Visit area piers, state parks in Panama City Beach
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Saturday, Sept. 7, is a license-free saltwater fishing day — a good excuse to grab some shrimp and squid and head out to the beach.
On license-free fishing days, the fishing license requirement is waived for all recreational anglers — residents and non-residents. This Saturday the waiver applies to saltwater fishing for recreational harvests for fish, crabs, lobsters and scallops from a boat or shore.
All other rules are all still in effect for seasons, bag and size limits; see MyFWC.com for details from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (After this weekend, there is one more chance in 2019 for license-free saltwater fishing — the Saturday after Thanksgiving.)
Local state parks have nominal entrance fees, but on Saturday you won't have to spring for a saltwater fishing license, too.
St. Andrews State Park, 4607 State Park Lane, Panama City Beach; 850-708-6100; FloridaStateParks.org/parks-and-trails/st-andrews-state-park: Fishing opportunities are plentiful within St. Andrews State Park with two fishing piers, a deep-sea jetty and surf fishing. The Tiller Pier, which reaches out into the Gulf of Mexico, was reopened in November 2018, and the popular fishing pier on the Grand Lagoon has since been opened as well. Pier use is included in the park entrance fees. The park, located on a barrier island, features the Gulf of Mexico on one side and St. Andrew Bay on the other, giving beachgoers 1½ miles of sandy beaches for fishing, relaxing and going for a swim. The park is open for day use from 8 a.m. to sundown every day, while 75 campground sites are open on a walk-in-only basis during the campground reinvestment project, which began Sept. 2. Park entrance fees are $8 per vehicle; $4 for single occupant.
Camp Helen State Park, 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach; 850-233-5059; FloridaStateParks.org/parks-and-trails/camp-helen-state-park: Camp Helen is surrounded by water on three sides, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico for saltwater fishing and Lake Powell, for freshwater fishing. Park entrance fees are $4 per vehicle (use the honor box to pay). The 180-acre park is open for day-use only from 8 a.m. to sunset every day for fishing, swimming, hanging out at the beach, hiking and enjoying nature. (But the public is invited to explore the park after dark next weekend when the Friends of Camp Helen hosts a Moonlight Paddle 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. For more information, visit Facebook.com/FriendsOfCampHelenStatePark/)
Fishing fees are required to fish from the piers, but fishing licenses are not needed. Annual and Seasonal Passes are sold at the Community Center at Frank Brown Park, 16200 Panama City Beach Parkway, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and are honored at both the Russell-Fields City Pier and the M.B. Miller County Pier.
Russell-Fields City Pier, 16201 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, 850-233-5080 or 850-233-5045, PanamaCityBeachParksAndRecreation.com: The ¼-mile long pier is on Front Beach Road directly across from Pier Park. At over 1,500 feet, it's the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico, and the beach is wide and open in both directions. There's usually a good crowd at the pier though, so it's not a bad idea to get there early. The pier is open 24 hours every day for fishing, and views of marine life, sunrises and sunsets. Three beach accessible wheelchairs are available for public use; check with pier attendant. Pier rates: Spectators $3; Fishing $7, active military, disabled and seniors 65 and older $3, ages 6 and younger free. Three rods, plus one bait rod are allowed. Rod and tackle rental is available at the Pier Tackle Shop. If you need bait, check with Half Hitch bait shop at the Pier at 850-234-2621.
M.B. Miller Pier, 12213 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, baycountyfl.gov/pier.php: Run by Bay County, the pier juts into the Gulf of Mexico and offers 24/7 fishing and views of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Fees are $3 for spectators; $6 for fishing (free for children 6 or younger), $3 for disabled, active military or seniors 65 and older.