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Morning Fishing Trip with Capt Jason and passengers

When is the best time to go deep-sea fishing? If you are an avid angler, you know the answer is “right now” because anytime we can fish is the best time to fish deep-sea fish. However, there are times of the year when it is much better fishing, and for the Gulf of Mexico, late spring to early fall are prime times for deep-sea fishing.

Inside we present a loose guide to help you choose the best times for you and your party to enjoy deep sea fishing off the coast of Destin, FL.

When Is the Best Time to Fish in The Gulf of Mexico?

Every species of fish has a different run time. Some run times overlap, and some are more dependent upon the habits of other fish. What that means for those who are new to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is that you can target the fish you want based on their run time. For example, if you wanted to target Yellow Fin Tuna, February is a good month. The reason is that the coastal waters are warmer than the deep waters, and you will find Yellowfin Tuna nearer to shore in February. They also will gather around structures where the water is warmer. On the other hand, May-September is generally the best time for deep-sea fishing in the Gulf. Here is a look at fishing by the month and listing what’s an excellent target for deep-sea fishing off Destin, FL.

Spring – Gulf of Mexico Fishing Seasons

February – March — The big fish in the water is the Yellowfin Tuna. You find them more congregated during the winter months as they seek out warmer water in the shallows or just offshore. Oil platforms, shipwrecks, and rock formations are also prime targets for Yellowfin as the smaller baitfish use these structures to hide. In March, the Cobia begin to appear. As the current changes, driven by the wind, and heads north, the Cobia begin to migrate back into the Gulf. You will see them on a windy day, sunning themselves in the upper depths and using the waves to help their migration. March is a prime time to sight-fish Cobia. The best time to go ‘deep-sea fishing for Yellowfin is mid-February before they disperse into the wider areas of the Gulf. In February you can target them around structures.

April – May – April is a game-changer month. The deeper water is warming, and the big fish are moving back into the area. Yellowfin and Cobia are active. The baitfish are leaving the warmer waters and protection of the structures and schooling in the open water. Your best bet is still Yellowfin if you want to target bigger fish. You can also find the leading Groupers as they migrate back to the shallows. They are rare, but fishing is always a treasure hunt. Some species of groupers are off limits.  The best time to go ‘deep-sea fishing for sharks is the end of May. Use live bait or chunks of fish that have an oily, fatty layer. Mackerel is a good bet.

When May rolls around, the action starts to heat up, and deep-sea fishing begins to shimmer with that magic. Expect a lot of Yellowfin and tuna. In addition, the Wahoo and Snapper are growing in numbers. May is also a great time to target Mackerel and Triggerfish. Finally, May is the beginning of the Trophy Fishing Season in the Gulf.

Summer Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

June and July 

June is just shy of the busiest time of year for charters. The season is getting hotter by the day. Red Snapper season opens in June, and there should be available slots on the best charter boats. June and July are perfect for family adventures of Deep Sea Fishing. Book a charter early if you plan to be in the Destin, Florida, area in July. July is a ramped-up version of June, and the fishing is off the “hook.” Big targets like the Gag Grouper are a favorite. The season for Gag Grouper starts in June and runs through December. Other targets include:

  • Spanish Mackerel
  • King Mackerel
  • Almaco Jack
  • Banded Rudderfish
  • Lesser Amberjack

June and July have plenty of big targets, including the ever-present Yellowfin Tuna. These are the peak months for the Gulf of Mexico tuna season. The  best time to go ‘deep-sea fishing for a variety of medium and larger fish is June or July. You have less competition in June and more so in July. Be sure to check the fishing regulations as they change often. The season opening and closing dates from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is very helpful.

August–September — The season is fully underway, and the fish are enjoying the warm, tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The season for the Greater Amberjack opens on August 1 and closes at the end of October. These are nearly a yard long at 34,” and the fight will tire you. There is a limit of one per person, but the Lesser Amberjack is slightly smaller and maybe more of a fighter. The season for the Lesser Amberjack is year-round.

Weather-wise, August is generally a calm month, and the waters in the Gulf lay down like glass. So if you want to enjoy a family day of deep-sea fishing off the coast of Destin, August is fantastic. The calmer waters make August an excellent month for fishing with kids.

Deep-sea fishing in September is when the King Mackerel season is at its best. Snapper season has usually closed by now, and the many visitors and fishers have mostly gone home. If you want to target trophy deep-sea fish, September is hard to beat. There are fewer people, just as many fish, and more opportunities to pick and choose where you fish, the fish you target, and what you keep.

Fall Deep Sea Fishing off the Coast of Destin, FL.

October-November — The busy time of year has passed, but there is plenty of big, trophy fish available; those include:

    • King Mackerel
    • Amberjack
    • Groupers
    • Mahi Mahi
    • Sailfish

The quality of fishing often gets better before or after the season peaks. For example, Gulf Fishing in October means that the best fishing spots have quieted down. As a result, the fish are not as spooked, and you have more time quality fishing. October and November are perfect months to fish the Gulf for all of these reasons.

Winter Fishing — Destin, Florida 

The wintertime brings cooler water, and some of the best deep-sea fish love the water to be just a bit chilly. Grouper is one of those families of fish that like the water in winter. Other targets for December and January include Yellowtail snapper. You can also target the waters around structures, such as oil platforms. The water there will be slightly warmer, and structures allow the baitfish to hide. However, that little tip can mean easy access to bigger predatory fish, like Yellowfin. Expect some extra wind, but the water and the weather should remain manageable with plenty of access to fishing.

When is the best time to go deep-sea fishing? Almost anytime is the perfect time to fish the deeper waters for trophy fish.

Image source: Sam Carlson