Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
This weekend will bring light winds, decent temperatures, and normal tides, all the makings for a great day on the water. Most inshore anglers fishing the bays and passes will have the best luck chasing redfish and sheepshead. Anglers in the backwaters, especially around the rivers will find a decent amount of trout and a few smaller slot redfish. The water is still a little cool, but it won’t be long before boats are cruising the beaches and anglers are lined up on the pier looking for cobia. Until then, anglers on the piers and beaches will want to focus in on pompano and redfish.
Anglers in the eastern part of our region will see the first arrivals of those big brown slobs known as cobia. So be sure to keep an eye on reports out of Mexico Beach and Panama City. Until the water warms just a little and the fish begin to move anglers will want to bring rods and gear for pompano and redfish. The bite at the beach hasn’t been real hot, yet most of those wetting a line are finding targeted species. A pretty standard set up for pompano fishermen would be two rods, the first with a pompano jig. The second with a two-drop rig, smaller hooks baited with sand fleas or peeled shrimp, and a pyramid weight at the bottom. Look for the most action around the piers and shallow ledges near outflows. In between pompano bites anglers are reporting a few redfish, both slot sized and over slot.
Those boats out fishing the backwaters will want to stick to the rivers and creeks. Trout and smaller slot redfish are still stacked in the deeper pockets. This type of fishing can make for a great experience for new anglers and a memorable one for those taking them. A light tackle rod, 2 to 3 foot leader of 10-to 15-pound fluorocarbon, and a 4/0 or smaller hook is a good start. Live shrimp is by far the best bet and anglers will want to add a split shot or two if fishing deeper waters and a float if fishing shallower banks in the afternoon sun. Look for the action to heat up in the afternoons on the banks and points. Schooling bait on the surface is a good indication that hungry fish are near. The bridges in these areas are also good places to try and can accessed by most everyone.
Bay anglers will have the best luck chasing redfish and sheepshead. The good early spring bite for sheepshead hasn’t really taken off yet, but its not far away and any angler heading out now will want to be prepared with live shrimp and fiddler crabs. The docks on the intercoastal and just inside bayous are holding redfish and with the neap tide pretty much over they should be hungry. Live shrimp on a jighead is definitely the way to go. Those fishing the passes and jetties will find the fish have been a little more cooperative and fishing both close to the structure and off to the sides can be productive.
The bite the last few days seems to be getting better and with the neap tide over it should go back to normal. That means anglers can look for quality fish that are usually deep in and around shallower wrecks. Trophy amberjack, triggerfish, and vermillion snapper are all possible in state waters. Anglers fishing a little deeper should find more of the same with the addition of some blackfin. Bluewater anglers will want to plan for a long run. Some anglers are finding success at the closer floating rigs, however most have found the majority of the tuna and wahoo out 120 miles or more.
Fishing the shallower wrecks and reefs in state waters can be a ton of fun during this time of year. Anglers will have to be prepared to catch and release a few red snapper, yet quality amberjack, triggerfish, and vermillion snapper are possible. Amberjack anglers will want to have a stout rod and reel with heavy line. An ideal live bait rig would be a worn out old 10 to 12-ounce egg weight above the swivel (black not shiny), a 15 to 18 foot, 120 pound leader, 9-11/0 eagle claw circle hook and a huge live bait nose hooked. Vermillion and triggerfish anglers will want to try a variety of small cut bait, with squid usually being the favorite.
Further offshore anglers will find quality amberjack lurking around the edge. Large live baits are a must. Look for the jacks to be holding 30 to 40 feet off the bottom. Nice sized vermillion are around, just be prepared to fish deep for them. The majority of the lager “magnum” vermillion are coming from 280 to 400 feet. Anyone fishing Federal waters will want to check the website and become familiar with the 20 Fathom Rule.
Further offshore, a few anglers have found some hot spots for tuna around the shallower floating rigs and further out near the drill ship anglers should find better numbers of the same. Live bait is hard to come by this time of year, but a must if heading out that far. In near the shallower rigs anglers will want to be sure to pull a few diving lures and wahoo plugs. The migration is motion and it won’t be long before boats in the Western part of our region see some epic days on the water. Tight lines and calm seas!