Pensacola Surf Fishing Bringing you the latest information on Florida Surf and Inshore fishing with a focus on the Pensacola Beach area

Fishing on the Gulf Coast is definitely a year round pastime, and the greater Pensacola area has some of the best fishing around.  When it comes to timing, things are a little less cut and dry for surf anglers since we just don't have the same reach as those going off shore. We have to target what we can, when we can. Just like tourists, the fish come and go during their annual migrations in search of warmer weather while pursuing their endless quest for procreation. Many species are available year round while others come and go in waves. 

The seasonal and monthly guidelines below are accurate for Pensacola Beach as well as the Northern Gulf, including Mobile and Destin.

Northern Gulf Coast Surf Fishing Calendar


Spring is a time of plenty for us here on the emerald coast. Plenty of spring breakers, but better yet plenty of fish!  The weather is great and this is when the fish really start heading our way. The beaches start to get busy, so taking advantage of the early morning bite is best, as always.


March marks the beginning of Spring, and the warmer weather starts bringing the water temperature into the mid 60s here in Pensacola. Warm water species are moving in and the winter holdovers are still available. Whiting (Gulf Kingfish) are still around and Pompano will start showing up with more frequency. Since the water is still cool, Sheepshead will be available in deep holes off the shore. Red and Black Drum will be available from the surf on drum rigs, with some caught on Pompano rigs as well. March is probably your first chance to hook a Cobia as they move into the area. Spanish Mackerel will start showing up around this time too.


Water temps are getting into the 70s, and as a result April will consistently produce solid Pompano fishing with their spring run peaking around the middle of the month most years. Tossing out a Pompano rig with sand fleas or shrimp will be versatile, and will produce Redfish (Red Drum) and Black Drum as well.  Bottom fishing with Drum rigs can produce Red and Black Drum with more efficiency. Spanish Mackerel are available on fast moving spoons and plugs. Fishing for Cobia is ongoing, and chances are best during dusk and dawn when the fish are closer to shore.   


May brings the end of Spring and with it the end of the spring Pompano run, although many will remain in the area. Water temps are hitting the high 70s, and some of the cool water fish will begin moving out of the area towards the end of the month.  Red and Black Drum remain popular targets. Cobia fishing from the surf isn't over but it's nearing its end in the northern gulf, as they continue heading around Florida and into the Atlantic. Spanish Mackerel fishing will be picking up steam as these warm water fish continue to move into the area.


Summer can be challenging in the northern gulf, not only are the beaches busy but the temperature can be oppressive. Getting out early is always best, but even more so this time of year. While the spring runs of some species are over, others have finally arrived and are ready to stay for the summer.


Water temperatures will average in the low 80s in June. Spanish Mackerel fishing will begin to peak, and Bonito will begin moving into the area as well.  A few Cobia will still be around, but in limited numbers. Pompano, Black Drum and Redfish continue to be caught, but their numbers will be a little lower than in the spring. Shark fishing begins picking up a little more, although many are available year round. Anglers targeting sharks should have a relatively easy time catching their own bait as Ladyfish and Hardtails (Blue Runners) should be present by now.  Both of these make excellent cut bait for sharks and drum.


Although cool water fish will have all but moved out by the end of July, warm water fish shift into high gear as water temperatures creep into the mid 80s.  Spanish Mackerel fishing is at its best, and Bonito numbers continue to increase.  All of these fish can be caught by burning spoons and lures through the surf. Ever-present Redfish continue to provide action, and Pompano are still being caught every now and then. Sharks remain popular.


August is HOT. Water temps will be peaking in the upper 80s. Fishing continues to be excellent for Bonito as well as Spanish Mackerel. The heat will have an effect on fishing for Redfish, Black Drum, and Pompano but they are still available for those that put their time in. Shark fishing provides good action for those who take part.


Fall marks the first set of declining water temperatures here in the gulf, and just like the changing of temperatures in the spring, this triggers the migratory instincts of many of our prized gamefish. For the surf angler fall is a welcome reprieve and an excellent time to hit the beach provided you can time it right. The main challenge we have this time of year is not the fish, but the weather. At times it can be difficult to find fishable surf due to wind and wave action.


Water temps in the northern gulf start cooling into the low 80s in September.  Towards the end of the month Pompano will start to show up in greater numbers as a result. Warm water species such as Mackerel and Bonito are still hot. Red and Black drum will begin moving back to the surf and will be more common once the water cools a bit. Once again, shark fishing will produce great action, especially at dusk.


Flounder Season Update: Flounder regulations have recently changed, and a new closed season has been declared from October 15th through November 30th.

Cooler weather in October brings water temps down to the mid 70s most years. The fall Pompano run will usually come through during this month.  Warm water species are heading south, but this is a great time to hit the surf on days when the weather cooperates. Pompano, Redfish, Black Drum and Sheepshead are all in reach. The first two weeks of October are also a good time to target Flounder in the Panhandle since the water temps are dropping and we can catch them on their way out to the gulf. Warm water species such as Spanish Mackerel will be disappearing by the end of the month. 


Water temps continue their rapid decline in the gulf during November, with temps averaging in the mid 60s throughout the month. Pompano fishing is often still good in November, some years the first few weeks of the month can even bring a better fall Pompano bite than October. Fishing for Whiting is a pretty good bet most of the year, but it will start picking up with the cooler water. Redfish, Sheepshead, and Black Drum will also continue to provide good action in the surf.  November is probably the peak of Flounder fishing on the gulf coast, and can produce good action as long as you cover enough water.


Winter makes it pretty obvious as to who the locals and the visitors are along the Gulf Coast. When it comes to people, the locals will be prepping for the ice age, and the visitors are still swimming.  The fish are a little different...  the visitors are now leaving as fast as they came while the locals are still dining in the surf.  Options will be more limited, but there are still fish to be caught.


December marks another near double-digit drop in water temperatures here in the panhandle, with the monthly average surface temp dropping down to the mid to high 50s. Many of the local Flounder are still heading to the gulf, and can be taken in the surf along passes as well as the beach on various jigs and live bait as long as you can keep it near the bottom. Whiting are popular targets this time of year and can be taken on bottom rigs or Pompano rigs using a variety of baits including shrimp, squid, and artificials. 


Water temps will have finally stabilized along the gulf coast by the time January has run through, albeit that they will be about as low as they get.  Surface temps will be in the mid 50s, and cold water fish will be ripe for the taking.  Whiting, Reds, and Black Drum are common, and there are as many sharks as you want at dusk.


February marks the first period of rising water temperatures since August here in the gulf, as they climb into the high 50s. February is not the worst or best of times but it certainly gets anglers excited.  With the warmer water, Pomps, Reds, Black Drum, Whiting and Sheepshead all get a little more active and the catch rate increases, giving anglers a taste of what's to come once spring hits.