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Looking to get back to basics on your next vacation? Well look no further. Cortez is one of the last authentic fishing villages in Florida where you can get away from it all. This charming settlement of just a few thousand inhabitants lives and breathes fishing. With some of the best inshore waters, along with access to the Gulf of Mexico, there’s little wonder why. That’s why we’re here to talk you through one aspect of casting a line here: deep sea fishing in Cortez.

An aerial view of Cortez, FL, with a pier sticking out into the ocean on the left-hand side of the image
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What makes a voyage into the deep blue here so special? Well, the variety for starters. A whole world of prized creatures is available on a journey to the Gulf from Cortez. And with such variety comes plenty of action, too. There’s something for every kind of angler on a deep sea fishing adventure.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the top catches, the most effective techniques, when to come, and much more. By the time you’re done reading, we’re sure you’ll be ready to book your own deep sea fishing trip out of Cortez. So without wasting any time, let’s get started. 

Top Deep Sea Catches in Cortez

We’ve already spoken about the variety of fish on offer in the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s all made possible due to the nutritious underwater structure found offshore here. From reefs and wrecks to canyons and the continental shelf, these are habitats made for big game monsters. Let’s meet the stars of the show.

Snappers and Groupers 

Anyone who knows anything about saltwater fishing in Florida will be well accustomed to Snappers and Groupers. While some varieties of these delicious creatures are available inshore and nearshore, they get bigger, stronger, and tastier the further out you go. We suggest going around 20 miles offshore from Cortez to test your skills against oversized and rare Snappers and Groupers.

A group of youthful anglers holding a Grouper each on a Cortez deep sea fishing charter
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We’re talking Lane Snapper and the coveted Red Snapper, when in season. As for Groupers, the ubiquitous Gag species is possible, but they’re joined by an impressive lineup of cousins, such as Red, Black, and Scamp Groupers, along with Yellowtail, Warsaw, and Snowy varieties the further you go. Get ready to push your strength to the limit, as you attempt to lift these fish all the way up from the bottom. 

Mackerel and Amberjack 

Sticking with the theme of fish that you’ll find closer to shore, our next two on the list represent much of the same as Groupers and Snappers. Both Kingfish and Spanish Mackerel are available in the Gulf of Mexico, with the former growing to incredible sizes. These bigger fish are known as “Smokers“, and we also suggest smoking their meat for a real treat for your palate. 

Two anglers on a fishing charter, each holding a large Amberjack caught offshore from Cortez, FL
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Amberjack swim in the same waters as their counterparts, and also grow to impressive sizes the further out you go. Offering tasty fish fillets, too, they’re a worthy addition to this list. Try trolling or bottom fishing to land both of these creatures. But we’ll get to that in a bit. 

Mahi Mahi and Tuna

There’s no letting up on the table fare front, and the next two catches available offshore out of Cortez need no introduction. Both are favorites for anglers and seafood lovers wherever they show up – and they do show up all around the world. Luckily for you, they’re also available in solid numbers in the Sunshine State.

A smiling angler in a cap and sunglasses holding a large Tuna caught in Cortez
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Both creatures promise to make you work for every inch of your line. Mahi Mahi use their fast pace to swim away at speed. Meanwhile, Tuna dive deep, as their cold blood enables them to survive even in the icy depths of the ocean. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry, Mahi Mahi tire out a bit quicker than Tuna, so set your sights on these dazzling creatures. You’ll want to snap a picture with your catch, too!

Marlin and Sailfish

Moving away from the meat department, the final pairing on our list of top deep sea catches in Cortez are here because of their game qualities. Both members of the Billfish family, these brutes are sought-after all over the world. They’re big and strong, with Marlin even leaping out of the water to try and get off the end of your line! And if you land a Sailfish, you’re in for a real sight for sore eyes. 

Two anglers on a deep sea fishing charter from Cortez holding a large Sailfish
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White and Blue Marlin are possible in these rich waters, along with Sailfish. This gives you triple the chance of ticking off a Billfish from your bucket list. Just beware, you’ll need to head out at least 50 miles to the serious deep waters. Spots like “the Elbow” and “West Drop” are popular hunting grounds for these beasts when the season hits. 

When to Go Deep Sea Fishing in Cortez

Speaking of seasons, that’s exactly what’s up next on our tour of deep sea fishing in Cortez. With the prevalence of deepwater structure and canyons in the Gulf, along with mild weather in Florida, there’s never a bad time to cast a line offshore here. Captains are on the water 365 days a year. However, some species are more widespread at different times of the year. Check out the table below to see what’s biting when.

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Amberjack Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Good Great Great Great Great
Black Grouper Great Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Good Great Great
Gag Grouper Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Great Great Great Closed Closed Closed
Kingfish Weak Weak Good Great Good Fair Fair Fair Good Great Good Weak
Mahi Mahi Weak Weak Weak Weak Fair Good Great Good Fair Weak Weak Weak
Marlin Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great Great Good Weak Weak
Red Grouper Great Closed Closed Good Fair Fair Fair Fair Good Good Great Great
Red Snapper Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Great Great Closed Closed Great* Closed Closed
Sailfish Weak Weak Weak Weak Fair Good Good Good Fair Weak Weak Weak
Tuna Weak Weak Fair Fair Good Great Great Great Good Fair Fair Weak

As you see, Amberjack and Groupers are year-round species, while Billfish start showing up in spring. Tuna and Mahi Mahi dominate the summer months, while, if you’re looking for a mixed bag, maybe fall is the best time to come. Please note that these seasons (especially closed ones) are subject to change. Red Snapper season, for example, may open up again in the fall. We suggest you check out the latest rules on the MyFWC website to make sure. 

How to Go Deep Sea Fishing in Cortez

So we’ve let you in on the what and when, now it’s all about the how. With the diversity of fish on offer comes a diversity of methods to try your luck at luring the fish to the boat. Here, we’ll talk about the two most common deep sea fishing techniques in Cortez. 

Trolling

The number one method for deep sea fishing the world over is trolling. This involves dragging a line (usually multiple) behind the boat to attract topwater feeders. How? Well, the bait or lure along the top mimics the prey of these hungry fish, so it’s a great way to maximize returns with little effort. Seriously, you can sit back and enjoy the ride before leaping into action at the sound of the screeching reels. 

Trolling rods on a boat, with lines in the water, with blue skies in the background
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But then you’d better be prepared for a serious battle. This is the most common technique for landing Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and Billfish. Yep, these are the toughest creatures out there, so you’ll be glad to have had some rest on the way out. You’ll need to bring your A-game to get them to the boat.

Bottom Fishing

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, bottom fishing is another popular offshore fishing technique. And with the range of bottom-dwelling creatures on offer here, it’s pretty effective too. 

A closeup shot of an electric reel used for deep dropping.
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Bottom fishing is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin – fishing along the bottom. Like trolling, you’ll try to mimic the bait fish of your target species, but this time by dragging it along the bottom of the sea or jigging it up and down to get your target’s attention. The thing is, the waters here ger seriously deep – we’re talking over 500 feet! That’s why most hardcore captains will have specialized gear such as electric reels to help with the heavy lifting.

If you do manage to get something to bite, get ready for a long workout to bring the fish up from the bottom. But the rewards are well worth it. All kinds of Groupers are possible with this method, and many are among the most delicious fish in the sea. 

Cortez Deep Sea Fishing Regulations

An infographic with the Florida state flag, a vector of a boat, and text stating "Cortez Deep Sea Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a blue background
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Before we let you start planning your Cortez deep sea fishing adventure, we just need to go over the local laws. We’ve already mentioned that some fish are subject to closed seasons, and it’s important you respect this – not just to avoid a fine, but to help the ecosystem too! Snappers and Groupers are particularly protected in the Gulf of Mexico, so you’ll want to make sure you time your trip right if you want to get your hands on them.

There are other rules and regulations surrounding bag and size limits, and they cover pretty much every fish. We suggest you head out with a charter captain. After all, anglers who are on these waters all day every day will be up to date with all the latest information. Not only that, but heading out with a charter captain will also mean you won’t a license as theirs covers you. Win-win!

Cortez Deep Sea Fishing: Still a Well-kept Secret

An aerial view looking from the bay to the Gulf of Mexico in Cortez, FL, on a sunny day
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Despite its world-class angling options, Cortez retains that authentic fishing village vibe and charm. Spend a few days here and immerse yourself in it, and you won’t be disappointed. You can even check out Florida’s Maritime Museum located in the village center. If you have enough energy after a long journey and brutal battle offshore, that is!

Have you ever been deep sea fishing in Cortez? How did you enjoy it? Any tips to share with your fellow anglers? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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