Pensacola Beach draws tourists from the United States and beyond thanks to the vibrant Casino Beach, numerous secluded spots on the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and the pre-revolutionary site of Fort Pickens. Which is a good thing for anglers, as it means they won’t have a problem enticing their families and friends to join them in the waterways bordering these sandy shorelines. With a favorable climate that is reliably a couple of degrees cooler than the mainland in the summertime and a couple of degrees warmer in the winter, this is the perfect place to combine a relaxing beach holiday with an exploration of the world-famous fishing in Florida's Panhandle.
Pensacola Beach Charter Fishing Options:
The inshore fishing Pensacola Beach
has on its doorstep gives local guides plenty of options to choose from. Whether it’s fishing ‘sound side’ in the protected waters behind the barrier island, heading into Pensacola Bay, or exploring the surf, they don’t often have a problem finding something that’s biting.
Pensacola Bay has one of Florida’s most stable populations of Bull Redfish in the fall, while the grass flats and sandy potholes in Santa Rosa Sound make the ideal habitat for all the species of a Florida Inshore Slam: Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder. Ocean side fishing is no less interesting. This could get you battling Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, Little Tunny, and Pompano, all of which are excellent opponents on light tackle. The clear waters and white sand in these waterways make for excellent sight fishing, making charters fun and challenging for pros and beginners alike.
Don’t forget to look out for the rich marine life that could be joining you alongside your boat! Sea turtles, dolphins, manatees and porpoises are all regular companions on local inshore charters. As they take place on protected waters, these are the most child-friendly charter trips.
Put aside $350 - $550 for a half day private charter. Full day inshore trips are relatively uncommon here, where most longer trips will take you fishing the nearshore waters, too.
The majority of guides fishing out of Pensacola Beach will take you out to explore the productive waters within 9 miles of the coastline. These charters are a little more adventurous than inshore charters, as you’ll be fishing in deeper water for larger fish. At the same time, you’re never too far from land, making this a popular choice for families and first time fishermen.
Fishing these waters can get you hooking up with a range of exciting pelagic fish such as King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, and Cobia. You can also try your hand at bottom fishing for tasty Snapper and Grouper, or even the ‘donkey of the sea’ — the notoriously stubborn Amberjack.
Nearshore fishing trips start at about $550 for a half day private charter, stretching up to $800-$1000 for a full day at sea.
Once you get 25 miles offshore from Pensacola Beach, you will have access to some of the richer fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico. These trips will take 6-8 hours and take place in choppier waters in the open ocean. Make sure to bring medication if you get sea sick!
Most of the time, these charters will focus on bottom fishing, targeting tasty species such as Red Snapper, Vermillion Snapper, and Triggerfish. As you travel in and out of the fishing grounds, you will usually troll for fish such as King and Spanish Mackerel.
These trips are by far the most popular option, especially when Red Snapper season is open in the summer and early fall. A full day trip is recommended to get the most out of your time on the water and will usually cost around $1150 for a private charter.
Most Pensacola Beach fishing charters go no further than about 30 miles from the shore. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that once you go beyond this distance, you will find less fishing pressure and—usually—a better quality bite. Deep sea fishing
30-50 miles from the coast will get you targeting Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Sailfish when trolling, and bottom fishing could hook you up with Scamp, Gag, and Yellowedge Grouper, as well as Barrelfish, Tilefish, and Red Snapper.
You will need to take a trip that is at least 10 hours long to experience this quality fishery. This will cost upwards of $1500 for a private charter.
If you want to access sportfishing that will rival that of anywhere in the world, you’ll want to look 60+ miles out. These waters are still accessible in a day trip, although you’ll be looking at a trip lasting a good 12 hours, if not more. Local charters run trips lasting up to 36 hours, which will get you journeying out to the offshore oil rigs in 1000+ ft of water, where anything from Yellowfin Tuna to Blue Marlin could take your bait.
Factoring in the cost of fuel, these trips will cost at least $2000, ranging up to $4500 or more for a full 24 hours.
Most fishing in Pensacola Beach comes under one of two categories: trolling or bottom fishing. Longer trips will generally give you the chance to try a bit of both, while shorter nearshore trips tend to focus on trolling. Whichever you go for, you’ll be up against the species that make this part of the Panhandle famous amongst fishermen world wide. Here are some top techniques to try:
Bottom fishing for Red Snapper. Whole menhaden, locally known as ‘pogie,’ is a popular bait in these parts. You can get away with using dead Cigar Minnows, Pilchards or cut fish and squid in less fished areas. If you’re fishing offshore in deeper water, you’ll need to tackle up, using 50-80 lb test gear to get the biggest fish into the boat. You can catch these tasy fish by anchoring or drift fishing over a reef.
Trolling for pelagics. Small Ballyhoo is an effective bait for a whole range of pelagics and is a firm favorite around here. It may be fished ‘naked’ (in its natural state) or attached to an artificial lure, referred to as a ‘skirt’. King Mackerel go mad for this technique, and it’s also effective when targeting Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, and Wahoo.
Rules and Regulations
In order to keep the local fish populations healthy, there are a number of state and federal laws that regulate the fish you can keep. The Gulf’s favorite bottom fish, the Red Snapper, is one of the fish that is most heavily impacted by fishing regulations. State and federal Red Snapper fishing regulations change on a yearly basis, but you can usually expect the season to be open from June to early fall.
Take the Pensacola Bay Bridge south from Pensacola. From Gulf Breeze, look for the giant Swordfish sign pointing the way to Pensacola Beach. Cross the bridge and pay the small $1 toll, and you will be right there in the amongst the action.
Most charters leave from docks and marinas accessible from Pensacola Beach Boulevard, just after the toll gate. Smaller boats may leave from the Quietwater Beach Wayside Boat Ramp, while larger ones will have their own dock in Little Sabine Bay. Pensacola Beach Marina and the docks behind Shaggy’s Bar and Grill are common departure points. Both are easily accessible by car.