Shore Thing: A Local’s Guide to Surf Fishing

pensacola beach fishing

The Gulf Coast is home to some of the best fishing in the country. We’ve got it all – from the fish to the fishing holes to the fishermen who can show you how it’s done. So whether you want to catch sheepshead or snapper, in the bay or the Gulf or the sound, from a boat or a pier or a chair plopped in the sand, you can do it right here.

You may notice folks in these parts sitting happily on the beach with their fishing rods secured to the shore by plumbing pipe. This popular pastime is called surf – or shore – fishing. Our friend Captain Chris Williams of Fish Happens Charters told us exactly where to go for great shore fishing access in the area.

Of course, you have your main areas such as the Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens piers. But Williams shares an insider’s perspective:

“Some of the best inshore wade fishing is found on the north side of Pensacola Beach where all the grass flats are found. Just drive past every condo on Pensacola Beach heading west, and when the condos end, start looking for a parking spot,” he says. “Grab your gear and head to the north side of the island and start fishing. Find some grass beds and start catching.”

So … what might you catch?

“Pompano is a huge draw for this area and excellent table fare,” Williams says. “But there are still a lot of other fish to be caught.”

Captain’s Guide to Shore Fishing Seasons

January to April: Sharks, Flounder, Sheepshead, Pompano, Speckled Trout, Cobia

May: Redfish, Sharks, Speckled Trout, Whiting, Bluefish

June to September: Sharks, Whiting, Bluefish, Jack Cravalle, Tarpon, Spanish and King Mackerel, Redfish

October to December: Sharks, Speckled Trout, Bluefish, Jack Cravalle, Tarpon, King Mackerel, Redfish, Speckled Trout

But to succeed, you need to gear up properly. For starters, your gear will determine what kind of fish you would like to catch.

According to Captain Chris, you will need …

• Durable, saltwater-ready rods, reels and tackle. (Your standard freshwater fishing gear will not hold up to the corrosive properties of saltwater and the air around the beach.)

• Live bait such as shrimp, bull minnows or sand fleas.

“Your basic live bait rig will be your best all around way to catch just about anything,” he says. “Any local tackle store can help you with this setup.”

If you want to fish like a local, you should depend on the locals – and that doesn’t stop with bait and tackle.

“First and foremost, you should hire a local guide. We have a lifetime of experience fishing here, and we know where the fish are,” says Williams. “Secondly, your local tackle stores have great advice on local spots, what to use and what baits are hot right now. Plus, if you need fishing equipment, they can help with that also.”

Just remember, as with fishing anywhere, there will always be limits on how much you can lawfully keep.

Now that you know where to go, what to catch and how to do it, get out there and fish for your supper.

Have fun!