Destin Bay Fishing: An Angler's Guide to Choctawhatchee Bay

Studying Time: 9 minutes

Hundreds of individuals come to the Emerald Coast annually. Some for the sandy seashores, others for insanely good fishing in Destin. Many households head to the Gulf of Mexico to get Snapper, however native specialists keep within the brackish waters and discover the Choctawhatchee Bay, the heartland of the Destin bay fishing scene.

It’s on these flats and grassy marshes that the true enjoyable takes place. Gentle sort out motion, huge and feisty fish, and all of this at an affordable value – what extra may you want for? It’s your excellent annual fishing journey. Learn on to be taught all you want on your subsequent journey!

Why is Destin bay fishing in style?

What some folks seek advice from as “Destin Bay” is definitely Choctawhatchee Bay, which lies simply north of Destin and stretches over a floor of 130 sq. miles. It’s linked to the Santa Rosa Sound to the west and the Choctawhatchee River to the east. This physique of water is a posh community of bayous, rivers, flats, marshes, oyster beds, brackish waters, coves, sandy patches, and reefs.

However it’s not simply this variety of water and panorama that makes the bay so particular. Choctawhatchee Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico and is linked by way of Destin Cross. Which means that the tides push the water, together with baitfish and crabs, from the Gulf into the Bay and the opposite approach round. This water motion is what offers the bay the sting over different in style locations on the Emerald Coast.

The abundance of baitfish attracts gamefish – the fish you’re after. When the tide goes out of the Bay, by way of Destin Cross, it pulls all of the fish meals in the direction of the mouth of the Destin Cross. The large fish swarm and the feeding frenzy begins. As soon as the tides begin going in the direction of the bay, greater fish will observe their meals upstream and head into the Choctawhatchee Bay.

What fish are you able to catch in Choctawhatchee bay?

Redfish, Speckled Trout, Black Drum, Sheepshead, and Flounder are the primary fish species you possibly can catch right here. The commonest and in style are Redfish and Speckled Trout. There are a variety of faculties of those fish who put up a very good mild sort out struggle for each novice and skilled anglers.

Bay fishing in Destin is a superb choice for households on trip who need to spend the morning or afternoon on the water, have enjoyable, and get a tasty dinner. However if you happen to’re a professional and need a while alone with the rod and line, these fisheries received’t allow you to down both. Lease a kayak and fish the east of the Choctawhatchee Bay the place you may get huge (bull) Redfish and faculties of Speckled Trout.


Reds are Destin’s signature inshore catch. They’re huge and robust and can put you to the take a look at for positive. In addition to being a first-rate gamefish, they’re really fairly a feast, with their flaky flesh making the highest of any restaurant’s menu.

Yow will discover a good variety of Reds within the easternmost nook of the Bay, close to the mouth of the Choctawhatchee River. They are going to be swimming close to shallow flats. They aren’t simply feisty, however lovely, too. Their pink scales flip nearly golden underneath the daylight. Have your digital camera on the prepared for some good fishing photographs.

As you progress in the direction of the center of the bay, close to the Mid-Bay Bridge, you’ll have an opportunity to search out some bull Reds. They may feast off the underside of the bay, so it’s best to use a lightweight sinker to maintain your lure close to the ground. Within the morning you should use topwater lures like spoons or rattles across the flats. The noise will appeal to Reds very quickly.

Speckled Trout

Massive Speckled Trout are considerable in Choctawhatchee Bay. Search for grassy spots as they like to cover there.

Speckled Trout are simply as in style amongst anglers as Redfish, however extra simply caught. Yow will discover these fellas throughout the Bay, from the east stretches close to the marshes of the Choctawhatchee River mouth, right down to Hogtown Bayou, after which west in the direction of Destin.

Trout keep in shallow waters and swim in faculties. In case you handle to catch one among these toothy fish, you’ll quickly discover others close by. They begin displaying up in January and keep right here for the a lot of the 12 months.

In spring, once they begin breeding, you may also come throughout numerous Gator Trout (trout heavier than six kilos, or longer than 28 inches, relying on whom you ask). A rule of thumb for Gator Trout is the colour of the within of their mouth – if it’s like mustard, properly, you’ve caught a very huge fish. Nicely executed!

Methods to Catch Reds and Trout in Destin

There are two foremost methods you possibly can go about this. Both select synthetic lures or go along with dwell bait. Each of those will work, it’s only a matter of the way you wish to catch your fish. Redfish and Speckled Trout are usually not fussy, so you’ll have good probabilities whichever approach you select. Additionally, you will discover a variety of baitfish right here, so if artificials aren’t working, you possibly can change to dwell bait. Let’s take a look at learn how to take advantage of your journey.

Reside bait

Yow will discover scores of bait fish throughout the Choctawhatchee Bay. Croakers swarm the marshes, streams, and different grassy elements of the bay, whereas you can find actually 1000’s of Mullet across the flats within the jap a part of the Bay and across the Mid-Bay Bridge. You too can discover some Crabs and Shrimp all through the bay, which work like a attraction.

In case you’re utilizing circle hooks, let the rod double over as soon as you’re feeling the chunk then begin reeling, pulling the road up slowly. The hot button is to let the fish transfer and regularly are available in. That is particularly necessary with Speckled Trout as they’ve a delicate mouth. In case you jerk the road aggressively, you possibly can tear their mouth up and lose the fish.


Reds and Trout reply properly to spoons and plugs. Early within the morning, use topwater lures across the flats and it’s best to have loads of success. Use lures which have a pleasant, loud rattle to them, because the sound will make Reds and Trout strike it like loopy.

The flats and grassy banks across the Bay have a variety of potholes that maintain actually huge fish. Use spoons and retrieve them quick to cowl an enormous floor. Don’t give the fish a variety of time to examine your lure – transfer it quick to disturb the water floor and hearth up the fisheries. If this doesn’t produce outcomes, you possibly can change to another lures, or some minimize mullet.

The Greatest Destin Bay Fishing Spots

Destin has a variety of productive fishing spots. You’ll be able to fish a number of totally different terrains on a single day and possibly catch a wide range of fish, or possibly even land an inshore Grand Slam (catching Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder in a single outing).

You’ll be able to fish from the jetties, hire a kayak and discover the marshes, e-book a constitution to take you fishing across the flats, discover bridge pylons, fish on a fly, or just attempt fishing from piers or the shore. Whichever you select, listed here are the spots it’s best to check out first:

East Cross Jetties

East Cross is the primary cease for any angler who units out from Destin. Because the water salinity adjustments right here with the tides, you’ll have glorious probabilities of touchdown actually huge fish. Redfish and Sheepshead are the most typical catches, however anglers have caught the odd Spanish Mackerel as properly, together with Trout, Flounder, and Sharks.

It is best to know that it will possibly get a bit crowded right here. A number of vacationers take this route to go to Crab Island and discover the surroundings, so it’s best to come right here very first thing within the morning.

Mid-Bay Bridge

This is without doubt one of the best-known fisheries in Destin, which attracts faculties of fish and scores of cruising anglers. The bridge pylons appeal to quite a few Redfish and Speckled Trout which keep right here a lot of the 12 months.

The bridge is a 10-minute boat journey away from the East Cross and gives glorious mild sort out motion. When you’ve caught your share of Reds, head south to the close by flats the place Speckled Trout lurk in grassy patches. Right here additionally, you will discover numerous deep spots the place Redfish and even some Gag Groupers like to cover.

Hogtown Bayou

Whenever you head east from the Mid-Bay Bridge, you’ll come throughout a community of grassy patches and flats with shallow water and a variety of fish. That is thw Hogtown Bayou.

Fishing the flats in Choctawhatchee Bay can produce large Redfish a lot of the 12 months.

This space fishes properly for Speckled Trout and Reds all year long. In winter months, that is the place the fish come to mingle and feed as the realm will get a variety of solar at the moment of 12 months. From spring by way of fall, you possibly can come right here for the first-morning chunk. Reds and Specks will strike your bait in a break up second, so ensure that to be centered.

The Hogtown Bayou is near Santa Rosa Seashore and a variety of anglers discover it an excellent spot to moist the road. Kayak fishing can also be fairly in style, so if you need a very good exercise, come right here and also you received’t remorse it.

Choctawhatchee River

The Choctawhatchee River is without doubt one of the greatest fisheries for Reds and Specks. It’s in style amongst native anglers, however additionally, you will see a variety of vacationers coming right here to check their expertise. You’ll be able to catch a variety of bull Reds and trophy Trout on any given day. The fish will keep near the river mouth, however you must also verify round rock piles.

Test bridge pylons, marshy stretches, and wherever with a variety of grass and rocks

Though the fauna and flora are hanging, ensure that to remain protected and discover the river with a neighborhood. Folks have noticed alligators right here. Many anglers include a kayak, however the majority take a look at their line from a ship. It’s simpler to identify the fish that approach. Most boats you come throughout right here could have a casting platform so you possibly can sight fish.

Destin Bay Fishing Seasons

Destin’s bay fisheries keep strong year-round. You may get a good catch even 12 months a 12 months. The hot button is to know the place the fish are every season.


As soon as the chilly January entrance units in, the fish will transfer from open waters in the direction of streams, creeks, and inlets the place they will discover shelter and hotter waters. Redfish and Trout will head east, in the direction of the flats close to the Choctawhatchee River and keep there till the nice and cozy days of spring kick off.

Throughout these chilly months, the chunk could also be slower and every day could be a hit or miss. The fish are within the water, that’s for positive. The trick is to search for locations with a variety of construction, or grass, the place the fish can simply disguise.


Come spring, you’ll begin to discover a variety of Trout and Reds within the water. As soon as Trout begin breeding, they’ll present up all around the bay. You’ll even have the ability to get some gator Trout across the bridges and bayous. Reds shall be actually hungry, so it shouldn’t take lengthy earlier than your forged ends with an enormous catch.

Summer season

Because the summer season warmth takes over, most individuals head out to the Gulf of Mexico to catch Purple Snapper and different sport fish. Allow them to go! It means extra water for you, and the bay is on hearth. In actual fact, that is seemingly the most effective time of the 12 months to return discover these waters.

Redfish, Trout, Sheepshead, and Flounder are swarming the flats, reefs, potholes, grassy patches, and bridges. If you would like mild sort out motion at its greatest, head in the direction of the jap a part of the bay. When you’re executed fishing close to the mouth of the Choctawhatchee River, flip west and head in the direction of the Destin Cross, fishing all the new spots across the bay.


Even when the times grow to be colder, you’ll have good probabilities of reeling in Reds, and Specks. They nonetheless received’t make their run in the direction of cowl, and on a good day, you possibly can return residence with an enormous, tasty dinner.

Do I would like a fishing license for bay fishing in Destin?

In case you’re occurring constitution with a licensed saltwater information, likelihood is you don’t want your individual license. To get extra data, take a look at our detailed information on Florida fishing licenses.

So, have you ever fished Choctawhatchee Bay earlier than? What fish did you catch and the place? What are a few of your favourite fishing spots right here? Which bait and lures did you utilize? We’d love to listen to about it within the feedback beneath!