Pensacola Fishing Charters
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Fishing in Pensacola
If you want to experience Florida’s Panhandle to the full, you need to give Pensacola fishing a go. This town, known as the “Western Gate to the Sunshine State,” the “City of Five Flags,” and - our favorite - “The Red Snapper Capital of the World,” has everything an angler could ask for from Florida’s Emerald Coast.
Famous for its white, sandy beaches, Pensacola does not only look out onto the rich waters of the Gulf. It is also surrounded by the prolific Pensacola Bay and an endless chorus of flats, sounds, inlets, bayous, rivers, and the Intracoastal Waterway. Not surprisingly, you would be hard pressed not to find a good place to wet a line around here.
Why is fishing Pensacola’s waters something we can’t get enough of? Well, it’s hard to give just one answer. But probably our favorite is the pure bragging rights available in these parts every fall and winter. We're talking Redfish. Big ones.
You might not be aware that Pensacola Pass is the only natural pass on the whole of the Northwest Gulf Coast. While nowadays, Perdido Pass and Destin Pass can come across as alternatives, they actually started their days as rivers before they were turned into passes by humans. This means that migratory fish like Redfish are fine-tuned by nature to remember that Pensacola Pass is the place to be. And while we’re by no means saying that big Redfish don’t visit the waters of Destin and Perdido Key, Pensacola is where the biggest numbers of them make their home. Whether you want to catch a big fish on the fly or just want to enjoy the spectacle of a thousand 20 pound plus fish schooling together, it really doesn't get better than this. Want to join in the fun? Block off late September through early January and get out on the water.
But that’s far from being the end of the story. Pensacola Bay is also rich with the elusive Gator Trout, as well as Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Flounder, Sharks, and Sheepshead. Drift a bit further offshore, and you will find hotspots brimming with Cobia, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Grouper, Jack Crevalle, and even the occasional Sailfish. During Red Snapper season, reaching your bag limit is hardly optional - it’s the norm.
Offshore, Pensacola fishing spots include the USS Oriskany (the world’s largest artificial reef), the USS Massachusets and the 400-foot freighter Antares. These host a vivid variety of marine life and feisty game fish, including the likes of Cobia, Moray Eels, Red Snapper, Amberjack, and Grouper. Take a longer trip of 14 hours or longer, and you will be able to experience the deep sea fishing Pensacola made its name for, with White Marlin, Blue Marlin, and Tuna all being hooked up by local charters in blue waters.
For those without access to a boat, the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier offers 1470 ft of paradise for anglers and spectators alike. Bring your casting rod and get ready to catch anything from a Pompano to a Mahi Mahi. The Pensacola Bay Fishing bridge is another popular hotspot, which gives license-free fishing to any angler who pays the small annual or daily fee.
Rules & Regulations
All registered saltwater fishing charters in Pensacola have all the documentation they need to take their customers fishing - there's no need for you to purchase a separate license. If you are fishing on your own, you will need to sort out a saltwater fishing license for yourself.
Please note that different catch limits and seasons apply to boats with and without a federal fishing license. Federally licensed fishing charters can keep fish caught further than 10 miles offshore, while other boats must stay within state waters (10 miles).
Types of Fishing
Pensacola inshore fishing charters will adapt their techniques to the season and the level of experience of the angler. That being said, there is a lot of fun to be had targeting Speckled Trout with shrimp or baitfish under a popping cork or freeling behind the boat. Soft-bodied jerk baits and surface plugs are also popular ways of catching the much sought-after Pensacola sow (we’re talking BIG Trout). If you're into fly fishing, there are a number of guides who will readily help you perfect your cast.
The beaches are some of the best fishing spots in Pensacola. We’d happily spend days on end sight fishing a mile or two from the coast for the likes of Jack Crevalle, Bull Redfish, and Cobia.
Offshore, you can’t go wrong with searching for big Snappers and Groupers around reefs and wrecks, while jigging for Amberjack (in season) is a work-out you won’t regret. For the real adventurous anglers, there is also the promise of big Yellowfin Tuna in the winter - but you’d have to travel 80 miles offshore to catch them.
Pensacola Fishing Seasons
It may be cold, but January in Pensacola means gin clear waters and some good fishing if you know where to look. Search for Little Tunny sunbathing in the surf, Bull Reds feeding off the beaches, and Sheepshead in the bays.
This month is cold and it seems like about time winter came to an end! Catch Speckled Trout in the rivers and bayous, where the water can be very clear. Amberjack are close and Yellowfin Tuna are caught around oil rigs 80 miles out.
Spring break coincides with fishing conditions being on the up. Fish for large female Speckled Trout with big topwater plugs in the shallow flats or sight fish the beaches for Redfish and Spanish Mackerel. Cobia arrive around the 20th.
The Cobia migration starts for real. They are great fun to catch when sight fishing along the beaches. Speckled Trout are caught in Pensacola Bay and slot Redish are caught around grass flats and docks. Look for Pompano on the beach.
The big news in Pensacola this month is the arrival of King and Spanish Mackerel in Pensacola Bay. Amberjack is caught nearshore and slot-sized Redfish is found in the Choctawhatchee and Pensacola Bay system.
Most people fishing in Pensacola are on the lookout for one thing: Red Snapper. Both state and federal waters have openings. Otherwise, catch King and Spanish Mackerel in the inshore passes and enjoy the Redfish bite.
July means plenty of variety for anglers in Pensacola. Adventurous types will enjoy battling Sharks in shallow water. Cobia are caught around the reefs as they return from their spawning run. 'Chicken Dolphin' is also found here.
August in Pensacola is red hot. Catch a 'Garbage Can Slam' inshore with light tackle fun to be had for Bluefish, Ladyfish, Spanish Mackerel, and Sharks. Amberjack is caught 15-20 miles out (if season is open).
With humid weather and consistent rain showers in the afternoons, most Pensacola fishing charters will fish early in the day. Catch slot Redfish sheltering around the docks and small Mahi Mahi over the nearshore reefs.
October is all about giant schools of big Bull Redfish. At this time of year they arrive from the Gulf to spawn around the passes. Sight fish for them on calm sunny days to try some of the best fishing in the Panhandle.
The Running of the Bull Reds continues - join the fun for unforgettable fishing and extreme bragging rights. Lots of Flounder are caught around deep structure in the bay as they make their way to their breeding grounds in the Gulf.
As the temperature drops, you begin to find large Speckled Trout in the bayous and rivers, while some huge Redfish remain around the beaches. Complete a Grand Slam by catching Flounder on the nearshore reefs.
Pensacola Fishing Calendar
What People Are Saying About Pensacola
"April fishing trip"
It's fishing that's why they call it fishing
"Half day trip with Captain Andy"
Go with these guys. They will make sure you have an awesome first experience!!
"March fishing trip"
I recommend asking what kind of fish are in season rather than what is listed. Also double check if they provide food / drinks and if not if you can bring your own. Great trip!
Top Targeted Species in Pensacola
- Size 5 to 20lbs
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck
- Size 3 to 12lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Flats, Backcountry
- Size 10 to 20lbs
- Food Value Average
- Game Qualities Average
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck
- Size 20 to 40lbs
- Food Value Average
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Offshore, Reef, Wreck
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