Best Offshore Fishing Charters in Destin

Top Offshore Fishing Charters in Destin

Offshore Fishing in Destin

Destin, Florida has had a rich fishing tradition for centuries, and continues to live up to its reputation as “The World's Luckiest Fishing Village." Featuring rich emerald waters and sugary white beaches, it’s a true fisherman's paradise. People often joke that Destin has more charter boats than residents, which is not so far from the truth since it attracts tens of thousands of anglers from all over the world every year. And most of them come for the biggest attraction of all – Destin offshore fishing! 

What to Catch 

Thanks to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the East Pass, Destin has access to a record-breaking variety of game species to catch. Destin fishing boats can take you after a plethora of Snapper (Red, Black, White, Vermillion), Grouper (Gag, Scamp, Red), Sharks (Blacktip, Tiger, Bull, Hammerhead), Amberjack, Triggerfish, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, King Mackerel, Cobia, Tarpon, and even Billfish and Tuna. 
Red Snapper are the most popular bottom species to catch, and they are usually found in waters 30–250 feet deep, especially near natural and artificial reefs, wrecks, and other structures. When it comes to Grouper, Red and Black are among the area's favorites and can be found at reefs as well, along with Amberjack. Some of them can even reach over 150 pounds! King Mackerel swim in the open waters of the Gulf and near reefs, usually in waters no more than 250 feet deep. The farther offshore you venture out, the bigger the chances of landing Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and Billfish.

Where to Go

State Waters

Numerous Destin offshore charters can take you exploring state waters up to 9 miles from coast. Unlike many other destinations, you can catch various A-listers in these warm, rich waters without having to travel to federal waters. Anywhere from 300 yards to 9 miles offshore, you could be reeling in Red, Black, and Vermilion Snapper, Spanish and King Mackerel, Grouper, Barracuda, Amberjack, Tarpon, Cobia, and even Blackfin Tuna and Sharks. Blacktip, Tiger, and Hammerhead are usually over 20 pounds, but 300-pound specimens can also be caught. The most productive state water spots are usually near numerous natural and artificial reefs and wrecks, such as Brown and Barrel Barge, sunken in around 70 feet of water, Liberty Ship Thomas Hayward, Big Spot Reef, AJ Bimini, and State Line Hole. 
Destin's offshore seabed is dotted with numerous artificial wrecks and reefs, and boy, do various species love these kind of structures. There are over 400 waypoints within 10 miles of the East Pass, and that means extremely productive offshore fishing. 

Reef/Wreck Fishing in Federal Waters

When you pass the state water line 9 miles from the coast, the fishing magic starts to happen. The white sandy seafloor turns dark, rocky, or muddy, and the emerald waters go blue. But most importantly, the fishing action skyrockets! Just find a federally licensed offshore charter and let it take you exploring these deep offshore waters. 
Triggerfish and Amberjack (also known as the “Reef Donkey”) can be found in 60–90 feet of these waters. The farther offshore you go, the bigger the fish. If you're after big Red Snapper or Grouper, exploring some of the farther reefs is a safe bet.
One of the most well-known reef areas is the ALE artificial reef network. Consisting of 40 concrete structures, this is located 22 miles from the Eastern Pass at a depth of 125 feet. Starfish Complex, Sand Dollar Reef Complex, Destin Deepwater Concrete Reef, and Destin Vaughn Reef "Angelena B" are also well-known artificial reefs. 

Further Afield

If you're aiming to go even farther offshore and fish in jaw-dropping depths for the biggest of big, Destin waters will provide for that, as well. Legendary hotspots such as the Edge, the 100-Fathom Curve, the Nipple, the Elbow, and Squiggles boast some of the best deep sea fishing this part of the world can offer. 

How to Fish

  • Destin offshore waters are all about bottom fishing for reef dwellers and trolling for pelagics. The best part is that many charters offer both during the same trip, so you'll get to try a variety of methods depending on the location, target species, and the captain. Many offshore trips start by using light tackle spinning gear to catch bait fish, after which you'll spend your trip trolling, bottom fishing, or spot casting. The typical Destin offshore fishing trip involves trolling for Kingfish as you head out to the reef, where you will bottom fish for Red Snapper or Triggerfish depending on the season.
  • When it comes to fishing the reefs and wrecks, deep dropping and trolling are both popular methods. Deep swimming Amberjack, Grouper, and Snapper can be tempted to come to the surface if you use the right baits. Trolling over reefs and wrecks, as well as open water trolling can result in a variety of attractive species. This includes Spanish and King Mackerel, Bluefish, Bonito, Mahi Mahi, and Blackfin Tuna. You might even catch Billfish if you travel farther out.  
  • Both light and heavy tackle are used offshore, depending on the target species. Go for heavy tackle and big live bait to catch hard-fighting Black and Red Snapper, Shark, Grouper, Amberjack, and Cobia. When it comes to most of the reef species, you'll be using smaller bait on light tackle. This will get you a variety of Snapper (White, Lane, Vermilion), Triggerfish, Scamp Grouper, Black Seabass, and more.
  • If you want to catch that trophy Red Snapper, it's recommended that you use 6.5–7' medium-heavy rods paired with conventional reels and 50–60 lb mono or 65–80 lb braided lines. Spinning gear with 65 lb braided line is also a good option when targeting Snappers and Kingfish.
  • Many captains in the area sight fish for pelagics feeding on the surface by searching for bait fish and diving birds. Tarpon and Cobia are especially easy to spot due to their contrasting color to these deep waters. 

When to Go 

The best part of Destin offshore fishing is that every season can be a productive season, but if you're after specific species, some months are better than others. August marks the beginning of the prime season for numerous species, especially Triggerfish and Amberjack, which can be caught until the end of October. 
Looking to reel in Cobia? Their migration to the area starts in late March and ends at the beginning of May, peaking in April. King Mackerel fishing starts to heat up from May onwards, while Sailfish reach their peak during late summer and can be found closer to the shore than usual. 
Red Snapper fishing is strictly regulated and the season usually runs from June–July, although it’s subject to change. Triggerfish and Amberjack also have closed seasons, while Vermillion and White Snapper, Grouper, and Bonito can be caught year-round!
All these amazing species reside in different depths and what makes offshore fishing in Destin unique is the fact that you can catch all of them on the same trip – the area’s one-of-a-kind underwater structure is what makes this possible. Book a trip with any of the numerous local charter boats and find out why fishing in Destin is said to be larger than life.


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Top Targeted Offshore Fishing Species in Destin

Snapper (Red)

Snapper (Red)

King Mackerel (Kingfish)

King Mackerel (Kingfish)