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Gulf Breeze Guide Service offers fly fishing trips, light tackle/inshore bottom fishing trips, and offshore trips. Please scroll down until you find the type trip that interests you.


Fly Fishing Trips


Sight fishing with a fly rod is for us the ultimate fishing experience.  It combines all the demands of fly casting with the excitement of “still” hunting.  Standing silently on the bow watching a school of approaching jack crevalle, false albacore, or tarpon can create “buck fever” of such magnitude that even experienced fly casters become wobbly-legged beginners.  Staking out on a sand bar, watching your targeted species approach, casting your fly to the right spot, stripping it with just the magic touch and witnessing the take is a thrill that's hard to describe.  Then of course there’s the fly line jumping up off the deck and the drag screaming as the fish accelerates. And finally, there’s the bonus of landing the fish and releasing it unharmed.


Some people have a hard time comprehending catch-and-release fly fishing.  Why do we go to all the trouble to catch fish on a fly rod if we’re just going to let them go?  It’s a tough question that gets at the essence of hard-core fly casters.  Basically, it's about respect. Fly casters have such respect for the targeted species that we just don't want to kill them after a hard-fought battle.  Now of course it's only natural that an occasional pompano or redfish ends up in the cooler, and a legal cobia always finds its way to the dinner table.  You have to draw the line somewhere.

We have some great species to target around here.  In the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico our best sight fishing targets are pompano, redfish, jack crevalle, black tip sharks, false albacore, and the toughest of them all… tarpon!  In addition, there are schools of bluefish, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and ladyfish to satisfy those anglers who prefer fishing in a feeding frenzy.  Of course, there’s also a chance in the spring to catch a cobia on fly. 


Gulf of Mexico fly fishing provides year-round action. In winter months the top attractions are redfish and false albacore. From December through April slot-sized and larger redfish feed along the inner sandbar of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. There are many days when the water is clear and calm, and we pole along the bar looking for them. Sneaking up on a 25# redfish in 3-4' of gin-clear water is quite a thrill, and drifting toward a school of a hundred or more unsuspecting, hungry redfish is definitely over the top. We prefer 9wt tackle with intermediate or sink-tip lines to get the fly down quickly, as the fish feed along the bottom sometimes in considerable current.



December through January is also when false albacore run the beach, and there is no better thrill on light fly tackle. These are individual fish and small pods of 6-8# albies that eagerly take the fly and strip out a hundred and fifty yards of backing in seconds. These fish move so fast you can hear the fly line slicing through the water as it throws a rooster tail a foot high. We prefer anchoring close to the bar in 2-3' of water and letting the fish come to us. They look like black torpedoes moving erratically up the beach in our direction, and our anglers must be ready to cast. It's explosive, and it happens fast. 7-8 wt tackle is ideal with large-arbor reels holding at least 200 yards of backing...250 is better. Bomb-proof drags are a must...think bonefish on steroids!


In mid-to-late March migrating pompano and jack crevalle arrive. The pompano feed on sand fleas along the inner bar, and we either anchor in pockets along the shore or pole eastward along the bar to intercept them. Pompano are the smaller cousins to permit. An average fish will weigh about 2#, and the boat record on fly is over 5#. They are our most difficult species on light fly tackle, and it's an elite group of anglers who have landed one on fly.
One of the hardest things about pompano is seeing them, as they are like swimming mirrors reflecting everything around them. Sometimes all you see is a shadow. Many times they spot the fly, accelerate to it, and stop just short examining it as the angler uses myriad stripping techniques trying to elicit a strike. It's an incredible visual as the drama unfolds 20-30' from the boat in shallow, clear water, and the take is immensely satisfying. The pompano stay with us all summer with some of the best fishing in the fall, but it all starts around the end of March. 7-8wt tackle with floating lines is the perfect setup.
Jack crevalle arrive about the same time as the pompano, and pound for pound there is nothing that fights harder. The jacks are usually in fast-moving schools of 20 to 100 fish, and we target them with minimum 10wt tackle and big poppers. The schools of jack crevalle are easy to see as they work their way along the outside of the sandbar, but it's easy to underestimate the speed at which they are moving. When anchored sight-fishing for pompano we always have a big rod ready to cast with the line stripped out and coiled in the Fly Line Tamer. When the jacks appear the angler lays down the pompano rod, snatches up the 10 (or 12) wt, and heaves the popper in front of the advancing school. A couple good pops and the jacks will explode on the fly. About 40 minutes later after scrambling to unclip the anchor, stow the pompano rod, and fire up the motor to follow the fish... we just might bring it to the boat. That's if we were lucky and got a good hookset, the angler cleared the fly line successfully, and nothing broke. These are big, bad-to-the-bone fish, and they always have the upper hand. Our jack crevalle are in the 15-30# range, with those at the smaller end of the scale being somewhat manageable. Once you get over 25# all bets are off, and anything can happen. We once fought a 28# jack for ninety minutes on a 12wt! The current boat record on fly weighed 28 1/2 pounds. Like pompano, the jacks are here all summer through the fall, with the best months being March, April, and October.
In May cigar minnows, bay anchovies, Spanish sardines, and other baitfish arrive followed by schools of Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, and false albacore. These species provide dependable summer action with false albacore being the most unpredictable. We know they're going to be here, but we don't know when or for how long. The summer albies tend to be smaller fish (4-6#) in large schools that we find churning the surface a half mile to ten miles offshore. The Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, and bluefish will be close to the beach.
The best chance for taking a king mackerel on fly is around a wreck 1.5 miles out from Pensacola Pass. The Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish are all good targets with 6-8wt tackle and floating lines. For the kings you'll need at least 10wt gear with a minimum 250 yards of backing. Sometimes we will use 10wt tackle for the albies, too. The fish sound in the deeper water just like other tunas, and we try to land them without overstressing the fish. All of our summer species are here until the water temperature drops below 75 degrees...usually mid-October. The ladyfish are the first to leave, followed by the mackerel. Bluefish and pompano will be around in diminishing numbers through December.
Finally, for our masochists and adrenaline junkies there's the annual tarpon migration which begins in earnest around mid-June and lasts through July. Thousands of tarpon travel westbound along our shores during this period, and it's not uncommon to see over a hundred fish in a morning. When tide and wind conditions are favorable we anchor on a sandbar in 6-8' of water and let the fish come to us. These are mostly "hundred pounders" travelling as singles, doubles, or in strings of up to a dozen fish. Sometimes there are fifty or more tarpon in schools cruising and occasionally rolling along. It's breathtaking excitement of the highest degree, but it's also the most difficult and demanding fly-fishing we offer. Our fish simply don't eat the fly as readily as they do in other areas. To have a remote chance of a take the angler must position the fly directly in front of the tarpon's face. That requires a perfect cast which is a function of fish depth and speed, distance, wind, and significant current. After spotting an approaching tarpon the angler has a precious few seconds to make the appropriate calculations and then with wobbly knees and a pounding heart deliver the cast on target. Next, the caster must have the presence of mind to let the fly drift and sink into position before starting the perfect strip. The chances of it all coming together are remote (think Powerball), but when it does and the tarpon lights up, surges, and sucks down the fly... it's the greatest thrill you can have with a fly rod. Some would say life changing. We hook a few fish each year and land fewer, but it can happen and it does happen for those willing to invest the time and effort.
When the Gulf is too rough to fish, we move inland and target speckled trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, and sometimes even pompano.  There is year-round action on the sand and grass flats of Santa Rosa Sound, the Big Lagoon, and Pensacola Bay. Our best redfish sight-fishing on the inside flats is from October through April.
The big trout are on the flats during the cooler months, too, plus we find them in the dead of winter in the bayous and canals around Gulf Breeze and Pensacola. In the summertime it's always fun to start the day throwing poppers and gurglers for trout on the grass flats.
Some of the most exciting fly-fishing of the year occurs in late-October and November when schools of bull redfish move into the bay looking for menhaden that are migrating to the Gulf. When the two collide it's total mayhem with acres of redfish in the 15-30# range in bright orange spawning colors crashing menhaden on the surface. We call it "The Running of the Bulls", and it's something you just have to see to believe.
Light Tackle and Inshore Bottom Fishing Trips



For anglers who have dodged the addiction of fly fishing, we offer light tackle and inshore bottom fishing trips. Our light tackle fishing starts in December and January when false albacore run the beach along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. These are the famed "little tunny", and they provide light tackle sight-fishing at its finest. Fast moving individual and small pods of 6-8# albies cruise the shoreline hunting baitfish. We anchor close to shore in 3-4' of water and watch for "black torpedoes" coming in our direction.


The winter days are cool, but things heat up in a hurry when a pod of feeding albies comes into view, and every year a couple unsuspecting anglers get spooled by these "bad little dudes". The winter false albacore usually disappear by early February and then return in large schools during the summer and fall.
The winter months are also excellent for redfish sight-fishing in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The water is translucent, and redfish ranging from 5 to 30 pounds feed along the sandbars in water from 2 to 10' deep. The fish aren't boat shy, and we can usually get close enough even for beginning casters to drop a bucktail jig in front of the fish. We use ultra-light St Croix rods, Shimano Stradic 3000 reels, and 15# PowerPro braid for these brutes. Landing a 25-30# redfish on a 4.1oz St Croix rod requires a battle of epic proportions, and it happens regularly. This is mostly catch-and-release sport fishing, and many of our clients return home with photos of their fish of a lifetime.


January is an excellent month for spawning flounders around the nearshore wrecks in the Gulf. These are fish up to 5#, and we catch them on live bait and Berkeley GULP jigs. The boat record flounder catch was on a glassy-calm January day. We found them in 50' of water around a wreck 3 miles offshore and landed 50!



Rounding out the winter opportunities are red snappers and groupers. Snapper season is closed, but we catch and release some very impressive fish in Pensacola Bay during the winter months.


Grouper season is usually open in January, and we are quick to slide a legal fish or two into the cooler. These are gag groupers, and they congregate around inshore structure. We "gear up" for grouper fishing with 5 1/2' heavy action stand-up rods, 4/0 reels, 50# line, and 60# leaders. Even though we are armed with heavy tackle the grouper usually wins...but not always. Grouper and red snappers provide exciting "big fish" action throughout the year in our inland waters.
By March and April the redfish sight-fishing is in high gear. The smaller schools of winter grow into large schools as more redfish move close to shore to feed. We still find individual fish close to the beach in a few feet of water, but the hottest action comes from the large schools between the inner and outer sandbars in water that's 8-10' deep. These redfish are somewhat motor shy and move up and down in the water column based on boat pressure. We like to pole or drift the area which makes it easier to slip up on an unsuspecting school while the fish are "high and happy", close to the surface, and easily seen. We prefer 1/2 oz SPRO bucktail jigs, pompano jigs, or Sidewinder spoons all with barbless single hooks which makes it easy to release these magnificent fish. Most of the spring redfish are outside the 18-27" slot, but occasionally we land legal fish which many times find their way into the cooler...
Also in March and April with redfish sight-fishing in full swing the annual sheepshead spawning ritual begins and lasts until mid-May. Large schools of the great-tasting sheepshead congregate around structure in Pensacola Pass, and we catch them up to 9# on ultra-light spinning tackle and live shrimp. Imagine a 9# bream! Sheepshead trips are perfect for families with small children as the action is plenty fast to keep the kids excited, and of course we're always happy to clean enough fish for a family dinner.


Migrating pompano arrive about the same time when the Gulf water temperature approaches 70 degrees. The pompano cruise the beaches and inner sandbar of the Gulf feeding on sand fleas, and we like to anchor and wait for them. The bait of choice is live sand fleas, plus we land them regularly on jigs and spoons. On calm days with clear water and plenty of sun the pompano provide excellent sight-fishing targets for our more accomplished spin-casters. Pompano are here through the summer and fall, and we've caught them as late as January.

While pompano fishing we always have the big spinning tackle rigged and ready for schools of jack crevalle feeding at high speed along the beach. These are fish in the 15-30# range, and we target them with 4 1/2" topwater "chug bugs". The mayhem begins when we see a school of jacks in tight formation just below the surface moving fast in our direction. The angler lays down the pompano rod, grabs the big spinning rod, fires the big plug out in front of the approaching school, and waits for the fish to reach it. One or two nice "pops" and the jacks charge the plug fighting each other for it with one "lucky" fish crushing it and heading for Mexico. It's outrageous sight-fishing of the highest degree. We use St Croix medium-heavy power, fast-action rods and Quantum Cabo 60 spinning reels spooled with 40# PowerPro braid. Be prepared for a fight you won't soon forget! The jack crevalle are with us spring, summer, and fall.


In the inland waters, March and April bring slot-sized redfish to the grass and sand flats and deeper-water structure of Santa Rosa Sound and the Big Lagoon.  A couple weeks after the redfish arrive, they are joined by large speckled trout.  All this happens with the water temperature in the low 60’s.  When the water temperature reaches the 70’s smaller trout come out of the bayous and canals and join the larger fish on the flats. 


We like to pole the flats from March through May sight-fishing for the reds and trout using surface walk-the-dog type lures, gold spoons, live shrimp and small menhaden.  Occasionally, when the water is dead calm, we get out of the boat and stalk the wary reds.  The trout and redfish are on the flats through the summer and fall.  We have caught redfish and big trout on the flats as late as mid-January.
King mackerel arrive in the Gulf with the cigar minnows in May and are here all summer.  Our favorite method for kings is to “fly line” live cigar minnows, threadfin herring, menhaden or hardtails above near-shore structure.  Basically, we hook the live bait on a simple wire leader, toss it out there to swim around close to the surface, and hang on.  Occasionally kings will target baits from well below the surface and strike with such velocity that they soar out of the water in what is lovingly called “skyrocketing”.  We upgrade the tackle to 20# spinning outfits to handle the kings’ screaming runs.
In May we stand a fair chance of catching a late-season cobia migrating westward with a large ray or sea turtle.  Since our boats don’t have towers we do not target cobia during the main run in April.  They’re too hard to see from water level.  But in May they become much easier targets since they usually accompany easy-to-spot rays and turtles.  Twenty-pound class spinning tackle with live bait works well.


By May the big redfish have moved off the beach into the deeper, cooler waters of Pensacola Pass, and we drift live baits along the bottom using the same big spinning gear that we use for jack crevalle. The redfish bite best when the current is running fast, and we cover the 600 foot drift pretty quickly. When we hit a school the action is fast and furious with screaming drags from double and triple hookups. These are big, powerful fish, and our anglers have to overcome 60' depths and strong currents to bring them to the surface. It's quite a thrill and very satisfying to stand on the bow cradling one of these monsters for an unbeatable Facebook photo. The big redfish hold up in the deeper waters of the pass until October when the surface water begins to cool.




In late-October and throughout November bull reds hunt for the giant schools of hand-sized menhaden and bay anchovies that migrate from the headwaters and bayous of Pensacola Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. When the two collide it's mass pandemonium with schools of hundreds of 15-30# redfish in bright orange spawning colors exploding on the surface chasing baitfish. We call it the "running of the bulls", and it's not uncommon to catch and release 500# of redfish on a single trip. The feeding frenzy usually starts around the last week of October in Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound and lasts through January as the menhaden move out into the Gulf. Some of our best days have been in January close to shore a few miles west of the pass. We use the big spinning outfits and 1 1/2oz twisty- tail jigs, and we mash the barbs down on the single hooks to keep from injuring these fabulous fish. They are after all our breed stock, and we take great care in handling the fish and releasing them unharmed.



Offshore Bottom Fishing Trips


For our clients looking for a "deep sea fishing" experience we offer offshore bottom-fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico. Once called the "Red Snapper Capital of the World" Pensacola has always been a hot spot for snapper fishing. In addition to red snappers our natural and man-made reefs attract many species including mangrove snappers, vermillion snappers, lane snappers, gag groupers, red groupers, scamp, triggerfish, amberjacks, cobia, and king mackerel. Regardless of the time of year there are always plenty of species to target.


Most offshore trips take place during red snapper season which opens around June 1. We take our biggest snappers on live bait, so trips start with a visit to the bait barge (when available) or by catching our own live bait on Sabiki rigs around a wreck 1.5 miles from shore. Favorite live baits include cigar minnows, gulf alewives, threadfin herring, Spanish sardines, croakers, and pinfish. Sometimes we'll take along a few dozen large live shrimp to spice up the mix, and it's always a good idea to have some frozen menhaden or squid for backup. When the live well is loaded we make the 30 minute or less run to one of many excellent bottom-fishing spots.


Since the red snapper bag limit is currently two per angler we catch and release fish until landing the big 8-10 pound or larger snappers. We use the lightest tackle possible and prefer St Croix spinning rods, Quantum Cabo 60 reels, and 40# PowerPro braid. When the fish are just too big for spinning gear we upgrade to 50# conventional tackle. Clients are usually caught off guard by the red snappers' incredible strength. A 10# snapper is virtually unstoppable in the first 10-15', but anglers must turn the fish before they run back into the reef and cut the line. It's a major league tug-of-war which results in a broken leader, straightened hook, or a beautiful, delicious red snapper in the cooler.

There are no season closures on mangrove and lane snappers, and many people feel they are actually better table fare than red snappers. On most trips we limit out on red snappers and have a few lanes, mangroves, or scamp in the cooler. It's exciting because you're never quite sure what you have on until it comes to the surface. All the aforementioned species love the same live baits and can be handled on the same medium-heavy to heavy spinning tackle.



When fishing for groupers, amberjacks, and the really BIG red snappers we gear up with 5 1/2' heavy-action stand-up rods, 4/0 conventional reels, 50# mono or PowerPro braid, and 60-80# fluorocarbon leaders. These are our most powerful species, and they will take you to your knees in a heartbeat. We crank the drag tight to try to keep these brutes from running back down to the wreck, so when the fish strike you had best be hanging on to the rod with all your might. The fish fight like their lives depend on it (go figure), so we instruct our anglers to do the same. You can't rest a second or give an inch until the fish comes to the surface. Try to take a break, pass the rod to a friend, send a text message, etc, and they'll beat you every time.



While drifting over snapper spots we always watch the bottom machine for schools of triggerfish up in the water column above the wreck. These are beautiful reef fish that look like they could be in an aquarium. Triggers fight hard and taste great. We fish for them with our lightest spinning tackle and small pieces of squid. After handling big rods for most of the day it's a nice break for our anglers to try to catch a prized triggerfish on a little 4.1oz rod.



We fish in Florida's state waters defined by an imaginary line approximately 9 nautical miles from shore. Typical depth at our favorite reefs is ~75', and our deepest spots are 90-100'. We are always within sight of land. We run offshore trips in our Mako 21' center-console that comfortably accommodates 4 anglers. Since safety is our main concern, we only venture out in stable weather with light winds and seas of 2-3' or less.



It’s always a great day on the water with Gulf Breeze Guide Service!

Gulf Breeze Guide Service
P.O. Box 251
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32562-0251 (USA)
Tel: 850.934.3292 or 850.261.9035 (cell)

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