Florida's westernmost city in the Panhandle, Pensacola, is a popular vacation spot, and for good reason. The city is filled with historic charm, a laid back atmosphere, and some beautiful beaches. Between the numerous bays and the open Gulf, there are also tons of fishing opportunities. What can you expect on a Pensacola inshore fishing trip?
Pensacola is located in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which means it has a large variety of fish to target. The most popular inshore fish in Pensacola are redfish, speckled trout, flounder, sheepshead, and tarpon. Many of these fish can be caught year-round, but there are certain times of the year that will be more productive than others.
Speckled Trout fishing is hot in the shallows of the grass flats. Surf fishing is productive as well this time of year, with Spanish Mackerel, Pompano, and large Redfish cruising near the beach. Sheepshead can be caught year round, but the transition from March to April sees the bite picking up. April also marks the typical start of the Cobia migration, giving anglers an opportunity to catch this sought after species. Anglers targeting Cobia without access to a boat will see a higher chance of success a bit to the East, fishing off of the Navarre Pier.
The bluefish bite picks up in May as well. These fish can be caught from the beach or pier, and are known for their tenacious fight. They do not get as big in these waters as they do up north, so lighter tackle will provide the most fun. King Mackerel, or Kingfish, fishing is excellent in May as well. Similar to the Cobia, anglers looking for a Kingfish without access to a boat will have the highest chance of success fishing the pier.
June typically marks the opening of Red Snapper season, which unfortunately are not caught inshore. The good news for inshore anglers however, is that most boats will be heading out to the reefs to capitalize on the season. This means less pressure on the inshore spots, and fewer anglers fishing from land. This is a great time to book a Pensacola fishing charter if you want to get in on the Red Snapper action.
Meanwhile on the inshore front, a true Pensacola inshore bucket list fish makes an appearance. The Tarpon, or Silver King, is arguably the most desirable inshore sport fish. Tarpon can grow over 6 feet long and over 200 pounds, and are known for their powerful, acrobatic fights. Although Tarpon are not as plentiful in the Northern Gulf as they are in the South, they can still be caught. Their relative rarity in this area makes catching one even more of an accomplishment.
The Kingfish and Cobia stick around during the Summer, with the Cobia bite starting to slow in July. Kingfish typically run all summer long, and provide tons of drag screaming action.
September and October mean one thing to Pensacola inshore anglers, and that is Redfish! Redfish are an inshore staple in Pensacola, and this is the best time of year to go after a "bull" red. Fish the passes with live pinfish or large pieces of cut bait. On calm, clear mornings, it is not uncommon to see massive schools of redfish, giving anglers ample sight fishing opportunities.
Flounder fishing is also great this time of year, and Sheepshead and Mangrove Snapper are plentiful around structure such as dock and bridge pilings.
The Redfish run continues into the winter months, and the cooler, clear water offers opportunities for Speckled Trout on the grass flats. Flounder fishing is also excellent this time of the year, giving anglers a chance at catching an "Inshore Slam" (a Redfish, a Trout, and a Flounder in the same outing).
No matter what time of the year you plan on going inshore fishing in Pensacola, there is always something to catch!
Now that we know when to fish, let's talk about how to fish. Inshore fishing in Pensacola can be done from the beach, a pier, or a boat.
Fishing from the beach is a great way to get started in saltwater fishing. All you need is a rod and reel, some bait and tackle, and a Florida fishing license. You can find all of this at your local tackle shop or online. Surf fishing in Pensacola can produce redfish, flounder, trout, pompano, whiting, Spanish mackerel and more!
Anglers without access to a boat would also want to check out the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier. At over 1,470 feet long, this pier provides the experience of deep sea fishing without setting foot on a vessel. The species you can catch here are similar to the surf species mentioned above, with the addition of King Mackerel and Cobia.
Though less common, there are many documented instances of anglers catching Mahi and even Sailfish off the pier! Although you should also check the rules and regulations before heading out, the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier doesn't require a fishing license.
If you have access to a boat, inshore fishing in Pensacola is excellent. You can fish the passes, the bayous, or the flats. A boat also gives you the opportunity to venture out to the reefs for some Red Snapper action! If you're visiting or do not own a boat, check out our Captain partners that offer Pensacola Fishing Charters. You're sure to have an unforgettable day on the water with a professional fishing guide at the helm!
No matter how you choose to go about it, inshore fishing in Pensacola is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and catch some delicious fish! Be sure to check the regulations before you go, and always practice catch and release with any fish that are not of legal size. Good luck, and tight lines!