The party boats almost exclusively target fish that live on or near the bottom of the ocean.  These fish will be fish from the Grouper family
(mostly Gag, Scamps, and Red Grouper), fish from the Snapper family (mostly Red and Vermillion (Mingo) Snapper), Amberjacks (Greater
Amberjack and the Almaco Jack),  Triggerfish, and the Porgies (also called White Snapper).  All are fun to catch and good eating. You will
catch other fish, to include sharks, bonito, some bait fish,  and King Mackerel, but not as often.

                               MINGO SNAPPER                                                                                             RED PORGY
                  (AKA Vermillion Snapper, Beeliner)                                                                          (aka White Snapper)  


                                       SCAMP                                                                                    RED SNAPPER & ALMACO JACK


                                     AMBERJACK                                                                                     BONITO (LITTLE TUNNY)

                                 GAG GROUPER                                                                                                RED GROUPER

        TRIGGERFISH                                                                TOMTATE (RUBY RED LIPS)
                                                                                                                         (Use for bait)

The mate will assist you with your catch and take it off the hook for you. Most fish in the ocean have a nice set of teeth, you really don't want
to go sticking your fingers in their mouths.

There are many rules that fishermen have to follow in the Gulf of Mexico. Most fish are restricted by size and when you can keep them. Your
mate knows these rules, so don't get mad at him when he comes by and throws your 29" amberjack back over or your 20 pound Red
Snapper back when they are out of season.
1. Most party boats supply you with a bait container of both cut squid and cut Boston Mackerel. The Mingo Snapper, Trigger Fish, and
Porgys like the squid for bait. The Red Snapper, while they will bite squid, usually prefer cut bait or live bait. Some people bring a box of
frozen cigar minnows and use a whole minnow for bait. You will usually catch bigger fish with them.

2.  Most party boats use a Penn reel rigged with a 2 hook bottom rig, Most have gone to the smaller (#1) circle hooks. (You must use circle
hooks now in the gulf when fishing for reef fish).  This will allow you to catch the smaller mingos and white snapper, and the red snapper. To
catch bigger fish, you would want to use bigger baits (ie a whole cigar minnow) which means using a larger hook (#4 or # 5 circle).

Some points to remember on saltwater fishing and hook size:

The larger the bait, the larger the fish you will catch

Match the size of the hook to the size of the bait. (You want the barb and hook showing, not hidden in the bait)

So, depending on what you are fishing for, mingos/white snapper, or bigger fish such as red snapper, grouper, you want
to adjust your bait, hook size, and presentation.  For this reason, I recommend you bring your own tackle.

- Penn 113h reel with boat rod, rigged with 40# monofilament to a 100# swivel. (Most party boats will not allow you to use braided line as it
will cut the monofilament line when you get tangled)

- Prerigged leaders

- Use a 2 hook bottom rig with # 1 or #2 circle hooks if you want to catch Mingos, Porgies, or Triggerfish. Use cut squid for bait.

- Use a 2 hook bottom rig or 1 hook fish finder rig with # 4 or 5 circle hooks if you want to catch larger Red Snapper, Grouper,  Amberjack.   
Also, if  you have to use frozen bait,  the Red Snapper and Grouper seem to prefer the cigar minnows you can buy at any of the bait stores in
the area.

3. You will normally catch bigger and more fish if you use "live" bait.  Most boats will have a live well you can use. Be sure to call first and ask
about their policy. Some fishermen get to the docks early and use a squid tipped Sabiki rig to catch live pin fish from around the dock prior to
the boat leaving. Also, I have been on boats where they will supply live bait at times. Use a 1 hook fish finder rig if you have live bait.
Amberjack love small mingos.

4. Use a cooler that has wheels, much easier to use.

4. Most return fishermen prefer the rear of the boat.

5. You want to keep your lines tight the whole time by reeling in any slack on the line. Slack lines drift and you will get tangled with other

6. Use a larger weight than you would normally use to get your bait to the bottom quick and to keep your line tight. Recommend at least 16

7. If your mate works hard for you, which they normally do, it is customary to tip them around 15%.

8. Normally, the boat needs a minimum of 15 paying customers to operate a trip. If they don't have the minimum, they will probably cancel
your trip. During the off season, you might want to check the day before to see if they have enough to go.

9. Most of the party boats offer a discount for military. Ask.
Party Boat Experience - What to expect

What the boat supplies:

Your fishing license. No need to obtain a Florida fishing
license, your ticket includes your license.

Fishing rod and reel rigged with a 2 hook bottom
fishing rig
(called a "chicken rig", a "porgy rig" or "dropper" rig).

Bait. The mates will supply you with a bucket or other device
that has both cut squid and cut small fish.

A laundry basket to put your fish in. They will periodically
come around and collect your fish and place them on ice. They
have different ways of marking your fish, but most use an
aluminum spike stringer with a number on it. Just remember
your number.

5. They will r
emove the fish from your hook for you and
determine if it is of legal size or in season. If not, it goes back

6. At the end of the trip, they will clean your fish (fillet) and give
them to you in a plastic bag. Some boats charge extra for this.
You do have the option of taking them home and cleaning them
Captain Cliff Cox runs the Sweet Jody. It is located behind the Fisherman's Wharf
restaurant next to the Destiny and Destin Princess.

Some party boat tips and nice to know stuff......
116 Highway 98 E
Destin, FL  32541
(850) 837-1293

The American Spirit is the
largest party boat in Destin.
It is rated for 92
passengers, but they only
carry 80. Has an upper
deck, air conditioned lower
lounge.  Call for trip times
and the current rate.
Click below for more

American Spirit web site

The New Florida Girl does
not make many fishing trips
anymore but is used for
short harbor tours and
educational trips.  
76 Highway 98 E
Destin, FL  32541
SWOOP I and II are
identical 65-ft. long party
fishing boats powered by
twin 660 hp Caterpillar
engines, and a 19-ft. wide
beam. These custom built
boats cruise comfortably at
20 knots and are Coast
Guard approved for up to
49 passengers but normally
carry only 40 fishermen.
Both have upper decks and
an air-conditioned cabin.

Swoop Party Boat web site
Capt Jim Westfall runs two party boats, the NEW FLORIDA GIRL and the AMERICAN SPIRIT. They are
located behind AJs restaurant.
The Destin Princess and Destiny party boats are located behind the
Fisherman's Wharf restaurant.
Olin Marler runs up to four party boats out of the Destin Harbor: the Tropical Winds, Gentle Winds, Gulf
Winds, and the Gulf Breezel located on the west side of AJ's restaurant.

210 Highway 98 E
Destin, FL  32541
(850) 837-5088
(888) 837-5088

72' Single-V Hull that is US
Coast Guard approved for
up to 65 Passengers. Has
an upper deck and air
conditioned cabin.

Destiny Party Boat web site

210 Highway 98 E
Destin, FL  32541
(850) 837-5088
(888) 837-5088

65' Catamaran that is US
Coast Guard approved for
up to 45 Passengers.  Has
an upper deck and air
conditioned cabin.

Destin Princess
web site
102 B Highway 98 East
Destin, Florida 32541
(850) 837-7095
(850) 654-7113

60' boat.  Has an upper
deck and air conditioned

Click below for more

Olin Marler charter boats
web site
Click here for a trip on the
102 B Highway 98 East
Destin, Florida 32541
(850) 837-7095
(850) 654-7113

60' boat.  Has an upper
deck and air conditioned

Click below for more

Olin Marler charter boats
web site
102 B Highway 98 East
Destin, Florida 32541
(850) 837-7095
(850) 654-7113

60' boat.  Has an upper
deck and air conditioned

Click below for more

Olin Marler charter boats
web site
102 B Highway 98 East
Destin, Florida 32541
(850) 837-7095
(850) 654-7113

Has an upper deck and air
conditioned cabin.

Click below for more

Olin Marler charter boats
web site

Click here for a trip on the
Gulf Breeze
210 Highway 98 East
Destin, Florida 32541
(850) 650 2500
(850) 654 0088

57' boat with an upper deck.

Click below for more

Sweet Jody party boat web

What kind of fish can I catch on a party boat?

Click here to see
a trip on the
Florida Girl
Click here for a trip on the

Party Boat

Here are some more web sites with
good information on fishing from a
party boat.
Destin Party (Head) Boats -

A party boat is an excellent way to get on the water and get some fish at a reasonable price in Destin.  
What is a Party Boat? No, its not a boat where you can "party" down. The term Party refers to the
group (party) of people that have the same goal, to fish. They are also called "Head" boats. Whereas
regular charte boats take only a few fishermen, normally 6-10 people, a Party boat can take many
more, up to 60 here in Destin. This makes it less expensive but you have less freedom in how and
where you fish (actually, you have no freedom - party boat fishing is strictly "bottom fishing". A party
boat is an "open boat" in that anyone can sign up. You are paying for a place at the rail where you will
be provided a rod and reel, bait, and a tub to hold your fish you catch.

There are approximately 8 party
boats calling the Destin Harbor
their home that run anywhere
from a 4 hour trip to over 16 hour
trips, with prices starting around
$40.00 each. Prices are usually
lower in the winter and some
give military and Senior

The Party Boat Experience - What to expect . . . .

Most, if not all,  party boats use a
model of the Penn 113 4/0 Senator       
conventional reel, spooled with 60 lb  
monofilament.  The black model (113)
is most prevalent, with a few using
the red model (113H).      If you have a
choice, choose the red reel. It has a
higher retrieve cranking with the red

The reels used on party boats have
seen a lot of fish and some are not in
very good condition, depending on
the boat. You are allowed to bring
your own rod/reel on all of the party
boat, which I would suggest if you
can. If you do bring your own,
absolutely NO BRAIDED LINE!!!!. It has
a tendency to cut the other lines
when it gets tangled and can also
damage the boat's equipment.

If you have never used a
conventional bottom fishing reel, you
will need to learn the basics on it or
you willend up with a reel full of
tangled line (called a "bird's nest).  
The mates will normally have a mass
meeting during your trip out which
they explain how to use the
reel. Just pay attention and keep your
thumb on the line as you let it out. For
more information on how to use a
conventional saltwater bottom fishing
rig, click below:  


1. Cooler with ice. The ones with  wheels are the most

2. Food, snacks, and beverages. You can bring beer,
but you need to bring plenty of water too as it is easy to
become dehydrated in the summer months.

3. Two small towels. Use one to hold the fish you catch
while you are removing the hook and the other, keep it
wet and put it around your neck, it will keep you a little

4. Whatever personal tackle: rod, reel, etc you would
like to use. Keep it compact.

5. Pair of needle nose wire pliars to help remove the
fish hook from the mouth of the fish. The mate will
remove them, but sometimes they are busy. If you do
it, you can get your line back down quicker.

6. Small knife.

7. Hat

8. Sun screen

9. Camera

The Party Boats of the Destin Harbor
Legendary runs two party boats out of the Destin Harbor, the Swoop I and Swoop II. They are located  
behind the Emerald Grande.
Fishing Destin Guide©

Party (Head) Boats

A local's guide to fishing around Destin and the Florida Panhandle    

the Party
(aka Head)

Known as the "luckiest fishing village", Destin is the home to some of the best saltwater fishing in the United States. The 100 Fathom  (600' depth) Curve of the Gulf of Mexico draws closer
to Destin than any other spot in Florida. This, along  with  Destin's close  proximity  to  the East  Pass  and  the Gulf  of Mexico, allows quick access to the Gulf of Mexico's  fishing bounty.  
The  purpose  of  this site  is  to acquaint a new fisherman  to  the Destin area  -  our local facilities, fish, waters and fishing methods. Tight lines and good fishing!

This web site is updated as I have time from other things going on. As there are a 1000 + different ways to do things, this is only
my way of fishing, nothing else,  and it is not the last word in fishing the area. I am by no means an expert but if you would like my opinion on something related to fishing the area,
please email me at  It may take a few days before I get to it, so be patient. Thanks.....

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