Party Time: Party Boat Fishing in Florida

By: Terry Tomalin

Party boats allow novice and experienced anglers alike affordable offshore fishing options.

Do you want to catch fish but don’t know how to get started? You can take some of the guesswork out of America’s favorite outdoors sport by hopping on board a “party boat" and heading offshore with dozens of equally eager anglers.

Florida has hundreds of party boats docked from Pensacola to Key West, just waiting to take you, your friends and family on the fishing trip of a lifetime. These large, open fishing boats can take more than 50 anglers fishing at one time.

A trip on one of these offshore vessels costs a fraction of what a private charter costs, making them an ideal outlet for someone who wants to enjoy the blue water experience without spending a lot of green.

Party boats have some major advantages: You have more room to move around, you can bring the whole family and you can take a break from the fishing to relax in an air-conditioned suite.

For anglers without a lot of experience or time to research what’s biting, a day on a party boat is an excellent option. The captain and crew make all the hard decisions, such as where and when to fish, so all you have to do is sit back and reel ’em in. When it comes to price and convenience, party boats just can’t be beat.

They are a great way to get offshore, far from the land, where you may see dolphins, sea turtles and other wildlife. Because you’re fishing in deep water, you never know what you might catch.

Here are some tips for this type of fishing that will help make your experience even better. Guests aboard party boats will have to “share the rail” with other anglers. Some spots may be better than others, but a good captain will position the boat so everybody has a chance at the catch.

Count on catching a variety of species including snapper and grouper. If you are lucky, they will all be “keepers” and you’ll have some fillets for dinner. Half the fun of party boat fishing is expecting the unexpected. Party boat fishermen have caught amberjack, kingfish and even the occasional sailfish.

Once you step aboard a party boat, you will quickly identify the veterans. Some of the more dedicated anglers fish aboard party boats every week. They never forget their sunscreen, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and needle-nose pliers.

Party boats also have their own etiquette. Give your fellow fishermen plenty of space. Watch which way the current is moving so you don’t tangle another fisherman’s line when you drop your line over the side. If you have a problem or question, don’t be afraid to ask the captain, crew or your fellow fishermen for a little help.  

You don’t need a Florida saltwater fishing license to fish aboard a party boat. The boat license covers all paying customers. Anglers must still comply with normal bag and size limits, which are usually posted on deck.

If You Go:

Reel Eazy Charters
Pensacola Beach
(850) 932-8824

The Mayport Princess
Near Jacksonville
(904) 241-4111

Blue Heron Fishing Fleet
Riviera Beach
(561) 844-3573

Reward Fleet
(305) 372-9470

Gulf Stream Party Boat
Key Largo
(305) 451-9788

Getaway Marina Fleet
Fort Myers Beach
(239) 466-3600

Friendly Fisherman
Hubbard’s Marina, Madeira Beach
(727) 393-1947

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