Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
This weekend’s weather forecast is looking a little on the wet side, however anglers should get at least a couple of chances to get out and fish. Those fishing inshore this weekend will have the best success chasing redfish around the deeper docks, and sheepshead near the sea walls, bridges, and jetties. In addition to redfish and sheepshead anglers can find speckled trout near the river and creek mouths and white trout stacked up around the bridges.
Redfish anglers will want to start looking close to the boat ramps and around the deeper docks in the bayous and canals. Having live shrimp will make a big difference for everyone and for dock fishing a shrimp on light jig head is hard to beat. The deeper docks along the inter-coastal are also holding fish, just be prepared to fish a hand full or two before finding the fish. The bridges are also worth a try and seem to be a good place to be in-between tides. Near the passes anglers will really want to play the tides and fish both the ledges and jetties.
Sheepshead anglers will want to try three main places: The passes and jetties, bridges, and deeper docks along the intercoastal. Live shrimp or fiddler crabs are a must and those that really want to get the bite hot will bring oysters or a paddle to scrap of growing debris on bridges for chum. A small hook and 1 to 3 foot leader with swivel and a ½ to 1-ounce weight above the swivel should get the job done, but if the water is deeper or current is moving fast anglers may want to move up in weight size. Reports over the last week have the bite in Pensacola Pass really beginning to heat up and in Destin anglers report the same happening around the bridge.
Nearshore and Beaches
It’s finally that time of the year to bust out the big shirted jigs, stout spinning combos, and look for Cobia. The first fish was caught out of Destin this past week and it won’t be long before anglers across our region see fish! Also along the beaches, anglers should see a few pompano moving through and Spanish mackerel should show anytime. On near shore wrecks anglers will find plenty of live bait like cigar minnows and sardines. The larger baits haven’t shown up yet so anglers may want to stick with a #6 or #8 sabiki to catch bait.
Those new to cobia fishing may not understand the craze, but it only takes one fish to turn a regular fisherman into a hardcore cobia fishermen. Cobia can be caught a variety of ways with the main way being sight fishing. This can be done from a tower in a boat, off a pier, or I have even seen fishermen standing on the top of 16-foot ladder on the sandbar (latter not recommended). Another option is to anchor and chum over shallow near-shore wrecks with live baits out. Croakers, pinfish, and even catfish with the barb off will work, yet a properly hooked live eel will hardly ever be passed up.
Those fishing from shore will want to focus their efforts in on pompano. Two rods is ideal, but three can be even better. Ideally one or two rods will be set up for bait fishing on the bottom. An ideal rig would be a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader tied for a two-hook rig with a pyramid weight on the bottom. Sand fleas are preferred, live being best, yet peeled dead shrimp will work too. Another rod should be set up and ready with a pompano jig.
Offshore anglers will have a couple of choices. In state waters anglers are catching triggerfish, amberjack and a few red grouper. Further offshore in Federal waters its more of the same with a larger size amberjack and the addition of large vermillion snapper, and a few blackfin tunas near the edge. Out near the floating oil rigs anglers are catching yellowfin and from the sounds of it the bite is hot!
Anyone heading offshore to bottom fish this time of year will want to have a variety of bait and gear to match. Amberjack fishermen will want to either spend a few hours prior to the trip catching live bait or be prepared to jig. Large live baits are must if jack fishing and an ideal rig would be a 12 to 15 foot, 100 to 125 pound leader and 10 to 11/0 circle hook midway down the water column. Keeper jacks can be caught in state waters just be prepared to catch a few shorts jacks and red snapper in between. Further offshore in water 125 feet and deeper anglers will often find a larger sized jack and general rule is deeper means bigger.
Triggerfish anglers will want to check both live bottom areas and smaller man made reefs. Chicken coops can often be an ideal spot to find a few nice keeper triggerfish. Small cut squid and Boston mackerel will work best on a two-drop rig. Anglers will want to begin fishing on or near the bottom and work up a couple of cranks each drop as the bite fires up. If the short ones become too hungry and won’t stay off the hook it’s time to move. Often time the larger triggerfish will bite on the first couple of drops.
Vermillion snapper fishermen can find some keepers in state waters and a few anglers have reported them surprisingly close to the beach. However the majority of nice sized keeper vermillion will come from deeper waters. Look for the majority of magnum vermilions to be caught in water 175 feet and deeper. The hard part about fishing this time of year in these depths is the restriction on grouper. Be sure to check both www.myfwc.com and the Federal Gulf Fisheries website for current regulations.
Further offshore blue water fishermen are reporting some great tuna catches around the floating oil rigs. The majority of the catches are tuna, but a few have reported billfish and wahoo! Live bait is a must and checking the closer rigs for hardtails is always worth it. If the fish don’t cooperate be sure to downsize leaders and change up tactics. Tight lines and good luck!