Florida Panhandle's Coastal Variety

The waters near Port St. Joe are home to multiple species, both inshore and offshore.

Port St. Joe coast
Cape San Blas, off Port St. Joe, marks some prime fishing turf for tarpon, trout and tripletail.Nick Honachefsky

Often overlooked as a premier fishing destination, the sleepy town of Port St. Joe elevates itself as a piscatorial power. Nestled in the elbow of Florida's panhandle along the Forgotten Coast, it's an oasis away from the usual crowds, hiding fish-friendly grounds like Indian Pass, St. Vincent Island, Cape San Blas and Apalachicola Bay and offering immediate access to the Gulf of Mexico.

The tiny town packs a big punch when it comes to fishing action, as myriad inshore species, such as tarpon, redfish, tripletail and seatrout, and offshore players, like king mackerel, amberjacks, groupers, snappers and sharks, make this quiet destination a big-time player in the sport-fishing arena. My trip to Port St. Joe in mid-August was spectacular, highlighted by hundreds of tarpon rolling and boiling in the bay, wild tripletail action around submerged structure, and offshore wreck pounding with speedy king mackerel, dogged amberjack, snapper and grouper.

trout in the Gulf
Scores of sand trout eagerly whacked bucktails tipped with Gulp! Jerk shads.Nick Honachefsky

My first day of fishing inshore with Capt. Trey Landry of Premier Sport Fishing Adventures had us eye to eye with tarpon sucking down bay anchovies and glass minnows, but only twice did we get them to hit a Storm Shad or a dead pogy bait before they did what tarpon do best: shake hooks. We spent the rest of the day casting small bucktails to sand trout and finding logs, pilings and buoys to pull tripletail off of.

The next day, under a searing 115-degree heat index, we hit some local wrecks five miles off. Live pogies free-lined on the surface attracted dozens of king macks, while the same baits dropped down to the wreck didn't make it past the amberjacks. In no time, we had both species jacked up enough to hit jigs on every drop. Look for redfish to invade the area during the upcoming fall months. No doubt, there's plenty of action to be had in Gulf County - don't forget the fishing potential of the Forgotten Coast!

sand trout in the Gulf
Hundreds of sand trout can be caught on a morning tide, especially when bait schools are prevalent.Nick Honachefsky
tripletail fishing in the Gulf
Captain Trey Landry ties up to a piling to begin tripletail fishing.Nick Honachefsky
Gulf of Mexico fishing
Dead pogies fished under clacker floats accounted for many tripletail hits.Nick Honachefsky
Gulf of Mexico fishing
This particular 4-pounder was already tagged, the number taken down and submitted for tracking.Nick Honachefsky
tripletail in Gulf of Mexico
A monster 20-pound tripletail engulfed the dead pogy bait that was drifted by a submerged log.Nick Honachefsky
redfish in Gulf of Mexico
An angler hoists the beastly 20 pounder - a trip of a lifetime!Nick Honachefsky
redfish in Gulf of Mexico
The primordial looking beastie is released back into the waters off St. Vincent Island.Nick Honachefsky
blacktip sharks in Gulf of Mexico
Captain Trey fooling around with small blacktip sharks while drifting for tarpon in the pass.Nick Honachefsky
cobia in Gulf of Mexico
Offshore buoys hold myriad fish species, including this small cobia that pounced on a bucktail.Nick Honachefsky
king mackerel in Gulf of Mexico
Captain Mitch Coleman freelined a live pogy for this 15-pound king mack – one of a half dozen boated in less than a half hour.Nick Honachefsky
amberjack in Gulf of Mexico
Portly amberjack jumped on live pogy baits before they could hit the bottom.Nick Honachefsky
jigs for fishing
The hammered butterfly jigs dropped over a local wreck.Nick Honachefsky
amberjack in Gulf of Mexico
One of dozens of released amberjack caught four miles off Port St. Joe.Nick Honachefsky
amberjack fishing in Gulf of Mexico
Other vessels were also fast into the action.Nick Honachefsky
Port St. Joe fishing
The stunning waters of Port St. Joe offered up some serious inshore and offshore fishing opportunity.Nick Honachefsky