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So you’ve heard that Destin is the “Luckiest Sportfishing Village in the World”. You’d be forgiven for thinking that’s down to its incredible location, offering access to the Gulf of Mexico’s reefs and offshore waters. But actually, the best chance of experiencing the angling prowess of this charming town is by going on a Destin inshore fishing trip.
Sure, the deepwaters are great, but the calm waters of Choctawhatchee Bay are teeming with fish. Here, you’ll find mangroves, shallows, estuaries, and all other kinds of shallow waters that some of the most sought-after fish in the land call home. And you can even head out beyond East Pass and still be fishing “inshore”.
Yep, that’s right, captains in Destin are a little liberal with their definition of “inshore”. And who could blame them? Any water within 2 miles of shore is seen as “fishing the shallows”, here. So that just adds to the possibilities!
But that’s enough of the general overview. In this guide, we’ll talk you through what really makes inshore fishing in Destin special. We’ll introduce you to the top species caught here, the favored techniques, best spots, times of year to visit, and more. So if you’re looking to find out what this world-class destination has to offer, read on.
What fish can I catch inshore in Destin?
Where to start with this one? Inshore fishing in Destin is like coming face-to-face with a who’s who of shallow water fish. Redfish and Speckled Trout are the mainstays, while Tarpon steal the limelight in summer. Then there are Flounder, Jacks, Pompano, and Sheepshead, along with Snappers and other fish that can make their way in from the reefs! Let’s meet the stars of the show.
Wherever you find Redfish, chances are they’re towards the top of your to-catch list. These golden beauties grow to incredible sizes, put up an impressive fight, and taste absolutely delicious. And in Destin, you can go after them year-round! You’ll spot them tailing in the flats, making for exciting sight fishing and fly fishing opportunities, while certain times of the year will see them reach “Bull” sizes – but more on that later.
They’re joined by their just-as-fun-to-catch cousins, Black Drum, who, like them, got their name because of the sound they make. Pretty cool, huh? And with so many of these fish available, there’s something for everyone. Beginners and young ones can try their luck against smaller specimens, while the Bulls offer trophy-sized rewards for experienced anglers.
Where there are Redfish in the Gulf of Mexico, chances are, there’ll be Speckled Trout, too. That’s certainly the case in Destin, where these delightful creatures swim side-by-side with their drumming friends all year long. You can find them in the grassy flats from January onwards, so they’re a true staple of the Destin inshore fishing menu.
And it’s not just their availability and similar habitats that make these fish so similar. Speckies are also perfect targets for anglers of all ages and skill levels. There are thousands of smaller-sized fish, perfect for beginners, while oversized “Gator” Trout are possible during their peak season. They’re fun to target and delicious to eat. What better way to finish the day than with some finger-lickin’ meat you caught yourself?
Completing the holy trinity of inshore fish species in Destin, another favorite from across the country makes its way onto the list. We’re of course talking about Flounder. While these Flatfish are unlikely to win any beauty pageants, what they lack in looks, they certainly make up for in taste with white, firm, delicious meat.
While some experienced anglers may feel that this bottom-dwelling species is no match for their ambitions, catching Flounder is actually more tricky than you may think. Sure, they’re pretty eager to take your bait, but bigger specimens hug the sea bed and make for serious heavy lifting. They’re also known to feed at night, so heading out under the moonlight adds another, exciting dimension to your Destin inshore trip.
Speaking of moonlight feeders, there are one species that steals the show. Tarpon, or “Silver Kings” show up in Destin come summer and offer any experienced angler a run for their money. Why? Well, not only do they regularly grow to 6 feet in size, but these prehistoric monsters are known for acrobatic leaps out of the water, as they try to break free from your line. Make sure to bring some sturdy gear if going after these beasts, and never forget to “bow to the King”.
We mentioned going out at night, and that’s just perfect because the hot weather in summer will make a Tarpon hunt during the day even more difficult. Head to the bridges and any other form of structure, using any natural or artificial light to try and spot these beasts. Once you have them hooked, the real battle will begin.
Destin’s inshore fishing scene is so rich that we could write an entire book on all the species that hunt the shallows here. We’ve stuck to focusing on the A-listers, but there’s a worthy supporting cast behind them too! Starting with Sheepshead, who show up year-round, through visiting Pompano and Jack Crevalle, the flats and mangroves are awash with fish whenever you come.
With mangroves come Mangrove Snapper, a smaller relative of the elusive Red Snapper – but that’s not all. Head out beyond the pass and, just a stone’s throw from land, you could find prized reef species. We’re talking Mackerel, Bonito, Groupers, and even Sharks. Now, do you see why Destin got its nickname?
How to Go Inshore Fishing in Destin
Light tackle is the name of the game when inshore fishing in Destin – although you may want a tougher line for Tarpon! Otherwise, a light-action spinning rod will do the trick with a test line of about 12 pounds. Live bait is also a favorite of local anglers, but cut bait and artificials are possible depending on the species you’re going after.
Looking to try fly fishing? Destin’s shallows are perfect for attacking on the fly, with tailing Redfish a particularly popular target for experienced anglers. If you’re looking for a true test of your strength, Tarpon are also possible when the season hits, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!
You’ll also have various options for how to tackle the waters. Fancy pitching up for the day and casting from shore? No problem. Want to fish with like-minded anglers? Try pier fishing. And, of course, there are plenty of vessels, from kayaks to offshore sportfishing boats to get you on the fish. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of those options.
When most people think of fishing, their mind wanders to being in an armchair by the side of the water, sipping a cool one, and casting a line. While we know fishing is much more than that, sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics. Inshore fishing in Destin offers exactly that, with plenty of spots dotted around Choctawhatchee Bay and the pass to get your fish on.
Whether you’re a hands-on angler, wanting to cast into the surf, or fancy setting up for the day and letting your rod do the work, there’s something for you. Hit the jetties around the pass or attack the surf for a workout throwing your line and retrieving it. Meanwhile, there are plenty of parks and other places off the beaten track around the bay where you can sit back and relax.
Casting from shore is not the only way to get your fish on without leaving dry land, however. What kind of true fishing village would Destin be if it didn’t take advantage by erecting plenty of fishing piers?! Lucky for you, this is a place that knows how to make the most of what it’s got. Therefore, there are plenty of purpose-built structures for you to cast your line.
Pier fishing is just like shore fishing, only with the guarantee of being surrounded by like-minded anglers. The camaraderie is inescapable! You’ll also have the added advantage of extra purchase when reeling in your fish, and your target species may be attracted by the structure itself. Just beware of tangling lines and the potential to spook the fish.
Inshore Kayak Fishing
The calm waters of the bays make for excellent kayaking opportunities. It’s no surprise, then, that kayak fishing is also popular in Destin. While it does add another dimension to your workout for the day, it’s well worth it to get up close and personal to your target fish.
Kayak fishing lets you get to the spots that other vessels may not be able to reach. And it certainly allows you to cover more ground than standing from shore. This is the best way of exploring the mangroves, we think. Consider giving it a try and the rewards will be endless!
Worried about tipping over? Head out with a trained guide and they’ll show you the ropes. Balancing your rod, fixing your bait, and maneuvering a kayak isn’t easy for beginners. But once you master it, you’ll be hooked for life – pun intended!
Inshore Charter Fishing
Just as Destin makes the most of its fishery with piers, so too do local anglers by providing their services. Marinas such as the Sandestin, Harborwalk, and East Pass are overflowing with charter boats waiting to take you out, and inshore fishing trips are a staple of their offer.
You’ll find vessels of all shapes and sizes to get you on the water. So, whether you’re a solo angler looking to join a party boat or want a private trip for you and the family, you’re absolutely covered.
The benefits of fishing from a charter boat are worth considering. You won’t have to worry about bringing your own equipment, for starters. Then, you’ll benefit from the crew’s local knowledge and experience – an invaluable bonus for beginners. They’ll usually even clean and fillet your catch at the end of the day! All in all, it’s your best chance of getting on the fish and having a memorable time.
Destin Inshore Fishing Spots
Now you know what you can target and how to go about it, it’s time to find out where you’ll have the best luck. By going out with a captain, you’ll be able to sit back and let them take you to their trusted honey holes. But head out on your own, and you should check out the following spots:
- Mid-Bay Bridge. This large structure that crosses Choctawhatchee Bay was first made to help tourists and locals get from one side to the other. But it’s also a great spot to park up and cast a line. All the most sought-after species love to feed around here, so we suggest you give it at least one visit.
- East Pass Jetty. While either jetty on the mouth of the bay offers good angling, East Pass Jetty offers plenty of fishing spots, with the structure attracting fish, too. You’ll get to target inshore and nearshore creatures that come close to the pass, so there’s more on offer here than elsewhere.
- Baytown Wharf Pier. While many of Destin’s fishing piers look out onto the Gulf, head across to Horseshoe Bayou, and this productive, purpose-built structure gives you a shot at pier fishing in the shallows. All the usual favorites are available, so settle in for a productive day.
- Gulf Islands National Seashore. Located on Okaloosa Island, this pristine park is one of the best spots on the other side of the pass to cast a line from. With plenty of places to hang out, some swimming and playground spots for the kids, and incredible fishing, it’s all you could want. Just keep in mind that fees apply.
- Rocky Bayou. Any of Choctawhatchee Bay’s tributaries and bayous are good hunting grounds, where you’ll find mangroves and/or flats full of fish. This one, though, is just a short hop from downtown Destin and is a great place to cast from shore, visit on a boat, or launch your kayak.
When to Go Fishing Inshore in Destin
So we’ve already told you when some of the prized species hit their strides, but it bears repeating. Inshore fishing in Destin is red-hot year-round, with Redfish and Trout biting even when the weather gets a little bit colder. During the winter, they’re joined by Sheepshead, while summer sees Tarpon make their way into the shallows for the potential fight of your life. Spring and fall see Mackerel runs, so there’s no letting up whenever you visit.
If you’re looking for Bull Reds and Gator Trout, fall is the best time to visit. And that’s just great because the summer crowds have died down but the fishing is at its best! The weather is still warm, meaning night fishing adventures are also possible. We definitely recommend you try that at least once!
Destin Inshore Fishing Rules and Regulations
Before we let you go, there’s just the small matter of making sure you’re fishing within the law. The good news is, that if you’re fishing from a charter boat or from a licensed pier, you won’t need to get a fishing permit. Fish from land or from your own kayak, however, and you’ll need a Florida saltwater fishing license. Find out how here.
Other than that, you should also be aware of bag and size limits. You should especially know that Tarpon are catch-and-release only. Meanwhile, most other species have minimum size limits and a restricted number of how many you can take home. Redfish, for example, must be between 18 and 27 inches, and you can only keep one fish per person per day. For the latest information, we suggest you check out the MyFWC website.
Inshore Fishing in Destin: Lucky Doesn’t Even Cover It!
So there you have it. You now know what makes Destin the “Luckiest Fishing Village in the World.” Whenever you visit this popular fishery, you won’t leave empty-handed. Whether looking to land a delicious dinner or going after that record catch – everything is possible. All that’s left for you to do is to book a trip and start packing. A Destin inshore fishing trip awaits!
The post Destin Inshore Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.
This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.