covered. However, head out to the surf or fish anywhere else on your own, and you’ll most likely need to get one. Find out how with our comprehensive guide

You’ll also want to be aware of what’s in season, and how many fish you can take home with you. Amberjack and Red Snapper, in particular, have strict closed seasons, while the number and size of the fish you can catch varies from species to species. Everything you need to know can be found online

And You’re Good to Go!

An view of the coastline looking towards downtown Panama City Beach

Now you’re ready to discover the riches of PCB. Whether heading out on foot, fishing from a pier, or aboard any kind of vessel, we’re sure you’re in for a memorable experience. Get ready for plenty of action in stunning surroundings, with even greater rewards to take home with you. Bring the family and make a holiday of it, or come alone and escape from it all, as you enjoy “the most beautiful beaches in the world.”

Have you ever been fishing in Panama City Beach? How was it? Let us know in the comments below.

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