- Sports and Recreation
Saltwater Fishing: Mexico Beach, Florida
As I sit here at my computer, I’m already daydreaming about our summer and fall fishing trips. Every summer, my husband and I, along with two daughters, two sons-in-law, and six grandkids, go on vacation together to the beach. We also try to make another trip or two in the fall months. Most of the family members think these excursions are family vacations, but for the serious anglers, they’re fishing trips. We’ll use any excuse to get in some Florida fishing! Freshwater fishing is fine and dandy, but it can’t hold a candle to saltwater fishing. After all, with saltwater fishing, there’s just no telling what you might haul in. We usually concentrate on flounder, redfish, and sharks, but we often get surprised by what’s on the end of our lines. If you ever get the chance to visit Mexico Beach, Florida, take your saltwater fishing tackle along, and be sure to check out my fishing tips for the area.
We love Florida fishing! Just about all our Florida fishing has been saltwater fishing, although the state provides some awesome freshwater fishing, too. The big difference in the two types of Florida fishing is the fish you’ll catch. Of course, with freshwater fishing, you’ll probably target bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, or shellcracker, but with saltwater fishing, you’ll have chances to catch a much wider array of species.
We like to catch fish that are good on the table, so we focus on our favorites. That’s not to say, of course, that other species don’t wind up on our hooks. Sometimes we catch desirable species, and sometimes we’re annoyed by “trash fish.” The edible by-catch has included whiting, spot, croaker, puppy drum, pompano, and mangrove snapper. The less-than-desirable species have included stingrays, skates, catfish, seastars, conchs, sea robins, cutlass fish, pufferfish, needlefish, and toadfish. And whole we don’t eat bluefish and tarpon, they’re fun to catch.
Saltwater Fishing Tackle
If you’re new to saltwater fishing, but you don’t have any saltwater fishing tackle, don’t go out and spend an arm and a leg on special fishing gear. If you’re a freshwater angler, your bass fishing tackle will work fine for redfish, flounder, puppy drum, sheepshead, trout, whiting, and small sharks. Of course, if you plan to go after big black drum, big sharks, or tarpon, you’ll need some fishing gear with more heft.
Even though your regular fishing tackle will probably suffice for saltwater fishing, there are a couple of things you’ll need to keep in mind. One is that it’s a good idea to include a wire leader on your line – several saltwater fish have sharp teeth. Your saltwater fishing tackle will also need to include some weights. The size you’ll need depends on how strong the tide is where you’ll be fishing. Since you’ll be angling for fishes of different sizes, you’ll need several different sizes of hooks, too.
If you decide that you enjoy saltwater fishing, then you can get serious about some saltwater fishing tackle and saltwater fishing gear! Some things you might need include saltwater rods and reels, a bait bucket with an aerator, an assortment of weights and hooks, heavy line, swivels, floats, lures, and soft plastic jigs and jig heads.
Saltwater fishing tackle - saltwater fishing gear:
Mexico Beach, Florida
Mexico Beach, Florida is located on the Panhandle section of the northwestern part of the state. It’s a wonderful place for summer vacations, and people of all ages will appreciate the clear water and the white sand. This is a small, quiet, laid-back community, and it’s a nice place to get away from the crowds, noise, fast food eateries, shopping malls, and theme parks of larger resort towns. If you want to enjoy peace, natural beauty, and fresh seafood, you’ll love Mexico Beach!
You’ll have a wide range of lodging, too. These range greatly in price, size, and style. You can camp, rent a condo for a week, vacation in a luxury home, book a stay in a budget beach cottage, or stay in a hotel. Most of the shops and restaurants in the area are small and locally owned, but you won’t have a problem finding everything you’ll need.
Mexico Beach, Florida
There are hundreds of saltwater fish species in the Gulf of Mexico, but the ones I've listed below are the species we most often catch in the Mexico Beach area. These species are numerous, and depending on when, where, and how you fish, even beginners should be able to snag most of these species fairly easily.
Flounder – Flounder are flatfish that have both eyes on one side of the head. The topside of the flounder is a mottled brown, which serves as camouflage. The underside is white. Good natural baits for flounder include finger mullet, live shrimp, and mud minnows. Flounder have mild, flaky flesh and are delicious fried, stuffed, broiled, or pan-seared.
Redfish – Redfish are a reddish-gold color, with irregular black spots or splotches. Redfish will hit just about all natural baits, including live minnows and shrimp, small crabs, dead shrimp, and cut bait. We like redfish best on the grill, but they’re also great blackened.
Cobia – Cobia look somewhat like sharks. They’re long, dark, and streamlined. They’re often found in pairs or groups and are attracted to buoys. From my experience, the best natural bait for cobia is live pinfish. Cobia flesh is mild, and it’s firm enough to hold up to grilling. It’s also good broiled or baked.
Sharks – There are numerous shark species in Florida waters. Some of the most common are the bonnethead, the hammerhead, the blacktip, the tiger, the nurse, and the sandbar. Sharks will eat just about anything in their path. We’ve had the best luck with large pieces of oily fish like mullet. Sharks have white meat that’s not at all “fishy tasting.” Pound the fillets before cooking.
Sheepshead – Sheepshead are silvery white with black vertical stripes. Sheepshead have human-like teeth that are used for crushing. The best baits for sheepshead include sandfleas, fiddler crabs, and barnacles. Since the fish hang around pilings and seawalls, fish for them there. Sheepshead have a wonderful flavor when fried and are also good in chowders.
Black Drum – Black drum can get huge! Large fish are grayish-black. Younger fish under five or six pounds are often called “puppy drum.” Puppy drum have vague dark vertical stripes and are sometimes confused with sheepshead, but drum lack the teeth. If you want to battle some really huge black drum, fish the oil docks with large pieces of blue crab. Any local can tell you how to get to the oil docks. Small black drum are good to eat, but larger ones aren’t.
Fishing Tips: Redfish
Redfish can be landed in the bay, in creeks, and from surf fishing. The largest redfish we’ve caught and have seen landed by other anglers have come from two main locations: under the Port St. Joe bridge and at the Port St. Joe Marina. For angling under the bridge, use the fishing tips below for flounder fishing there. At the marina, fish the bay side, around high tide. Cast into deep water and fish on the bottom, or use a cast-and-retrieve method with lures and soft artificial baits.
Casting in shallow water over grass beds and around oyster beds can also be very effective. If you look closely, you can sometimes see the reds in shallow water, feeding from the bottom. At these times, you might be able to the tails of the redfish rising above the water’s surface.
Fishing Tips: Flounder
The best places we’ve found for flounder in the area include Canal Park and under the bridge between Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe. To fish under the bridge, head from Mexico Beach to Port St. Joe. After crossing the bridge, turn left on a dirt road. Drive under the bridge, but be careful not to get stuck in the soft sand. Fish on the bay side of the bridge. Using live shrimp or minnows for bait, wade out and cast your line near the channel. Fish right on the bottom. Warning: Don’t go too far out. The water in the deep channel is swift, with a strong current.
Another place you’ll want to try is the Mexico Beach fishing pier – some “doormat” flounder have been landed from there. The Port St. Joe Marina is a likely flounder spot, too. Fish inside the marina, around the boats docked there.
Shark Fishing in Florida
Shark fishing in Florida is very productive, and sometimes large sharks come in close to shore. In fact, at Mexico Beach, Florida, you can often see groups of small sharks swimming near shore. We’ve had the best luck with shark fishing in Florida by fishing from piers and in the surf – unless we were fishing from a boat. We’ve caught sharks at all different times of the day, but we’ve caught the most at night.
Sharks often prowl fishing piers, looking for an easy meal of fish heads and fish innards from the cleaning stations. If you’re fishing from a pier or from the banks of a tidal river, you can use a chum bag to call up the toothy fish. Of course, I wouldn’t chum while I was in the water surf fishing.
Sharks are tasty if you know how to prepare and cook shark meat. In fact, sharks are my oldest daughter’s favorite fish to eat. Chunky sharks in the three to five-foot range seem to taste the best.
Surf fishing is one of my favorite types of saltwater fishing, and it’s great for beginners. Surf fishing allows anglers to take advantage of several different fishing “hot spots.” These might include troughs, sandbars, and holes. To get an idea of where these spots are, check out the beach at low tide. When the tide’s out, you can study the place where you’ll be fishing. It’s also important to remember that some saltwater fish species search for food right where the waves crash into the water.
For surf fishing, cast your line out as far as possible, and make sure you have enough weight to keep your bait in place. Fish different depths, until you discover where the fish are holding. Give special attention to troughs, sandbars, holes, depressions, and the mouths of feeder creeks.
Where to Fish
live mullet, cut bait, large shrimp
on or near bottom
live shrimp, live minnow
fiddler crabs, sand fleas, barnacles
near oyster beds
small dead shrimp