Fishing Tips From Fort Walton Beach Locals

Fishing Tips From Fort Walton Beach Locals

Whether you’re fishing Choctawhatchee Bay or offshore of Fort Walton Beach, you’ll need a solid strategy. Amberjack, Gag Grouper and sharks of many types migrate to these Gulf Coast waters, and so do the fishermen.

Fishing is a sport that is just as cutting edge as any other. Carbon fiber, laser honed, stainless steel and billet aluminum are just as present as in any Olympic sport. But what local secrets are locked away in garages, bay boats and offshore rigs of the locals?

Fishing Tip: Know where to go.

Okaloosa Island Pier stretches 1,262 feet from the shore, on the West end of Okaloosa Island, and offers both local and out of town anglers fishing opportunities in some of Florida’s most bountiful waters.

It’s a perfect place to start, especially if you don’t have access to a 25’, or bigger, offshore boat that’s prepped for adventures on the crystal waters of the Gulf Coast. But you don’t have to lower your expectations for pier fishing. Frequently pier fishermen can expect to see Redfish, Tarpon, Mackerel, Ladyfish and hardtails pulled from these gorgeous waters. Lately though, Blow Fish, Sharks (several types and sizes) and sizable Sailfish have been pulled ashore.

Fishing Tip: Hiding your rig is the name of the game.

Okay, you’ve got a rod & reel, but that’s the easy part. It’s the rig that determines if and what fish you attract. Local charter captains highly suggest not overlooking classic live bait, like mud minnows, shrimp and cut bait. If you have higher goals, like Bull Sharks, these hungry, sizable predators are frequently seen scouring shallow waters in search of easy prey. There’s a technique to increasing your chances of landing a picture worthy Bull or Blacktip Shark. Keep in mind that they’re incredibly sensitive to metal, so hide the metal parts of your rig.

One of the most common local tricks is to pick up heat activated shrink wrap for electrical wiring purposes. Cut it into 4” sections, and slide those sections overtop the first ⅔ of your hook, leaving just the sharp tip and barb exposed. You can do this for stainless steel connectors as well, just keep in mind that if you cover swivels, they won’t spin. Local charter Captains also suggest not being so hasty to set a hook with a shark as well. They suggest the traditional 5 “Mississippi” count, allowing the shark to get the bait into his mouth.

Fishing Tip: Know the fish.

The most sought after fish in the area is the Redfish or Red Drum, commonly found around jetties, rocks and in shallows. You can recognize them by their distinctive eyespot at the base of the tail fin. The Florida record for this fish came in at over 52 pounds. Want to try and catch your own record? They’re plentiful around August through December and love live shrimp.

Amanda Angell of Salty Jig Fishing Charters suggests, “when trolling for Redfish one must be patient as it sometimes requires a lot of time on the water, and you will want to avoid weights and floats.”

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