What Can You Expect to Catch in the Gulf of Mexico?
What can you catch? Here are just some of the Florida fish species we commonly catch in the Panama City Beach, 30A, and Apalachicola areas of the Gulf of Mexico, although, there are still several other species we catch throughout the year.
Please be aware that FWC regulations determine what fish we are actually able to bring home at any time and all other catches will be a great photo opportunity and then quickly released back into the gulf. To better select your trip, for your desired catch, below are the 2023 regulations and calendar for download. Some seasons for species haven’t been determined as of yet but these will help with booking your fishing charter trip.
Red snapper is a very sought-after Florida fish species in the Panama City Beach and Apalachicola fishing areas. These fish live on artificial and natural structures on the gulf floor. Normally these fish can be caught in between 60ft and 250 ft. depths. Red Snapper typically range from 3 pounds to 30 lbs. The bag limit is 2 fish per person and the season normally begins June 1 each year and goes into July. Each year season length changes depending on regulation assessments. Red snapper is normally very plentiful in our area and do not take experienced fishermen to harvest.
King mackerel are truly a fun fish to catch! These fish migrate in the Panama City Beach, Cape San Blas, and Apalachicola areas from April – November. We target these fish with light tackle making them a great battle for the angler. Normally we fish for King Mackerel with cigar minnows trolled slowly behind the boat. When the fish strikes the battle is on! We are allowed to keep 3 king mackerel per person with a minimum size limit of 24 inches.
People love to eat grouper, making these fish a prized species in our area. These Florida fish species are not as plentiful as they were years back and it takes a long trip to be successful at bringing home dinner. Many Grouper species tend to live in structures on the gulf floor and can be found at depths of 200 ft. or more. Live bait is normally the best bait for grouper, therefore, we typically catch bait prior to heading offshore or if preferred we buy bait at a local bait barge. We commonly see 3 species of grouper in the Panama City Beach and Apalachicola areas. Red Grouper, Scamp Grouper, and Gag Grouper. Occasionally we catch the Goliath Grouper which can grow up to 500 pounds! Unfortunately, these fish are a catch-and-release species due to our area’s regulations. Groupers are fun to catch but normally it takes a little practice to be good at landing them.
Sharks are probably the largest species that we consistently catch and are a bucket list species for many of our customers. We commonly catch Bull Sharks, Hammerheads, and Tiger Sharks but occasionally will catch a Mako depending on the time of year. The average size shark for our area is typically in the 7-10 ft range averaging a couple of hundred pounds. These are not easy to reel in and can take several hours and several anglers to land a trophy. This type of fishing is very similar to catfish fishing. We throw the lines out with a large bait and then just wait for the bite. Once you hear the reel buzz, he is hooked and the fight is on!
Wahoo are a beautiful game fish that many anglers dream of catching. We typically catch these fish in between fishing areas by trolling large lures behind the boat. Wahoo are normally in the 10-100 pound range and can grow up to 6ft in length! Like several species we tend to catch, these fish get bigger the further offshore we go. If you’re looking for a prize fish plan to troll several hours offshore to get a chance at landing a whopper. Wahoo are an exceptional fish to eat as well! They have a white meaty filet that most people cut into steaks and grill.
Vermillion snapper are a great Florida fish species for table fare. These fish are not a huge fight because of their size but their numbers can add up quick. Florida regulations allows anglers to harvest 10 fish per person. These fish live around the reefs and are a common fish we target on our bottom fishing trips. Vermillion snapper are a phenomenal fish to eat and in fact, many locals prefer the vermilion snapper over red snapper. These fish are known by several different names depending on where you fish in the Panhandle. Around Destin and the 30-A region, these fish will be called Mingos and BB’s. Whereas here, in Panama City Beach we say Beliners. Regardless of what you call them, they are plentiful and great to eat year around. These fish are also perfect for kids of any age to catch and will keep them interested nonstop in the fishing activity.
Spanish mackerel migrate annually through the 30A, Panama City Beach, and Apalachicola areas in March and hang around until the end of November. The best months to catch these fish are in March and April when the weather is superb. These fish are very similar to their cousin the King Mackerel but are normally in the 1 to 5-pound range and measure 12-24 inches in length. Keep in mind that size isn’t everything! Spanish Mackerel are some of the most fun fish to catch in the Gulf, especially for young children. When they are biting it can get kind of crazy all at once so be prepared to grab a pole when you hear the reel go off!
The Triggerfish is one ugly fish! They have small mouths and human-looking teeth with compressed flat bodies. Unique to the fish world and sublime on your table. Any Panama City Beach local will tell you these are some of the best fish to fry! Florida laws only allow you to keep one per person so remember the more anglers you have the more fish you get to bring home! Like all the other reef species these fish live on artificial reefs and hard bottom offshore. We use small hooks and squid to catch the fish and we typically catch triggerfish year around. Seasons vary so make sure to check with your Captain prior to booking your trip to make sure you get to bring home your catch. Image credit Wiki
Mahi Mahi normally migrate to the Panama City and Apalachicola areas in May and can be caught offshore through the month of November. These fish are absolutely stunning when pulled out of the water and are one of the more colorful species of fish we catch. We normally are not able to target Mahi Mahi because they love to live under floating debris and floating debris is always moving. Therefore your captain will have to see the debris in the water and navigate up to it. Nine times out of ten there will be Mahi’s underneath. If luck is in your favor you will have plenty of fish to eat for dinner that night! The fish limit for Mahi Mahi is 60 fish per boat and it is not uncommon to catch that many if you find the right school! Image credit Wiki By Joseph Hector
Pound for pound Amberjack are the hardest fighting Florida fish species that we consistently catch year around. Fishermen in this area call them reef donkeys because they fight so hard and can be a stubborn fish to reel in. Averaging 20 to 40 pounds and occasionally over 100 pounds these fish are a fish of a lifetime. We typically target these species on our catch-and-release fishing trips and for meat trips. It takes a pretty strong arm to reel these fish in so be prepared for a workout when you meet your captain for the day! Amberjack typically hover over artificial reefs from 60 ft all the way out to 400 ft. and are caught with live bait caught prior to going offshore.
In this area, we typically see Blackfin and Yellowfin Tuna. Blackfin tuna are a little more prevalent in this area and can be caught on offshore trolling trips. The Yellowfin tuna requires you to head further west toward the Louisiana Oil rigs. These trips are a minimum of 2 days but are a trip of a lifetime!
Capt. BJ is a 3rd generation fisherman in the local waters. He knows all the hotspots to make your trip a success regardless of what you desire to target. Feel free to contact Capt. BJ for your next fishing adventure. He would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
See our range of Deep Sea Fishing Charter Trips for up to 18 people, from 4 hours to 2 days. There is sure to be the perfect fishing charter trip for your group.
Feel free to check out our Facebook page to see some of our recent catches.