Updated on December 8, 2021
Destin isn’t the number 1 most popular sportfishing destination in the US for no reason - the diversity of species and the unique spot on the Gulf make for year-round good weather and primetime fishing action. The city is known as “the world’s luckiest fishing village”, and while the city has outgrown its designation as a fishing village, there is still plenty of luck to go around (although our guides would say there is a fair amount of talent and insider knowledge that doesn’t hurt!).
Destin as a city was founded by fishermen (in particular, Captain Leonard Destin), who found the geography of the area to be amenable to good numbers of target species. Without powered boats or modern gear, these anglers used simple boats and nets. The fishing community in Destin has come a long way since 1835, but much of the fishing knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation through the local guides and watermen.
The Emerald Coast of Florida (along with the small coastline of Alabama) is blessed with a truly unique position geographically. The continental shelf is closer to shore here than at any other point in the Gulf of Mexico (in the US, at least). This blesses any angler fishing out of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City Beach with more access to deep-sea fish more easily than anywhere else in the Gulf.
Even among this small group of cities, Destin sits in a league of its own in terms of access to prime water. Head out into the waters off the coast and you will encounter about 12 miles of relatively shallow water followed by a steep drop at the famed 100 Fathom Curve. The speed to which Destin reaches these depths is unique and means you can get to some spectacular fishing with a much shorter ride.
Instead of strapping 1000 horsepower to your boat and holding on for dear life, you can take a 30-minute cruise and be on the fish. That is the beauty of Destin fishing.
It should be no surprise that different species prefer different depths of water, and this unbelievable access to deep water opens the floodgates for your target species as an angler out of Destin.
What type of fish does the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village hold? When you hear about offshore fishing in Destin there is a reason your mind should immediately go to red snapper. This is one of the biggest hotspots in the Gulf of Mexico and during the short red snapper season this is one of the best places to book a charter. The city conjures up images of happy families or bachelor party groups with ear-to-ear smiles and absolute slabs of ruby-red snapper. Red snapper get up to 50 pounds and 40 inches, and it’s not uncommon to find above-average fish in these waters.
Other common reef fish include grouper and amberjack. Cobia are super popular and can be found near any structure but are also known to wander near the 100 Fathom Curve.
For pelagics, it is best to work the afternoon as the sun winding down means these species tend to turn on. Billfish can be great late afternoon and if you stick around on an overnight charter, the swordfishing can be excellent after dark if you’re willing to put in the midnight oil and crack a few glowsticks.
Blue marlin are one of the true treats when going past the shelf for pelagics. Destin offshore is known as a haven for big blue marlin and the trophy opportunities mean tons of anglers coming July to September for a chance at the big one.
Destin offshore is home to tons of incredibly diverse underwater structure with wide-ranging names such as the Ozark, the Nipple, the Elbow, the Spur, and Squiggles.
In Destin lingo, the Edge refers to the continental shelf dropoff that occurs remarkably close to shore relative to other fishing hotspots in the Gulf. The Edge is a paradise for bottom dwellers like snapper, grouper, and amberjack.
Destin offshore fishing lives and dies with the 100 Fathom Curve. At no point around the Gulf is the deep-water shelf closer to shore than here. The Curve almost looks like a deep water talon that extends up and towards Destin, almost inviting the fish into the waters of the Emerald Coast. With waters quickly reaching 600 ft only 12 miles from shore, this is an incredible opportunity to catch big snapper, grouper, and other bottom dwellers, as well as mahi-mahi and other fish enjoying the confluence of shallow and deep water. Once you cross this boundary into deeper water, you’ll also begin to encounter pelagics in much bigger numbers, including wahoo, tuna, sailfish, and marlin.
Once you get 50+ miles offshore from Destin, you enter another world of true deep-sea fishing. Here you will find true trophy white marlin and blue marlin, as well as massive swordfish at night.
The Destin deep sea fishing season is virtually non-existent - fishing is fantastic year-round. The primetime season is May to November but given the warm weather and variable species schedules, you can’t go wrong. Red snapper is usually on mid-summer, and many billfish and tunas will run strong from May to November and even into the winter months.
Winter fishing in Destin can also be great. This is when a lot of trophy inshore fish are caught and the weather can be much more manageable - it only rains a handful of days on average in the winter and temperatures can still be up in the 50s and 60s.
There is, however, one time of year that blows the rest out of the water: The Destin Fishing Rodeo. The Rodeo is a unique tournament that takes place over the entire month of October every year. It has been going strong since 1948, and each year brings around 30,000 anglers and hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes.
The Destin Fishing Rodeo is special for the community of Destin in that it offers a way for every angler to be included in the action. What better way to celebrate the historical significance of such a great fishing town than to tournament for an entire month with every angler in town!
Almost every charter boat in Destin registers for the Rodeo, and every deep sea charter client is entered for free. Almost every gamefish is entered in the tournament, weigh-ins run all day long every day, and the prizes can be seriously special.
When charter boat fishing out of Destin (as in the entire state of Florida), charter guests are covered by the captain’s licenses. This means that there are no special licenses required for you to head out on a deep-sea charter from Destin.
With a higher charter captain per capita than any other big city in the country, there are plenty of opportunities to book the best deep sea charter for you and your group. There are boats, guide personalities, and fishing types to match what any group is looking for.
If deep-sea fishing isn’t for you there are still plenty of options to go around. Destin houses a plethora of inshore and nearshore opportunities as well.
The Choctawhatchee Bay system provides plenty of opportunities for fishing the warm-water flats and shallows near the city. Tarpon are a popular target, as are the classics: redfish and speckled trout, along with black drum, sheepshead, and black snapper.
Destin is not only one of the top destinations for red snapper, but also a world-class cobia fishery. Cobia in Destin have two distinct seasons; the first is in April, and the latter is roughly September to October. Anglers can also catch good kingfish and other mackerel and a number of shark species.
There are plenty of things to do in Destin when you are not spending time on the water. The beaches are a popular place to spend the day because of the beautiful white sand and blue water. The Harborwalk Village is at the center of Destin and has restaurants, bars, and waterfront shopping. Jetski and kayak rentals are also available at Harborwalk Village which lets you explore the Destin waters on your own personal watercraft. The options are endless in Destin with a variety of activities both on and off the water which makes it an ideal vacation destination.