By: Bob Pitts, Visitor Use Assistant, Gulf Islands National Seashore

 

One of the most impressive aspects of Perdido Key is its extensive and diverse recreational fishing opportunities. Whether you bring your boat, charter a local guide service, use a kayak, or simply stand on the bank with a rod, there are fish in reach biting all year-round.

Perdido Key, being an island, means that water and fishing are literally in every direction. Perdido and Escambia Bays, the various bayous, tidal creeks, and respective rivers make up the estuary system here. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) links them together along the north side of Perdido Key via Big Lagoon on the east end and Old River to the west. The Gulf of Mexico lies to the south.

Local fishing is broken down into two general categories: inshore and gulf side. Major differences will be the target species of game fish and equipment used. Of course even with all of the trends that can be teased out, fish behavior can still be unpredictable, so experimentation is often rewarded with unique or exceptional catches. It is not unheard of for folks to target grouper in the bay with specific tactics at different times of the year.

Big Lagoon State Park and Johnson’s Beach, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, both offer excellent access to the sprawling grass flats on either side of the ICW. Both parks have an entrance fee. Ideal fishing locations will be where any changes or differences in the underwater environment might hold bait. These areas also provide cover for game fish to ambush prey. Good fishing habitats in these areas are provided by shallow drop-offs along the channel and grass beds, potholes, or structure such as the many navigational day boards and buoys. Bridges, docks, and other underwater debris also provide good fishing structure throughout the inshore side.

Most anglers fish these areas with light to medium spinning tackle (8-20lb). Common catches are redfish, trout, and flounder. Mangrove snappers and jack crevalle can also be caught. Baits range from live minnows and shrimp to frozen or fresh cut baits. Baits are usually fished on Carolina rigs on popping corks depending on the desired presentation. Both soft and hard artificial baits can also be productive. Nearly anything inshore can be caught on a ¼ oz jighead rigged with a soft plastic bait. Retrieve your bait at a slow to moderate speed with an occasional twitch or pause. Even fly fishing, though not usually common in saltwater, is becoming ever more popular. One of the most consistent strategies in the area is to fish lighted docks at night as bait is attracted to the lights and gamefish follow. Remember to respect private property if you try this method.

The fishing possibilities really open up on the gulf side. The same inshore tactics work in the gulf as well, plus there are additional options and considerations. Surf fishing, depending on conditions, can require a little more tailored equipment and provides a different type of experience. There is nothing better than relaxing on the beach, checking your bait periodically and then having a school of bluefish come down the beach and hit your rig.

Both Johnson’s Beach and Perdido Key State Park offer miles of access to the gulf for their respective entrance fees. Dead shrimp and sand fleas are common baits used to target pompano and whiting. Other cut and live baits are used effectively as well. Baits are fished on dropper loops with pyramid weights. Casting spoons and plugs is another option. Schools of Spanish mackerel and bonita often swim down the beach feeding on available forage. There is always a chance of hooking into a big redfish, black drum, or even a shark along the gulf beaches.

The ability to get off the beach with a boat opens up trolling and bottom fishing options. Red snapper are carefully managed and are abundant in the region. Spanish and king mackerel are ubiquitous in all but the winter months. These game are targeted by small boats and even kayaks in the near shore environment under fair weather conditions. Larger offshore boats can find amberjack and big game such as billfish further out. Many area marinas offer charters for this type of activity and hold annual tournaments between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

A local go-to, as the rest of the bite slows a little over winter, is sheepshead. These fish spawn through the end of the winter. They can be easily be targeted around any structure in the passes where the estuarine bays meet the gulf at either end of the key. Fish using fluorocarbon leaders, sharp hooks, and shellfish for bait. Most folks use live shrimp or fiddler crabs.

An online search will show many bait shops and charters in the area. Asking the friendly locals is always a good bet. There is always something biting out here on the key.

For information on regulations in Florida visit http://myfwc.com/

For information on regulations in Alabama visit http://www.outdooralabama.com/

Favorite Live Music Venues in Perdido Key

The Perdido Key Area has an extended history of music and songwriting, shaping the culture of the community. When visiting the lost key, one must-do activity is to enjoy a lively, musical atmosphere while indulging in some local cocktails or treating yourself to some...

Best Breakfast in the Perdido Key Area

Here on the Gulf Coast, our locals and dedicated visitors love breakfast! You don’t need to be an early riser to enjoy the best eggs benedict or Bloody Mary’s in Perdido Key; most breakfast in the area is available as a delectable brunch as well!  Whether you can wake...

Best Sunsets on Perdido Key

The Sun is an essential part of our everyday life in Perdido Key.  It keeps our white sandy beaches a sunbather’s dream and provides us with reflective, shimmering beauty atop our emerald, blue-green waters. We cannot help but flood our social media timelines with...

101 Things to Do in Perdido Key

From adventurous water activities to relaxing sunset vibes, explore Perdido Key and plan your island getaway with things to do for everyone! 101 Things to Do in Perdido Key includes links to some of the local's favorite activities, dining, and entertainment in the...

Military in Perdido Key

By Emily Klinga   Pensacola has a deep-rooted history of military presence positioned by our very own Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. Proclaimed a Naval Air Station in 1914, NAS Pensacola is renowned as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation” supporting the initial...

Sunset Weddings Are the Best by Karen Qualls

By Karen Qualls, Beach Bride Weddings You are one of many getting married in 2021 and have been debating the wedding time. Since you are getting married on the beach in Perdido Key, Florida, you should seriously think about the sunset. Why? you ask, why not midday?...

Recreational Boating in the Perdido Key Area

Thinking of renting a boat or bringing your own vessel to explore the ways of the water here in Perdido Key? Then you definitely do not want to miss these boating hot spots in the area! Be sure to pack lots of sunscreen because you will want to enjoy these exclusive...

Invasive Lionfish in the Gulf

You may have heard of or seen lionfish during your visit to the Gulf coast, maybe you even were able to visit during the Annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival held in nearby Destin each May. But did you know the reason behind the festival was to REMOVE these...

Perdido Pets

Although no dogs are allowed on Escambia County beaches, there are several places in the Perdido Key area that your furry friends will love! Perdido Key is loaded with park areas that allow dogs on the walking trails if they are on a leash. Some great trails for your...

Eat and Drink Like a Local

When visiting the gulf coast, it should be a part of everyone’s itineraries to enjoy our local fare from some of our favorite area restaurants. Explore our mix of eateries and find hidden gems throughout the Perdido Key Area! Whether you are craving smoked barbecue,...