Updated on December 10, 2021
The Emerald Coast has beautiful shorelines and the best sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to its proximity to the continental shelf. Giant pelagic species lurk in the deep bluewater offshore from Panama City Beach along with many other popular fish that attract anglers from around the world. Panama City Beach has been a prime fishing destination from the start and has only grown since.
When Panama City Beach was first established, it was a fishing village called St. Andrews. Over time the industries changed in St. Andrews from fishing to shipbuilding but in 1909 a developer changed the name and merged several small towns together to create Panama City Beach. Although Panama City was a shipbuilding site again during the second world war, fishing has been a constant in these waters throughout the centuries.
The land geography is very mild which continues into the water until you get to the offshore fishing grounds. There are reefs, wrecks, and ledges harboring fish once you get far enough from shore. The ledges hold the biggest fish in the gulf because of the deep water and baitfish. The shipwrecks turn into artificial reefs after a while and bring in reef fish that hang out near the bottom. The abundance and variety of ocean geography mean that Panama City Beach has top-notch deep sea fishing opportunities.
With the exceptional amount of fish habitat that exists here, the diversity of fish that live here is hard to beat. The species that are commonly caught offshore from Panama City Beach can be found around reefs or patrolling open water and the edge of structure.
Popular deep sea reef fish include amberjack, Spanish mackerel, grouper and snapper each with their own challenges. Amberjack and mackerel put up a surprisingly harder fight than expected. grouper and snapper, There are several different species of grouper and snapper to target as well ranging in size from a couple of pounds to over 100lbs. Deep sea reef fishing trips are more approachable for families and mixed groups. Generally a reef trip will not travel as far to get to the fishing grounds which means calmer waters, and more time fishing with less time traveling.
The offshore species you can target on a deep sea fishing trip in Panama City Beach are some of the biggest and most sought-after sportfish in the world. The prime target species include marlin, sailfish, mahi mahi, tuna, wahoo, and kingfish all of which grow exceptionally large. Mahi mahi, wahoo, and kingfish may only occasionally reach 100 lbs while yellowfin top out around 400 lbs. This is still not big by marlin standards with the biggest marlin weighing close to 1,000 lbs. If you head offshore and hook into any of these fish you are almost guaranteed to have the rod bent for the next hour or more.
The large number of reefs located near Panama City Beach have helped make it the second most visited place to dive in Florida. Many of these reefs are artificial and began from either a shipwreck or were placed there intentionally. Regardless of where these reefs came from, they attract tons of baitfish that are hunted by grouper, snapper, amberjack, and mackerel. Bottom fishing the reefs is a great way to catch a mixed bag of fish which is easy to do off the coast from Panama City Beach.
The Continental Shelf runs along the coast around the Gulf of Mexico but is closest to shore near Panama City Beach. The shelf is where the seafloor drops significantly away from land and creates the perfect hunting grounds for pelagic species like marlin, tuna, kingfish, mahi mahi, and wahoo. This area regularly produces huge fish and attracts anglers from all over the world. The short distance to the shelf means less time traveling and more time fishing which is one of the biggest reasons the deep sea fishing in Panama City Beach is so famous.
Seasons almost don’t exist in Panama City Beach because the fishing is great year-round. The ideal season to take a trip is May to November. The warm weather and varying fish migrations make it a safe bet. The peak of red snapper season is mid-summer but with tuna and billfish biting from summer into winter it’s hard to go at the wrong time.
Winter fishing Panama City Beach is also great because this is when a lot of trophy inshore fish are migrating through the area to spawn. With the weather only getting in the 50s or 60s, it’s a great escape from the colder part of the U.S.
Perfectly sandwiched between North Bay, St. Andrew Bay, Grand Lagoon, and the Gulf of Mexico, there’re plenty of places to find inshore species. The shallow backwaters have great redfish and sea trout fishing but the bays are incredible for catching flounder. There’re several other inshore species here but the most famous has to be the tarpon. The tarpon, also sometimes called “the silver king” is a large ferocious fish that is also very picky. You can target them on fly fishing gear or traditional tackle but either way, if you get one to bite hold on tight.
Panama City Beach has incredible fishing offshore, inshore, and also nearshore with a world-class cobia fishery in its backyard. Cobia has two distinct seasons with the first in the spring and the second in the fall. Nearshore trips can also catch solid kingfish, Spanish mackerel, and a number of shark species.
Because Panama City Beach is such a popular tourist destination there are plenty of things to keep you entertained on and off the water. Probably the most stand-out feature of the area is the white sand beaches and gorgeous blue water. The views are amazing and is the perfect place to spend a day relaxing. For those that want to have a night out, you will find there are tons of bars and restaurants that have all the beachy cocktails and seafood you want.