Note: Some charters on this list may have limited operations due to COVID-19. Check with operators about availability before you book.
The Gulf of Mexico’s glistening emerald waters are teeming with underwater life. There are few better places to cast a line than in Destin, Florida, which is purported to be the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” The warm coastal waters and sugary white sand beaches also make this one of the most beautiful places in the state to go fishing. You just need to decide the type of fishing experience you’re most interested in booking.
Inshore fishing takes place along the shoreline, from a pier, on a jetty, or by a small boat within a few miles of the coast where the water is less than 30 meters (almost 100 feet) deep. This type of fishing requires more casting with light tackle and both live and artificial bait and is more consistent year-round. You can also fish from smaller vessels, such as kayaks or canoes. Expect to catch various species of fish, including tarpon and several species of snappers.
Nearshore fishing trips in Destin will take you about 10 to 20 miles offshore. The distance varies depending on where you are. Along the Gulf Coast, guides will usually stay within state waters, about 9 miles from shore. This type of fishing may benefit from sonar and radio technology. Light tackle is acceptable for most species, but larger fish and sharks need heavier lines. Catches in these waters and bottom fishing along the reefs include grouper, cobia, barracuda and red snapper.
Offshore fishing, also known as deep-sea fishing, is done more than 9 miles from the shoreline and generally 20 to 30 miles out. This type of fishing requires a considerable investment of time, larger watercraft, heavy fishing and weather gear, and more reliance on sonar and radio equipment. The climate and season impact the types of fish you’ll catch, but expect to hook red snapper, marlin, amberjack, mahi-mahi and wahoo.
All of the fishing charter trips shown below include the fishing license, rods and reel, tackle and bait. The crew will filet and bag your fish, and some local restaurants will even prepare it for you. Some companies require an additional fee if live bait is required. Also note that charters leave daily, though individual times will vary depending on the company and the length of your outing. Patrons need to bring their own food and beverages (no glass bottles) and cooler for their fish. Keep in mind, it’s customary to tip between 15% and 20% to the captain and crew at the end of the trip.
IntraCoastal eXperience offers two types of fishing charters. Nearshore Gulf is the company’s most popular trip with the most consistent fishing action. This charter typically goes out between 2 to 5 miles from shore to catch mahi-mahi, blackfin tuna, triggerfish, king and Spanish mackerel and grouper. The total cost of a four-hour experience for one to four people starts at $650. Additional hours are priced at $150 per hour (up to a maximum of eight hours). The Inshore Bay charter takes anglers along bodies of water that lie between the mainland and barrier islands (think: bays and creeks). These shallow waters are brimming with redfish, speckled trout, flounder and black drum. The cost starts at $600 for one to four people for four hours. Additional hours are at a rate of $125 per hour (up to six hours). Note: Trips with five or six people will cost an additional $100 per person for both inshore and nearshore charters. Patrons rave about their onboard experience and appreciate the captain’s expertise. Anglers also say the captain ensures that novices catch plenty of fish, too.
Gulf-Angler Fishing Charters
Gulf-Angler Fishing Charters owns four boats and offers everything from calm water trips to deep-sea fishing expeditions. The Nearshore Tarpon and Light Tackle Fishing trip is on the 24-foot Catamaran-style boat. These trips focus on fly-fishing for tarpon. Gulf-Angler’s largest boat, a 40-foot Infinity Sportfish, specializes in offshore trips. The boat features many amenities (such as a smart TV, sleeping quarters and a couch). Two other boats are also available for charter. Reviewers say this is an incredible fishing experience and routinely praise the knowledgeable and attentive captains. Fees vary based on the charter, but you can expect to pay about $160 to $220 per hour. All charters require a minimum rental of four hours and the company recommends booking at least six hours to maximize your chances of catching fish. Trips can last up to 14 hours, depending on the boat. Four to six people can join the trip, but those numbers will vary by boat (additional fees may apply as well).
O Sea D Fishing Charters specializes in customized fishing charters for anglers of all ages and expertise levels. The company tailors trips to what types of fish you want to catch. Species include mahi-mahi, redfish, Spanish mackerel and sailfish. Adventurous anglers may enjoy O Sea D’s shark fishing charters. Travelers’ reviews are positive: Patrons appreciate the captain’s knowledge and efforts to accommodate trip-takers’ desires to catch different types of fish. The company’s fleet includes three sport fishing boats. From mid-August through May, rates range from $700 to $760 for a four-hour trip while a 10-hour outing costs approximately $1,750 to $1,900. Rates are slightly higher from June to mid-August. The company recommends trips for four people but will accommodate a maximum of six passengers with a surcharge of $100 per person. Children are welcome. Live baits are either caught or can be purchased for an additional fee.
The crew of the Huntress specializes in deep-sea fishing charters. Depending on when you fish (and how long you choose to fish) you could catch barracuda, blackfin tuna, white snapper and bonito. The company runs charters year-round including trips for the Destin Fishing Rodeo, which takes place every October. Huntress Charter Fishing operates trips year-round and requires a four-hour minimum booking. June to October rates range from $920 for four hours to $3,220 for 14 hours. (Note: There is a minimum rental of eight hours required in October.) Rates from November through May start at $900 for a four-hour trip and $3,150 for 14 hours. Trips can accommodate up to six people and children are welcome on board. Patrons say they enjoy their trips and that the captain always knew where to find fish.
Travelers can choose from five different charter trip options on Crystal Beach Charters’ 36-foot Ocean Cat or 45-foot Hatteras Yacht. Beginners and families may benefit from the five-hour Trolling Trip that takes you on an inshore hunt for mackerel and bonito. Alternatively, select the 12-hour Specialty Trip with either deep water trolling or bottom fishing to catch swordfish, wahoo, sailfish and more. Reviewers say that this is one of the best fishing experiences they’ve ever had and that it was the highlight of their trip to Destin. All charters accommodate a maximum of six passengers. Fees vary depending on the trip you select and you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,125 to $2,700 for your trip. Additionally, the company offers a “no fish, no pay” guarantee for trips six hours or longer.
Swoop Deep Sea Fishing Boats
These deep-sea fishing boats, SWOOP I and II, are 65 feet and accommodate up to 40 passengers for fishing trips. Generally, the boats will go 20 miles offshore. Swoop offers several fishing trip options and anglers can catch fish like red snapper, black grouper, white marlin and gray triggerfish, among others. Trips last six to eight hours and operate year-round. Prices vary depending on the length of your trip and the time of year you fish. You can expect to pay approximately $60 to $110 per adult and $70 to $100 per child age 6 to 12. (Children 5 and younger are not permitted.) You can score lower rates in January and February. Private charters are also available for up to 40 anglers. Most passengers say that the experience is fun, the crew is great and that you’ll catch a lot of fish. Others remark that it’s a more affordable option for fishing.
Olin Marler’s Charter Fishing and Dolphin Tours
Olin Marler says it has the largest fishing fleet on Florida’s Emerald Coast. The company offers party boat fishing (think: maximum of 40 people along for the ride) specializing in trolling and bottom fishing. Types of fish patrons typically catch from this boat include snapper, mackerel, grouper and amberjack, though it varies by season. The 65-foot boats are outfitted with a microwave, bathrooms and sleeping accommodations. Travelers typically enjoy their outings, praising the captain and crew for their help. Others comment that the trip was average compared to other fishing charters they’d experienced. Party boat charters last four, six or eight hours. Fees range from about $80 to $115 per person, depending on how long you’re out. Private group fishing charters for up to 15 anglers are also available, as are dolphin cruises.