By David Lifka

Following Florida’s coastline from Jacksonville to Pensacola there exists an affordable way to enjoy offshore saltwater fishing. It’s readily available, year round and can be easily enjoyed by friends, groups and families. It’s deep sea fishing at its finest. With spray in your face, sea life to watch, sunsets and sunrises to admire and fish to catch, Florida’s party-boat fishing fleets provide saltwater adventures the whole family can enjoy.

Party-boats, head-boats or drift-boats have been part of Florida’s fishing and tourist industries for generations. In comparison to owning your own boat or hiring a private charter, the cost of a half or full day fishing experience on the open sea can be a bargain. Typical fares range from about $50 to $80 depending on the length of the trip and the area of the state. Typically rods, reels, bait, tackle and fishing license are all included in the price.

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Although all party-boats share in the same goal of catching fish, some just always seem to be better than others. Often the success of a boat is due to its location. Boats in areas with a higher rate of tourists tend to have a higher rate of inexperienced anglers and fish for a shorter period of time, ending up with smaller catches. At the same time, boats with all day excursions tend to cater more to local anglers — with longer trips to better fishing grounds and a better end result.

Fortunately we live in an area that offers some spectacular party-boat fishing. From Jacksonville to Cape Canaveral, a variety of party-boats exist to meet your fishing requirements. Mayport boats are well known for year round snapper and grouper fishing, while boats a short ride south can hook you up with some pretty good king mackerel while drifting.

Next to catching fish when out on a party-boat, comfort is important to most people. A few things to look for are air conditioned cabins, boats that allow food and drinks, have separate men’s and women’s restrooms, offer observation or suntan decks and that have engines with enough horsepower to get you in and out of the fishing grounds quickly and smoothly.

Fishing Report: Speckled perch (black crappie) peaking in area lakes and freshwater creeks. Live minnows are always the best bait.

Remember, whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.

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