Fishing is a lifestyle for many folks around here, but you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy fishing in the Pensacola area.

All it takes is a quick stop at the tackle shop or a call to your one of our many charter fishing captains and guides. Next thing you know, you’re hooked— well, hopefully just the fish.

We are blessed with a unique geography. Rivers, bays and bayous rich with nutrients flow into the Gulf of Mexico, luring a bounty of fish species.

Redfish, black drum, speckled trout and flounder cruise the inshore waters and bays.

Our beaches with gentle, sloping shoreline offer the chance to relax in the sun while your bait waits for a passing pompano. They fight like they mean it. And on the grill, wrapped in tin foil and spices: wow.

So, from spending a little to a little more, you can find your hookup in our beautiful waterways. Check out my picks below.

1. Charter Fishing the Gulf

Red snapper season in federal waters is just three days in 2017: the first weekend of June. Boats licensed for federal waters can’t fish in state waters — where the season is much longer. However, our fleet of charter captains know how to find the fish. While the season for our famous red snapper is short, its snapper cousins are plentiful and just as tasty. And our charter captains will can hook you up with a variety of snapper, along with grouper, triggerfish and the powerhouse of the offshore reef: (and sandwich-worthy) the amberjack. Some favorites: take a trip aboard the Chulamar, the Entertainer, or the Reel Eazy.

2. The Fort Pickens Pier, Beaches and the Pensacola Pass

Beach Fishing

The crown jewel of Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens, hosts numerous fishing habitats for saltwater anglers. The fort’s fishing pier is perched on Pensacola Pass, where Pensacola Bay converges into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a fish haven during the right conditions, hosting massive redfish during the fall, and spanish mackerel, king mackerel, flounder and other species in the summer. My advice to you: fish for sheepshead around the pilings. They like live shrimp and fiddler crabs, careful though, they are specialists at stealing your bait. Either side of the pier there are spots to fish the protected bay waters or walk around the point to surf-fish for pompano.

3. Surf Fishing for Pompano… Johnson Beach, (well just about any beach)

Another part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, Johnson Beach, juts into the western flank of Pensacola Bay from Perdido Key. Fish such as pompano move all along the Northwest Florida beaches, so surf fishing is pretty much the same. But I enjoy the quietness of Johnson Beach. Pompano is the prize catch in the surf. A relative of the amberjack and jack crevalle, the pompano is a magnificent fighter, pound-for-pound, and you can fish from the shore in shallow water. Fishing pros tell you to use live sand fleas, which are available at bait shops or by digging them up in the wet sand. Live shrimp work too.

When there’s a light shore break, the waves stir up sand fleas, which roll into pockets of deeper water — where pompano like to prowl. Look for these darker-colored pockets in the shallows. Other spots are the little troughs on either side of the sand bars.

4. Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier

It’s a one-stop fishing shop. You can stop here on your way home from breakfast and fish on one of the longest piers in the Florida Gulf. A quarter mile from base to tip, the pier juts into the Gulf. Fishing costs about $7.50 for adults and is free for children under 6. The pier offers rod and reel rentals (about $14) and is licensed, so all you need is sunscreen, your wallet and some spooled-up fish stories. King and spanish mackerel, bonito, pompano and flounder are the most common catches here.  Massive cobia cruise through here in the early spring.

Pensacola Beach Pier

5. Inshore Fishing Hits the Spot

Some great fishing spots are tucked away into protected waterways and even neighborhood bayous. On Perdido Key, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from Galvez Landing through Johnson Beach is chock full of inlets and haven for redfish, flounder and speckled trout. You can take a kayak and slip along the shoreline and hear the trout and redfish slurping in baitfish. Live bait, such as minnows, shrimp or lures work best. Speckled trout (we call ‘em specks) love to fish the lights around docks and piers. My pick: try a guided trip on a small boat. Numerous inshore fishing charters from Pensacola Beach to Perdido Key can take you and your family to their secret spots. You’ll be hooked.

Just remember: Before you grab your gear, check requirements for fishing licenses and always check our regulations for limits and size requirements. Call 1-888-347-4356 or online on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's website.

Have a favorite fishing spot left off this list? Comment below and let’s hear about it!