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Top Fishing Charters in Santa Rosa Beach


Fishing in Santa Rosa Beach

If you’re in the area, it’s worth treating yourself to a Santa Rosa Beach fishing experience. Located between Destin and Panama City, this little gem is rather overshadowed when it comes to sportfishing. But don’t let that stop you, because a wide variety of game fish are ready and waiting here—from Redfish and Cobia to Largemouth Bass.

Known For

Founded in 1910, this town has a short but rich history. Many consider Santa Rosa Beach to be the ultimate vacation spot, with sugar-white sand, fine dining, and a family friendly atmosphere.

Here you’ll find access to some of the richest waters on the Panhandle, including Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. But what really makes this place special is the very fact that it’s overlooked. Take your pick of Santa Rosa Beach fishing charters and come experience the Emerald Coast without getting lost in the crowds at Destin or Panama City.

Where to Fish in Santa Rosa Beach

Choctawhatchee Bay

Step off the beach and you’ll walk straight into Choctawhatchee Bay. Tucked away behind the Emerald Coast, this body of water gets its name from the freshwater river flowing in from the east. The Choctawhatchee River carries essential nutrients into the bay, feeding large numbers of baitfish and creating the ultimate feeding grounds for Redfish and Speckled Trout. If you book a fishing trip in Santa Rosa Beach, chances are this is exactly where you’ll be casting lines.

The bay is home to many of Florida’s inshore game fish, including Jack Crevalle, Flounder, Sheepshead, Ladyfish, Black Drum, Mangrove Snapper, and the seasonal Cobia. From May through August, you’ll have a chance to fish for Tarpon along the beaches.

You can fish Choctawhatchee Bay any time of year, but late summer and fall are especially good. This is when anglers catch Bull Redfish ranging from 20-30 lbs in size. You’ll see these brutes ferociously feeding in large schools near the surface—a dream come true for sight casters and fly fishers.

Depending on where the bite is best when you come to town, your captain might also take you around the coast and south to the shallow waters of Panama City Beach, St Andrews Bay, and West Bay.

Choctawhatchee River

You can also pass your time in Santa Rosa Beach fishing the Choctawhatchee River for a variety of freshwater fish. In spring and fall, fishing for Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass is especially good in this area. Wait for an outgoing tide at dawn or dusk and fish Shad, Shad-like lures, or finger Mullet on the bottom.

Other species commonly caught here include Crappie, Sunfish, Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, and Smallmouth Bass. You’ll find a boat launch for the lower part of the river if you take US 331 south of Freeport and turn left onto SR 394. You’ll start to see signs about a mile in.

The Gulf of Mexico

If you’re ready to leave the inshore waters behind, ask your captain about a trip to the Gulf. A six to eight-hour charter will have you fishing up to 9 miles offshore.

Here, you can bottom fish near wrecks and reefs in water 50-100 feet deep. Common catches include Snapper, Grouper, and Triggerfish. Red Snapper and Gag Grouper are two of the most delicious—and sought-after—species around here. However, both are highly regulated and usually open to harvest for a brief period in summer. Ask your captain about this year’s fishing season or stay up to date online.

Fishing in the Gulf also presents some awesome surface fishing opportunities. Trolling on your way to the fishing grounds will result in catches of King and Spanish Mackerel, Bonita, Jack Crevalle, and Barracuda. Come springtime, the star of nearshore fishing is Cobia. Anglers love sight fishing for this fiend, and who knows—you may even find yourself racing against a Shark or two when it’s time to reel this bad boy in!

And Beyond…

For those who are eager to venture farther into the Gulf, there’s no shortage of deep sea fishing charters in Grayton Beach, Destin, and Panama City. For superb fishing and fewer crowds, head to Grayton Beach. Just a 15-minute drive away from Santa Rosa Beach, this town’s ideal location on the edge of the Gulf makes all the difference. Here you can charter a boat for extended day trips to the deep water, where there’s no telling what you’ll catch, from Blackfin Tuna and Mahi Mahi to Sailfish.

Fishing Types

Light Tackle Fishing Inshore

While fishing in Choctawhatchee Bay, you’ll be using light tackle to catch Redfish, Speckled Trout, Flounder, and other species. In cooler months, live bait is the weapon of choice, but your guide might recommend cut bait or a variety of lures depending on the season. You can also catch most species inshore by fly fishing.

Big Game Fishing

Fishing for large bottom fish and pelagic predators in the Gulf involves a combination of trolling and bottom fishing. Trolling with bait and lures will help you catch Mackerel, Cobia, Barracuda, and other surface feeders. You can bottom fish with Pinfish, Sardines, Mullet, or frozen Squid for Snapper and Grouper.

Surf Fishing

Anglers looking to hone their skills can spend some time surf fishing in Santa Rosa Beach. In warmer months, you’ll catch the likes of Jack Crevalle, Pompano, Redfish, Black Drum, Ladyfish, and Bluefish along shore. You may also hook into the odd Shark here and there.

A 7’ rod and spinning reel will get the job done for most species. You may want to bring a 9’ rod and 20 lb test line for bigger fish and Sharks. GOT-CHA plugs, frozen fleas, and other baits work well.

Need to Know

All licensed Santa Rosa Beach fishing charters include a fishing license for their customers. Anglers fishing from shore or their personal boat need to have a Florida fishing license, available for purchase online. You also need to buy a fishing license if you plan on fishing Choctawhatchee River.

Santa Rosa Beach Fishing Seasons

January is the perfect time to explore the shallow waters inshore. Redfish will be biting vigorously in Choctawhatchee Bay while the river will be bustling with Stipers and Sunshine Bass.

Winter fishing continues, with the best bite happening inshore. Try your luck at Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Sheepshead or head to the river for something different.

The action is heating up around here, with a wider variety of species coming to town. Add Flounder and Spanish Mackerel to your list, or head out in search of early Cobia. The river continues to be promising.

Try sight fishing for Cobia or snag one while trolling for Mackerel. Down below, the reefs are bustling with Snapper and Grouper. Ask your captain which species are legal to keep and bring home dinner! 

It’s the beginning of Tarpon season here on the Emerald Coast. You’ll see anglers hunting the Silver King in all sorts of styles along the beaches. Offshore, you can reel in Mahi Mahi, King Mackerel, and more.

June is all about variety here in Santa Rosa Beach. Head to the river for some excellent Bass fishing or stick to the saltwater scene for a catch that could be anything from Red Snapper to Tarpon.

Summer fishing is still on full throttle, with your choice of Florida’s most popular game fish. Cruise the beach for Tarpon, fish the reefs for Grouper, or troll offshore for Kingfish, Mahi, and more.

It’s the hottest time of the year, with average temperatures soaring above 90°F. Come cool off on the water, fishing for big game prizes offshore or collecting plenty of tasty treats on the reefs.

Summer crowds along the Emerald Coast might be thinning out by autumn, but the waters are far from empty! Every species is biting ferociously and many are legal to keep at this time of year.

This time of year is all about Bull Redfish in Choctawhatchee Bay. Catch yourself a real bruiser and bring home some bragging rights. Hook a Speckled Trout and Flounder while you’re at it for an Inshore Slam!

Striped Bass and Sunshine Bass will be moving back into the lower portion of the river as winter approaches. You can expect more awesome fishing in the bay and on the nearshore reefs.

Come catch yourself a holiday treat! Some of the tastiest fish are biting at this time of year, including Flounder, Redfish, and Grouper. 

Santa Rosa Beach Fishing Calendar

What People Are Saying About Santa Rosa Beach

"Florida Boy Adventures "

John Root fished with Florida Boy Adventures on June 14, 2017

Expect rain in June, bay fishing is fun for the kids

"Half day trip with Captian Brad "

Reese Barillari fished with Choctawhatchee Bay Fishing Charters on May 29, 2017

Just find a good guide and hope for the right weather. Fishing isn't always hot, but if you're persistent you'll find them.

"May fishing trip"

Al Cohoon fished with Backcountry Flats Fishing on May 18, 2017

Go with an experience guide like John and you will catch fish

Top Targeted Species in Santa Rosa Beach

Redfish

Jack Crevalle

Spotted Seatrout

Cobia