What to Expect
Destin is home to some of the best fishing in the world - that's part of the reason we chose to live here. The fishery is constantly changing based on weather and the time of the year. We fish with relatively light tackle - rods and reels big enough to land the fish but light enough that you'll get to know it on the way up. And we're strategically located just outside of all the chaos! If you've ever been to the Destin Harbor it can be pretty overwhelming. We are located in Santa Rosa Beach and live in Grayton Beach on 30A. We launch from just minutes from any neighborhood on 30A - and we do so to avoid the stoplights, traffic, and hassle of Highway 98 during the summer season! If you've ever been to 30A in the summer, you know what I mean! I would take the bay boat ride over the traffic every time - and often we can catch inshore species on the way out and on the way back in!
Here's a rundown of a typical season for us:
Spring: For us, the spring normally starts with nicer weather, and the pompano arrive on the beach. Some of my favorite surf fishing occurs in March and April when we can catch numerous and big pompano while sitting on the sand and waiting for the rods to bend over!
Right around this time, the cobia can begin to arrive as they migrate past to spawn. Once the first cobia is caught, the Cobia World Championships tournament begins and many tower boats will be out looking for a chance to land a big one. For this, most of the cobia are caught sight fishing with light tackle from the boat in 10-60ft of water.
As the water heats up (somewhere around a min of 68 degrees), king mackerel will begin showing up in numbers. We typically start our days around this time by trolling anywhere between 20 and 200ft of water before heading farther out to bottom fish. These fish normally hang out most of the summer and into the beginning of fall. King fishing is extremely exciting on light gear and one of my favorite fish to catch - and eat. I used to thing of kingfish differently until Kayla showed me the Alabama secret of cooking!
Another thing we like to do a lot is to sight cast light tackle into breaking schools of bonita. The bonita (false albacore) is a type of tuna that is very strong and very fun to catch. To cast a jig into a school of breaking bonita and hook one on a 2500-3000 size spinning reel is one of the most fun things you can do. This is often what I will go do if somehow we have the day off or just want to have fun. You'll see what I mean.
Bottom fishing this type of year produces a lot of vermillion (mingo) snapper, triggerfish, amberjack, black snapper, and other reef fish. The fun part about bottom fishing is you often never know what you hooked. We have had days where we caught 13 different species all on the same lure! We've even caught lionfish! This normally involves fishing over various spots in the gulf - natural bottoms, wrecks, etc. How many fish and what we can keep is always an issue as regulations determine the seasons - but keep in mind that fishing is fun and if you only wanted meat - it'd be a lot cheaper and a whole lot less fun to go to Publix! We recommend and do a lot of catch and release trips for snapper, grouper, and amberjack in the spring - a lot of the bigger and badder fish are in close to the beach.
Summer: As the water heats up (and Destin gets more crowded), seasons open up for Red Snapper, gag grouper, and other delicious sandwich species. Kings, gags, red grouper, scamp, amberjack, almaco, red snapper, vermillion snapper, triggerfish, and the other reef fish are normally around most of the summer. Normally, I'll try and let people warm up with a few bonita to use for bait for these species as we head into deeper water, or catch some other fin bait like ruby reds, sand perch, or cigar minnows to live line down for another bigger species!
From May until early November, there are also dolphin (mahi) and wahoo along the Emerald Coast. Most of them are targeted offshore, but there are many that often wander much closer in to shore. Most often we catch them trolling since we can cover more ground. This can be time consuming and expensive with the fuel, but the initial run of a wahoo can spool some of these reels in a matter of seconds, and the acrobatics of a mahi jumping after its hooked is absolutely insane. We have also had many days where mahi will just swim up to the boat while we're bottom fishing! We always have a light rod ready for this. Those days are my favorite.
Also - Tarpon. Enough said. Typically the hotter months - June, July, August.
Fall: Fishing in the fall is the best time of the year. Once everyone goes back to school, and the town slows down, the Destin Fishing Rodeo kicks off and begins a month of fishing. This tournament holds a biggest of the month and daily prizes for kingfish, grouper, amberjack, blackfin tuna, mingo, wahoo, almaco, etc. The water is still warm, the days are beautiful, the weather is traditionally perfect, and all the fish begin feeding and fattening up for winter. Fall fishing can consist of endless possibilities - trolling, bottom fishing, sight casting, everything described above is an option. There's also a pretty good nearshore Blackfin tuna bite once things start to cool off - late September until the Spring.
Inshore, the bull redfish become a favorite target of ours as they're very actively feeding and getting ready to spawn. We do a lot of inshore fishing this time of year. The last few years have produced some big jack crevalle in the bay as well. Sight casting into a school of breaking jacks is a lot of fun - and on some of the gear we fish with you could be looking at a 30 minute fight!
Winter: There are always fish in the gulf. The days are just a little shorter, we wear some extra clothes, and only certain fish can be kept. Often times we will run out and it feels like we're the only boat on the water. I definitely recommend a catch, photograph, and release trip during the colder months - those bigger fish are all over the place!! Unless there are tuna running - then we're definitely doing that!
Inshore fishing becomes tougher. The water cools down, and the bait fish slow down. Most of the bigger fish (trout and redfish) head deeper to a more comfortable water temperature, or head up the estuary to a muddy bottom which tends to hold heat. We do a lot of fishing this year up the rivers and canals and work our bait and lures much slower than normal - which can be refreshing and a nice break before spring break and the start of the new season!