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View Full Version : Dive spots in the panhandle



moosicman
10-21-2007, 16:19
Hi guys...
I live in bainbridge, ga and i was wondering who could tell me the scoop on diving in panama city beach and destin....what dive ops were good and what the prices and experiences have been like....anyone know? or maybe other locations...if you know where bainbridge, ga is you know i'm not far from the florida line and can be on the coast pretty quickly..so where should i look into going??

ScubaSteve
10-21-2007, 21:48
Hi guys...
I live in bainbridge, ga and i was wondering who could tell me the scoop on diving in panama city beach and destin....what dive ops were good and what the prices and experiences have been like....anyone know? or maybe other locations...if you know where bainbridge, ga is you know i'm not far from the florida line and can be on the coast pretty quickly..so where should i look into going??

Here's links to the two shops in Destin and one in Crestview. Pretty much all there is for this area. All run charters. All decent operations. Prices are on their web sites. There are more operators out of Pensacola, but they're more expensive and about the same type of diving except for the Oriskany.

Haven't dove out of Panama City in years, so I'll leave that response to someone who knows more.

Also, the springs are kinda fun. There's Morrison (free) and Vortex ($19.00 this week).

Dive Destin - Emerald Coast Scuba (http://www.divedestin.com)

Scuba Tech - Destin Florida - scuba & snorkel dive shop (http://www.scubatechnwfl.com)

Diver's Emporium (http://www.diversemporium.net)

FishFood
10-21-2007, 21:54
Vortex ($19.00 this week).

LOL ^^ "This Week". Cracked me up...


Anyway.

The Dive Locker in Panama City has a new boat. Its specially designed just for divers. Very nice. Even has heated showers... They also have smaller boats that they run with a minimum of 3 divers.

"The Panama City Dive Center" is also a good choice. All good folks.


Be sure to stop by morrison with flash lights. If you feel comfortable, go into the small cavern and look at the floor. Plenty of eel heads sticking up. If you're lucky you might catch one swimming around. Make sure to keep a grasp on your bouancy. Im not sure if eels bite, but id hate to find out the hard way.

EDIT:

DONT go to Panama City with out stopping by St Andrews. It's $5 per day for the park fee. The jetties lining the channel have some soft corral starting to grow. Crab, lots of fish, and even some octopi. VERY good dive. Be sure to check the tide charts for "St Andrews Pass"!!

mike_s
10-21-2007, 22:43
Vortex just lowered their price to $19. (which includes air fill). Much better than the $32 they were charging. Most of us quit going when they raised the price to that. I got a laugh out of the "this week" thing too.


As for Panama City and Destin, both have good diving, but I wouldn't say either has a great dive boat operation. (but I haven't been out with Dive Locker yet and will prob on my next trip down as my last PCDC trip was a joke).

THe problem with the charter boats in this area is that they want to run to the closest wrecks/sites from the pass and then run back to the dock as quick as they can so they can pick up another load.

PCDC often tries to run 3 charters a day on Saturdays for example. (A 7am to 11am, a 11am to 3pm, and a 3pm to 7pm). It's just screwy and not enough time between charters. All they seem to want to go to is the Black Bart (wreck) and Bridge Span #14. Neither are terrible wrecks, but you get tired of seeing them 9 times out of 10. THey just need to go to some of the other great sites out there.

I've been told that Dive Locker is now better for going to other sites, but I've also heard they frequent the nearer sites sometimes also.


In Destin, you've got 2 dive operations. ScubaTech and Emerald Coast. Emerald Coast boat never seems to go past the jetties. (they offer boat trips to the jetties, which you can walk to). ScubaTech has a somewhat nice oil crew boat, but they wimp out if the waves are over 2-3 feet and often cancel. They also seem to hit the same sites over and over again. It's frustrating......

So.... my advice is when you book, ask specifically what wrecks they are taking you to. THey might say "it depends on conditions", well ask them what wrecks they typically do. If you're ok with it, then great, but if you find out they do the same wrecks over and over all week, vote with your wallet.

one more thing... pick up Ned DeLoaches "Underwater guide to FLorida". You can order it off Amazon for about $13 to $15 bucks. IT's got a great listing of the sites in both areas and a small description about it. It's well worth ordering and taking on trips to FLorida.


oh... since the last poster mentioned St Andrews. Great dive and it's free (less the $5 per car entrance fee.) but that fee gets you a large paved parking area and restrooms, something you can't find at the other closest jetties in Destin. (another great dive). You'll want to dive both of these at "high slack tide" for best conditions. You'll want to make sure you've got a towed dive flag, especially in PCB at the jetties as the water-cops are much more present and like to write tickets.

Dive-aholic
10-23-2007, 16:47
I can't speak for the dive ops in the area since I haven't used any of them yet. However, the St. Andrews Jetty is pretty cool. Close parking, easy walk to the water and a nice drop off on the channel side of the jetty. However, we've had a red tide here lately so I'm not sure what visibility has been like. The tides also haven't been agreeing with my schedule, but when I was there last month it wasn't during slack tide and visibility was about 15' with very mild current. From what I understand, it's not always that way, though.

As for the springs, I wouldn't recommend going into a cavern with a light. Actually, I wouldn't recommend going into the overhead at all without some training. If you don't want to go full out and do a cavern class yet, let me know and I'll take you on a guided dive in one of the local caverns. Morrison is a possibility and it is free (as has been pointed out). JB (less than an hour from Bainbridge) is much nicer, but it will cost you $25 the first day, $10 the next day. There's no open water diving there, but it has a beautiful cavern. Again, I'd be happy to take you on a guided dive or 2 there. Vortex is also okay, but I'd avoid it on the weekends because of all the training that goes on there. There's also not much of a cavern zone there. Neither Morrison nor Vortex actually have much of an open water zone, so if that's what you're looking for, you're better off at PC or Destin. Another caveat - I haven't been to Destin yet, but I hear the hike from parking to the jetty is a loooooooong one!

texarkandy
10-25-2007, 11:45
As re: Destin

We did a dive at the Destin jetty last summer, had our own fish-n-ski boat to get us over to the finger jetty (inside the pass on the east side, if you have Google Earth you can see it)

You can get to the finger jetty by land & shore-dive it too, but there's a little bit of a hike acrosss the sand. There are some locals who dive it regularly & some offered to meet us there & show us the ropes (unfortunately our dates didn't coincide). You might look on ScubaBoard for some of those folks or google-up the local dive club.

There's only about a 2-hour window when the tide is right before the strong current runs in or out the pass & messes up the vis. So you'll want to research the tides & plan for a day when you can go at "high slack tide".

During our dive, several snorkeling cattle boats arrived & when we surfaced we were surrounded by at least 100 snorkelers!!! (It was a busy time of year though)

I stopped by Emerald Coast & ScubaTech. I was impressed with ScubaTech, helped me resolve an equipment problem & refused to charge a dime (quick fix). Got my air there - $5 fill, quick service, no hot-fills.

Both ops will take you out the artificial reefs or wrecks. The Ms Louise tugboat is not far offshore, but there are others, I don't remember them all. I'll probably go out with them next summer.

Check out Sandpiper Cove condos for a place to stay if you are going to be there for a week. I've stayed there three times - really nice & good deal. You can find a lot of units being rented by-owner at ..VRBOŽ is Vacation Rentals by OwnerŽ Vacation Homes Rentals by Owner (http://www.vrbo.com)

reeldive
10-27-2007, 21:34
Got your own boat?? or r u looking for a ride? will share my numbers with you if u plan to do it on your own. PM me

johnod
10-29-2007, 07:37
Does anyone know what the water temps in Panama City are during the month of January? I'll be in town the last few weeks for business and was hoping to posibally get some dives in. Thanks.

Dive-aholic
10-29-2007, 09:07
Not from experience since this will be my first winter here, but I hear the water temps are high 50s/low 60s at their coldest, which is probably in January.

Puffer Fish
10-29-2007, 10:30
As re: Destin

We did a dive at the Destin jetty last summer, had our own fish-n-ski boat to get us over to the finger jetty (inside the pass on the east side, if you have Google Earth you can see it)

You can get to the finger jetty by land & shore-dive it too, but there's a little bit of a hike acrosss the sand. There are some locals who dive it regularly & some offered to meet us there & show us the ropes (unfortunately our dates didn't coincide). You might look on ScubaBoard for some of those folks or google-up the local dive club.

There's only about a 2-hour window when the tide is right before the strong current runs in or out the pass & messes up the vis. So you'll want to research the tides & plan for a day when you can go at "high slack tide".

During our dive, several snorkeling cattle boats arrived & when we surfaced we were surrounded by at least 100 snorkelers!!! (It was a busy time of year though)

I stopped by Emerald Coast & ScubaTech. I was impressed with ScubaTech, helped me resolve an equipment problem & refused to charge a dime (quick fix). Got my air there - $5 fill, quick service, no hot-fills.

Both ops will take you out the artificial reefs or wrecks. The Ms Louise tugboat is not far offshore, but there are others, I don't remember them all. I'll probably go out with them next summer.

Check out Sandpiper Cove condos for a place to stay if you are going to be there for a week. I've stayed there three times - really nice & good deal. You can find a lot of units being rented by-owner at ..VRBOŽ is Vacation Rentals by OwnerŽ Vacation Homes Rentals by Owner (http://www.vrbo.com)
I dive out of Destin all year.. and yes it can get a bit cool in winter... I believe that 58 or so was the coldest last year (will check if someone wants to know the exact number).

Both shops in Destin are nice, but I dive with scubatech more (they let me take flounder).

The jetties tend to be difficult to dive during the winter, as the high tide is usually at night (not sure I understand why this is, but it is)...but it makes one really neat night dive spot.

Not beginner diving out in the gulf, but a fair number of really neat locations, if the seas and the currents permit..

moosicman
10-29-2007, 20:04
As re: Destin

We did a dive at the Destin jetty last summer, had our own fish-n-ski boat to get us over to the finger jetty (inside the pass on the east side, if you have Google Earth you can see it)

You can get to the finger jetty by land & shore-dive it too, but there's a little bit of a hike acrosss the sand. There are some locals who dive it regularly & some offered to meet us there & show us the ropes (unfortunately our dates didn't coincide). You might look on ScubaBoard for some of those folks or google-up the local dive club.

There's only about a 2-hour window when the tide is right before the strong current runs in or out the pass & messes up the vis. So you'll want to research the tides & plan for a day when you can go at "high slack tide".

During our dive, several snorkeling cattle boats arrived & when we surfaced we were surrounded by at least 100 snorkelers!!! (It was a busy time of year though)

I stopped by Emerald Coast & ScubaTech. I was impressed with ScubaTech, helped me resolve an equipment problem & refused to charge a dime (quick fix). Got my air there - $5 fill, quick service, no hot-fills.

Both ops will take you out the artificial reefs or wrecks. The Ms Louise tugboat is not far offshore, but there are others, I don't remember them all. I'll probably go out with them next summer.

Check out Sandpiper Cove condos for a place to stay if you are going to be there for a week. I've stayed there three times - really nice & good deal. You can find a lot of units being rented by-owner at ..VRBOŽ is Vacation Rentals by OwnerŽ Vacation Homes Rentals by Owner (http://www.vrbo.com)
I dive out of Destin all year.. and yes it can get a bit cool in winter... I believe that 58 or so was the coldest last year (will check if someone wants to know the exact number).

Both shops in Destin are nice, but I dive with scubatech more (they let me take flounder).

The jetties tend to be difficult to dive during the winter, as the high tide is usually at night (not sure I understand why this is, but it is)...but it makes one really neat night dive spot.

Not beginner diving out in the gulf, but a fair number of really neat locations, if the seas and the currents permit..


they let you take flounder? are you spearfishing when you go out diving?

mike_s
10-29-2007, 22:18
they let you take flounder? are you spearfishing when you go out diving?


The times I've been out on Scubatech's boat, they've let people spear fish or lobster.

Puffer Fish
10-30-2007, 00:25
they let you take flounder? are you spearfishing when you go out diving?


The times I've been out on Scubatech's boat, they've let people spear fish or lobster.
yea, but flounder are best taken with a pole spear.. I don't use a band unless it is all locals on the boat... not safe with a lot of new divers.

johnod
10-31-2007, 12:31
they let you take flounder? are you spearfishing when you go out diving?


The times I've been out on Scubatech's boat, they've let people spear fish or lobster.

Where is a good place to look for laws on lobstering? Is there a season, or a limit you can catch? What thickness of wetsuit would you guys recommend for January waters in Panama City? I have a 4/3mm and a 3mm core jumpsuit. Thanks guys.

mike_s
10-31-2007, 16:04
they let you take flounder? are you spearfishing when you go out diving?


The times I've been out on Scubatech's boat, they've let people spear fish or lobster.

Where is a good place to look for laws on lobstering? Is there a season, or a limit you can catch? What thickness of wetsuit would you guys recommend for January waters in Panama City? I have a 4/3mm and a 3mm core jumpsuit. Thanks guys.


There is a season depending on the lobster in Florida. Carribbean lobsters you can only catch certain times of the year. Shovelhead lobsters are open all year I think. You will need a fishing license unless the boat you are on has a commerical license that you would fall under.

You should get all info from FWC as they are the ones that make the rules. Lobster Information (http://myfwc.com/marine/lobster.htm)


Lobster season for Spiney Lobster is July 25th and 26th for 2007 for sport seasons (or mini season) and Regular spiny lobster season is August 6 through March 31
Posssesion limit is 6 per person per day.
Lobster carapace must be 3 inches. Possesion of a measure device is required.
No taking of egg bearing females. (I didn't see that listed in the rules, but they will bust you for it).
A recreational saltwater license and a crawfish permit
Spearing of lobster is not allowed
use of rebreathers in spearfishing is illegal, but I don't know about it using it to hand catch lobsters... FYI.



As for January, a 4/3 with a 3mm core would be a little chilly for me. but ok for some folks. just depends on how you handle the cold.

Puffer Fish
10-31-2007, 16:17
they let you take flounder? are you spearfishing when you go out diving?


The times I've been out on Scubatech's boat, they've let people spear fish or lobster.

Where is a good place to look for laws on lobstering? Is there a season, or a limit you can catch? What thickness of wetsuit would you guys recommend for January waters in Panama City? I have a 4/3mm and a 3mm core jumpsuit. Thanks guys.
I would pretty much forget about spiny lobster, they are there, but in very deep water.. shovelnose is another issue and they are common (assuming you know how to see them). Go to our friends in and around Ft Lauderdale for lobster... Mobile bay for stone crabs... Destin for Flound and shovelnose...

mike_s
10-31-2007, 20:16
I would pretty much forget about spiny lobster, they are there, but in very deep water.. shovelnose is another issue and they are common (assuming you know how to see them). Go to our friends in and around Ft Lauderdale for lobster... Mobile bay for stone crabs... Destin for Flound and shovelnose...


good point. most spiney around the "popular dive sites" in Destin or Panama City are gone. Especially to the sites the charter boats go to.

I have seen some divers pull up some on a couple of sites... but rare.
most of the few times I've seen it they are shovels though.

I've seen Flounder in Destin. Caught one with my hand in may :D


send a PM to SUPRBUGMAN though. he's much more into spearfishing and can tell you more about where to go for that than I can though.

johnod
11-01-2007, 10:35
Thanks for the huge response. you guys are loaded with info.

Puffer Fish
11-01-2007, 13:01
I would pretty much forget about spiny lobster, they are there, but in very deep water.. shovelnose is another issue and they are common (assuming you know how to see them). Go to our friends in and around Ft Lauderdale for lobster... Mobile bay for stone crabs... Destin for Flound and shovelnose...


good point. most spiney around the "popular dive sites" in Destin or Panama City are gone. Especially to the sites the charter boats go to.

I have seen some divers pull up some on a couple of sites... but rare.
most of the few times I've seen it they are shovels though.

I've seen Flounder in Destin. Caught one with my hand in may :D


send a PM to SUPRBUGMAN though. he's much more into spearfishing and can tell you more about where to go for that than I can though.
Know he well, and have been diving with him... flounder season is now, by the way.....

moosicman
11-01-2007, 16:04
is spearfishing "common" during dive operations.....not at all to offend, but i don't want to dive with this activity in the water, which would attract predators to the area to feed...i would prefer to dive where spearfishing is not taking place.

Puffer Fish
11-01-2007, 17:38
is spearfishing "common" during dive operations.....not at all to offend, but i don't want to dive with this activity in the water, which would attract predators to the area to feed...i would prefer to dive where spearfishing is not taking place.
There are two dive operations, both are great friends with each other (what a surprise).

One never allows any spear fishing. One, will allow spear fishing... depending on the people and the location.

I don't spear fish with any new divers or tourist's on the boat. For exactly the reason you are pointing out... Nothing takes the fun out of dive for some people like getting hit by a shark...

Note: Tourists refers to visitors to the area, just wanting to go out and see the gulf. They are sightseeing, and have a right to do that in peace.

Also, there are a lot of locations that they would never allow spear fishing, the liberty ship, for example..it has a very healthy population of bull sharks...

mike_s
11-01-2007, 17:43
I've been on ScubaTech charters where they allowed spearing, which also invited in a few bull sharks. They made some close passes, but didn't hit anyone. But the folks with "bait" in their hands (freshly speared) sure did keep their attention up.

johnod
11-01-2007, 18:59
man that sounds like fun. sure would keep you on your fins...

moosicman
11-01-2007, 20:01
is spearfishing "common" during dive operations.....not at all to offend, but i don't want to dive with this activity in the water, which would attract predators to the area to feed...i would prefer to dive where spearfishing is not taking place.
There are two dive operations, both are great friends with each other (what a surprise).

One never allows any spear fishing. One, will allow spear fishing... depending on the people and the location.

I don't spear fish with any new divers or tourist's on the boat. For exactly the reason you are pointing out... Nothing takes the fun out of dive for some people like getting hit by a shark...

Note: Tourists refers to visitors to the area, just wanting to go out and see the gulf. They are sightseeing, and have a right to do that in peace.

Also, there are a lot of locations that they would never allow spear fishing, the liberty ship, for example..it has a very healthy population of bull sharks...


What courtesy!!! You guys on this board are a step above the rest!...thanks for the tip pufferfish....may you bag a good healthy meal next time you are out!

Puffer Fish
11-01-2007, 20:22
is spearfishing "common" during dive operations.....not at all to offend, but i don't want to dive with this activity in the water, which would attract predators to the area to feed...i would prefer to dive where spearfishing is not taking place.
There are two dive operations, both are great friends with each other (what a surprise).

One never allows any spear fishing. One, will allow spear fishing... depending on the people and the location.

I don't spear fish with any new divers or tourist's on the boat. For exactly the reason you are pointing out... Nothing takes the fun out of dive for some people like getting hit by a shark...

Note: Tourists refers to visitors to the area, just wanting to go out and see the gulf. They are sightseeing, and have a right to do that in peace.

Also, there are a lot of locations that they would never allow spear fishing, the liberty ship, for example..it has a very healthy population of bull sharks...


What courtesy!!! You guys on this board are a step above the rest!...thanks for the tip pufferfish....may you bag a good healthy meal next time you are out!

If you are going to be down in the area, just drop a PM... I get down there a lot (family), and know both shops well. I'll just take pictures.

http://i78.photobucket.com/albums/j98/garinj/angelfish4.jpg

Puffer Fish
11-01-2007, 20:28
I forgot to say that the picture was taken off Destin.. in around 70 ft ...on the reef off of the liberty ship... one of my favorite spots.

moosicman
11-01-2007, 20:32
you can bet i will puffer fish...my brother-in-law has a condo down at destin so i imagine i will get down there a good bit! it would be nice to have someone show me the way around the scuba world of destin!