So you love to fish the Gulf of Mexico, and for whatever reason, maybe charter fishing just isn’t your thing.
Maybe it’s that you don’t like making that commitment to a whole day out on the water, because once you get out there … you’re kind of stuck. So pack your Dramamine.
Maybe it’s that you don’t want to spend that much money — because while no doubt there are charter outfits that will cut you and your group a deal, a group of up to six people can run you up to $240 (or more) per hour. And if you’re of the mind that you get you pay for, well …
So if you’re trying to take a break — short-term or permanent — from dropping all that cash or testing the waters of the Gulf (and your ability to not get seasick), here are three options for keeping your feet on solid ground and reeling in the big catches in the Pensacola area, plus some tech-savvy apps that can help you with each option:
Hit the pier
This is a great fishing experience you can have for a premium — adults are $7.50, seniors and military are $6.50 and kids are $4.50 for a daily fishing pass at Pensacola Beach Pier, and they’ll provide bait, tackle, rods and even a fishing license if you’re coming in without anything at all.
While the cobia are gone — the pier’s website says the last one was caught at the end of September — flounder, red fish and some pompano are still in play. And if you do catch one, take note of the crazy process that goes into reeling it in — usually somebody doing a high-wire act of pulling up your haul on a grappling hook. It’s wild.
App you’ll need: Gulf Saltwater Fishing Companion ($4.99). This is well worth the price, considering you’re going to want to actually know what you’re catching, we assume. With this app, you’ll have access to easy-to-use fish identification, size and bag limits and a catch log to keep track of what you haul in.
Hit the beach (during the day)
You’re going to need to come out here fully equipped — and have your license already in hand — but just standing in the sugar sands on the beach you’re going to be in the hunt for king mackerel, blackfin tuna, sailfish and tarpon. But the real thing to remember out here is etiquette. You may have to hunt for a long time to find an open spot (shouldn’t be too hard this time of year) but you absolutely do not want to set up shop where there are people already swimming, for some pretty obvious reasons. And pack a light load if you can, because you may want to move to different spots if you’re not catching in one spot. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, bring a small kayak. But that’s a story for another day.
App you’ll need: The Weather Channel (free). Captain Obvious on this one for sure, but if you’re going to crash the beach for a day of fishing, it’s going to help if you know what the weather is going to be before you head out there. And, let’s be honest, you should probably have this app anyway.
Hit the beach (once the sun goes down)
Perhaps one of the more unique fishing experiences in the Gulf happens once the sun goes down — and you can experience it with Big John Sharking (651-341-0149), a shark-fishing experience set up by former Pensacola Ice Flyers goaltender John McLean. For a small donation fee — McLean donates a good chunk of his profits to charity — this particular outing will anchor poles into the sand for you as they kayak out hundreds of yards to cast your line and chum up the water with bait to bring in sharks, which they’ll actually go into the water for about 25-30 yards off shore and drag in by the tail for you, although they do release all sharks back into the water. It’s as surreal as it sounds.
Apps you’ll need: Facebook (free) and Instagram (free). Reel in that shark, post that pic and start to reel in the likes. Because what’s the point of catching a gigantic shark if you can’t drop the pic of you and that bad boy on social media? McLean and crew know this and will get you a great pic with your catch, but remember that they’re in a hurry to get the sharks back in the water so be ready when they say it’s time. And make sure you set your flash on ahead of time.