Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail
Please leave only your footprints

Sea Life Beneath the
Pensacola Beach Pier

The Pensacola Beach pier is a popular spot for both spectators and fishermen. The pier provides an ideal year-round location for catching some of the Gulf’s most pursued (and tastiest) fish.


Even during the cold of winter, many species of fish can be found. They include flounder, redfish, sheepshead, black drum, and bonito.


Spring is a great time of year to enjoy a day of fishing. Some fish to try and catch are bluefish, cobia, pompano, Spanish Mackerel, flounder, redfish, sheepshead, and bonito.


Summer is the most popular season for fishing due to the many varieties of fish available. Bluefish, pompano, redfish, Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Gulf Whiting (Kingfish), ladyfish, and bonito are all abundant. Other species such as flounder, cobia, and sheepshead are less abundant but can still be caught. Tarpon are abundant only in summer.


The fall is a great time for fishing due to the cooler air and water. Species such as tarpon, flounder, redfish, sheepshead, ladyfish, black drum, King Mackerel, Gulf Whiting (Kingfish), and bonito are biting.

Fish Illustrations © Mike Ceglady and Redfish © Carol Cox


Cobia are larger fish normally found near the bottom of the ocean. They are intensely curious and are known to follow other caught fish in to the pier to watch the action. Cobia are one of the most prized fish by fishermen; a number of cobia fishing tournaments along the Gulf Coast offer considerable cash prizes.


Sheepshead are a medium-sized fish that live almost exclusively in the southern Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They exhibit broad sides with vertical black and white stripes, large scales, and blunt, strong teeth for biting through shellfish. The best baits for catching sheepshead are shrimp, sand fleas (molecrabs,) clams, fiddler crabs, and mussels. Sheepshead have a knack for stealing bait, so a small hook is necessary to catch them.

Spanish Mackerel and King Mackerel

Mackerels are members of the tuna family and typically have colorful stripes along their backs and deeply forked tails. Spanish Mackerels are smaller fish, usually with yellow spots. They are best caught with spoons, jigs, or live bait. King Mackerels are perhaps the biggest prize of the Pensacola Beach pier. The Florida state record for largest king is 90 pounds.

If you plan to fish off of the pier or anywhere on Pensacola Beach, be sure you are familiar with the applicable regulations and licensing requirements. A license is not required to fish off the pier but is required for fishing from shore. Learn more at


Bonitos are large, mackerel-like fish that are closely related to tuna. They are viewed by many as an inferior food fish due to their oily texture and are often used as bait when caught. Even though “bonito” is Spanish for “pretty,” it is unclear whether the name of the fish is related to this.


Flounder are a species of flatfish that lives on the seafloor. They are born with one eye on each side of their heads. As they grow, one eye migrates to the other side, until eventually both eyes appear on the top side of the fish. Flounder use camouflage both to hide from predators and sneak up on their prey. There are two species of flounder that are local to the Pensacola Beach area: the southern flounder and the gulf flounder.


Florida pompanos are smaller fish, usually around three pounds and less than 17 inches long, although larger pompanos are occasionally caught. They are very active on the line, testing light tackle beyond what their weight would suggest.


What locals call the redfish is known in science as the red drum, “redfish” being a word that can refer to many different species around the world. Red drums are easily distinguished by the dark spot on their tails. Despite their name, the coloration of red drums can vary. Darker, copper-colored red drums are found up north in estuaries while lighter, silver-colored drums are found in or near the Gulf. They are a favorite among fishermen, as they usually put up a good fight and are very tasty.

Sharks and Rays

Sharks and rays are also common. Species include the spinner shark, blacktip, bull shark, scalloped hammerhead, clearnose skate, cownose ray, manta ray, devil ray, Atlantic stingray, and southern stingray.