Georgia-Florida Fishing Report Panama City Beach to Destin, Florida
Well, I guess you've all been wondering when I would get to another of my favorite fishing destinations here at the Georgia-Florida Fishing Report. The old ball Coach has slowed down a little in his retirement, but it's time to start covering some info for our readers on the Panhandle of Florida. This page will include mainly details about Panama City Beach and Destin, FL.
Both of these great fishing destinations have a diverse fishery to include inshore, near shore, and offshore species depending on what you find most attractive to you. Different months of the year offer a variety of opportunities for the avid saltwater fisherman/fisherwoman.
I will try to cover Panama City Beach first mainly due to the fact that I have fished here more than any other Florida destination. There are a number of links on our favorite websites page that should help you and I'll include most of this information on the subpages as I give you the inside scoop on:
1. How/When/Where to catch fish at Panama City Beach, FL
Here's a couple of photos of fish we've taken at Panama City Beach, FL over the years. This one is of the old Ball Coach hoisting up two nice red snappers taken in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back while fishing with my friends from Alabama-Ron Handley and his 2 boys while staying at Pinnacle Port Condos on the far west end of Panama City Beach. We caught our limit just east of and within sight of the channel markers at Panama City Beach, FL
Two king mackerel caught trolling the beach at Panama City Beach, FL with Bryan and Sammy West of Rutledge, GA. These fish were harvested while trolling deep diving Mann's Stretch 30 Plugs near the Panama City Beach Pass.
2. Places for the avid fisherman to stay.
3. Local restaurants.
4. Boat ramps
5. Tackle Shops
6. Weather and Tides
7. Navigation Charts
8. Reefs and Wrecks Numbers
9. Fishing Reports
10. State and Federal Fishing Regulations
11. Best baits-Similar to #1. Live Bait and Artificials
If I can cover the details on all of this, you should be in pretty good shape, but it will be a while before all of this info is up on the website.
Background Info on Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is a separate municipality from Panama City, FL and is located in Bay County, Florida on what most people refer to as the Panhandle area on the Gulf of Mexico. A population of around 12,000 was reported on the 2010 census. It is often referred to as "The World's Most Beautiful Beaches" and was given this name due to the fact that most of the Northwest Florida beaches are covered in sugar-white sand and Panama City Beach is no exception.
This popular vacation destination is also know as "The Spring Break Capital of the World" when about 100,000+ college and high school students descend on the town during March and April each year.
The fishing at PCB is some of the best on the Gulf of Mexico with depths dropping off quickly compared to the areas of the Big Bend. This means that those of us with smaller fishing vessels can reach depths of 100+ feet on a fair weather day within a few miles offshore. This aids in conserving fuel and puts you in areas that can yield species otherwise unavailable to fisherman who are limited on distance due to fuel tank size or simply safety factors in a smaller boat.
Grouper, Red Snapper, Amberjack, and other bottom dwelling species can be taken at these depths as well as coveted species like cobia, king mackerel, dolphin (mahi-mahi), and even the occasional sailfish very near to shore. Obviously, the problem you run into at Panama City Beach is the amount of pressure you get from charter boats, head boats, commercial fishermen, and recreational fishermen as this is a highly desired vacation destination and many of the well-know public numbers (reefs and wrecks) are fished on a daily basis.
Inshore, the fishing is outstanding as well. The jetties are a well-known area as you travel south out of the pass. You will always see those land-locked fishermen working the jetties, but this is not for the faint of heart. It is a hazardous area to navigate on foot and not easy to fish from. However, those of us fortunate enough to have a boat can harvest redfish, Spanish Mackerel, black drum (cousin to the red drum), mangrove snapper, and many other species out and around the pass/jetties. There is a lot of traffic in the area as the big boats come through on a regular basis.
Trout and redfish are highly sought-after species on the flats, in the creeks, and anywhere you can find moving water on the "inside". Many guides will specialize in this type of fishing, but personally I enjoy the bottom fishing and trolling variety the area has to offer.
Kayak fishing has also become a big boom not just in Panama City Beach, FL, but everywhere in Florida and Georgia. These one-man boats allow for some outstanding mobility and the ability to get into some tight places for chasing redfish. Don't think though that these guys don't have the gall to get out and and fish nearshore.
A couple of stories I'll share concerning this type of fishing: My son and a friend were trolling nearshore about a mile off the beach near the Bay County Pier and encountered a kayaker hooked up on something "B-I-G" that was towing him around like a freight train. When we stopped to investigate and talk to the guy, he had tangled into a 7 foot shark. Now I don't know about you, but I don't want to catch anything that's bigger than my boat. This big boy towed him at least 3 miles offshore, but he said he was fine and was just hanging on. I don't know if this guy ever landed the fish or if the fish landed him, but it was pretty amazing to watch.
The second story comes second-hand as I saw the photos and story posted on the Half-Hitch Tackle Shop website. We'll talk more about this awesome place later on one of our sub-pages. This kayaker was able to catch, land, paddle back in, and weigh a large sailfish he caught right outside the pass and jetties at PCB. I just can't imagine someone tackling something of that nature. The story goes that several charter and other vessels tried to give him some help in landing the fish and bringing it in, but he refused saying he wanted this one to be all on his on. Oh, to be young again and have the stamina and outright fortitude to do that.