Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
The weekend weather 4cast looks great and if it stays that way look for the outstanding reports to continue. For those anglers fishing inshore, redfish, Spanish mackerel, flounder, and nearshore red snapper will be the best bets. Having plenty of live bait and changing tactics and presentation when necessary will make for more successful days.
The beaches will be holding bluefish, Spanish mackerel and some king mackerel (areas near Panama City and Mexico Beach are seeing the best numbers), plus plenty of fun fish like ladyfish and hard-tails to keep the anglers with short attention spans busy. Fishing shallow sandbars in the beautiful clear emerald green waters is can be a moment to always remember. Anglers on vacation can have a great time with a simple set up. A light tackle rod with 8 to 12 pound line, a spool of 20-pound fluorocarbon, and a few holographic plastic lures is all that’s needed. Wading out and casting on and near the second sandbar and its edges should result in some good action. A light jigging action should entice hits, however changing retrieval speed and jerks can help too!
On the flats anglers will find a pretty good speckled trout bite, many will be 14 to 22 inch, yet those that stay persistent should find a few over 24 inches. Those to the East (Panama City Beach – Cape San Blas) will see the best quality of trout. The back water grass flats behind the Cape can be epic this time of year. Most of the larger trout will be caught using either larger sized finger mullet or top-waters early in the morning. The larger trout are often lazy fish and only feed when the water is cooler and the sun works in their favor. Getting up early and fishing late can make the difference between catching “old biggin’.”
Artificial fishermen prepare at the tackle shops, bait fishermen will want to spend some time to have a healthy amount. Nothing like a hot bite turning off due to no bait left. Live shrimp are good all-around bait and can be easily found in your local bait and tackle shops. Those looking for larger baits like finger mullet and mud minnows will want to spend some time working the shore lines near the bayous. Those fishing for flounder will especially want mud minnows.
Those heading a few miles off the beach for snapper will want to have a variety of dead and live bait. Almost any live bait will work well offshore, yet some seem to work better than others for different species. A quick trip to the bait boat will result in all you want, but spending some time around the buoys, sand bars, or shallow wrecks will yield a greater variety. Small number 6 to number 8 sabiki’s will do the trick for most.
The offshore bite has been great to say the least. Some anglers (including myself) wish there was a better king mackerel bit in our area, yet there is plenty to capitalize on. One species to note: triggerfish closed June 10 and will not open until Aug 1st, be sure to check both local and federal regulations at www.myfwc.com. The best bet for bottom fishermen is still red snapper, mangrove snapper, vermillion snapper, and scamp grouper. For those looking to troll the water looks great and some great water can be found close. High speeds are must this year and not pulling one to or from the fishing grounds could result in missing the “day maker.” The best bites have been coming from rips in water between 125 to 450 feet.
Even though it’s called bottom fishing most of the above species will be best caught mid-water. This time of year red and mangrove snapper will hold in the top 40 feet when excited. When the fish hold up high it can often be a challenge to get them to bite the traditional knocker set up. The fish tend to be a lot wearier and very picky. I have personally witnessed large red snapper pass up 80 pound leaders over and over, eating every bait around it, only when the leader size got to 40 pounds did they start to eat. A no weight set up (flat lining), small live bait, small circle hook (4/0 to 5/0) and fluorocarbon is a great way to watch 15 pound snapper feed 20 feet down. Mono will work, but tends to float more than fluorocarbon plus fluorocarbon is a lot harder for them to see and more abrasion resistant.
Those trolling will want to make sure they have high speed lures out as close in as 8 miles. The number of pelagics around should get anyone excited. The wahoo bite continues and mahi-mahi are around. Working the sides of weed lines with blue and white islanders or naked ballyhoo should result in some decent fish. Unless you are fishing for chicken dolphins (small mahi-mahi) or tripletail boats will want to spend most of their trolling time 50 to 100 yards of to the sides or the rip. Those heading to the rigs should find plenty of smaller sized tuna and for a few lucky anglers a billfish, the horseshoe rigs to the far SW seem to be best the last two weeks. Tight lines and calm seas!