The Best Inshore Fishing Near Destin, FL

By Ken Schultz

May 13, 2021

The best inshore fishing near Destin, FL is a duality: one set of species is caught within sight of land in the Gulf of Mexico, and another in Choctawhatchee Bay

If you’re wondering about where to fish, how could you not be attracted to a place calling itself the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” located in a coastal northern Gulf of Mexico region advertised as “the Emerald Coast?” That’s Destin, Florida, with white-sand beaches, emerald-green water, and an awesome array of fish nearby.

Good catching success accounts for the lucky fishing appellation, a slogan that originated when Florida Governor Leroy Collins, who served in the late 1950s, visited and caught a 29-pound king mackerel, a species still one of the most popular in the region. And while this area is known for excellent opportunities offshore for the likes of swordfish, marlin, sailfish, tuna, dolphin, and wahoo, other gamefish account for the best inshore fishing near Destin, Florida. However, Destin “inshore” fishing means both inshore bay fishing and inshore Gulf fishing.

Inshore Means Choctawhatchee Bay

The best inshore fishing near Destin, Florida, could refer to inshore bay fishing, which means probing throughout Choctawhatchee Bay and its tributaries. Oyster bars, grass flats, docks, bridges, and jetties are among the places where redfish (red drum), speckled trout (spotted seatrout), sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, flounder, snapper, jacks, bluefish, ladyfish, and black drum are caught, as well as the occasional striped bass. There’s year-round fishing, although cooler air and water temperatures in winter change the availability of species.

Inshore Means the Gulf Within Sight of Land

The best inshore fishing near Destin, Florida, could refer to inshore Gulf fishing, with action occurring from the surf out a few miles but within sight of land. Species targeted include Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bonito, amberjack, redfish, cobia, tarpon, pompano, and assorted snappers and groupers. Most of this activity is either trolling, such as for mackerel, or bottom fishing, such as for snappers and groupers. However, depending on season, sight-casting for surf-roving redfish, or shallow schools of bonito, is also a possibility. With deep ocean waters (100-fathom curve) that attract pelagic species just 10 miles off the coast, it is sometimes possible to catch the likes of sailfish or tuna within sight of Destin.

The Destin Fishing Rodeo

October features one of the longest-running fishing events in the U.S., the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Held annually since 1948, this month-long contest sees 30,000 participants, encompasses many fish species, and has categories for various types of participation, including divisions for kayak, paddleboard, and shore fishing, as well as Destin inshore fishing.

More Info

The tourism bureau says that Destin has the largest charter boat fleet in the U. S., so there’s plenty of opportunity to find a large or small boat to hire, as well as kayak fishing operators. Shore-based anglers will find the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, near Ft. Walton Beach, a good place to start. Fall is probably the best time for assorted inshore fish species and opportunities.

Visit the travel website of Destin for area information, and obtain a Florida fishing license before you get on the water.

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is