Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
The weather forecast looks about as good as it gets and should make for an epic weekend. The best bet will be taking advantage of the cooler temps and light breeze and make it a full day on the water. Anglers will find hungry school sized trout on the flats and larger trout around the deeper docks, bridges, and jetties. Redfish anglers will want to focus in on the docks in water 4 to 5 feet and deeper along the inter-coastal and southern part of our bays. Anglers looking for flounder to complete their inshore slam will want to focus in on the sandy docks and ledges along the intracoastal.
Trout anglers have reported a slightly slower bite for the big ones, yet lots of slot-sized fish are still around. A good all around rig would be a live shrimp on a small jighead (1/16 to ¼-ounce), a 3 to 4 foot, 15 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a popping cork. I personally like the way the “equalizer” popping corks work, but many fishermen prefer the “Cajun Thunder” brands, which are weighted to help with casting. Regardless of which one you choose a natural presentation and drift through the flats should get bites. Those looking for the larger trout will want to try using smaller sized croakers under a popping cork around the docks and freelined around the bridges.
The redfish bite has been hot and the best bite seems to happen mid morning or early evening around the deeper docks and bay structure. Live shrimp on a heavier jighead is a great choice. If shrimp are hard to come by anglers will want to substitute the shrimp for gulp bait. Another great lure would be a spoon, fishermen in our region often over look a spoon, but these lures can be deadly. Slow rolling them around the docks and edges of the flats is always worth a try.
Some really nice flounder have been reported around the deeper redfish docks and sandy ledges near the passes and jetties. Look for the best results to come from those gigging, yet plenty of great fish can be caught using live shrimp or bull minnows. Anglers will want to soak baits on the bottom, using short leader and stout gear. The shorter leaders will help keep baits closer to the bottom, giving anglers the best shot at catching a flattie.
The offshore bite has been pretty good one day and challenging the next. Those heading out will want to have a variety of baits, both live and dead. Anglers heading out this weekend will want to focus in on the larger wrecks and live bottom areas. Vermillion snapper, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, scamp grouper and king mackerel will be the best species to chase and fill the coolers. Look for the best bites to come from natural bottom areas in 125 feet and deeper.
Anglers in the know will tell you there are very few fish that taste cleaner or better then a vermillion snapper. These fish are often finicky and can be hard to really focus in on, but once located and figured out most people will tell you 10 vermillion snapper is way better then two red snappers. A 40 to 60 pound two hook rig with an 8 to 16-ounce bank sinker on the bottom is good rig to start with and small cut squid and northern mackerel will be the best choice for the hooks. Look for these fish to hold tight to the bottom at first and move up in the water column as the fish begin to bite.
Grouper fishermen will want to spend some time catching live bait before heading out. Croakers, cigar minnows, threadfins and smaller hard tails will all work. Anglers will have the best luck grouper fishing using a slip lead above a swivel, and a 5 to 8 feet 100-pound leader. Keeping these baits close to the bottom and continuously adjusting to stay near/on the bottom will give anglers the best chance at these bruisers. Stout gear is a must especially for the gags and the first 5 to 10 cranks of the bottom are really important in keeping these fish from getting into the bottom.
Further offshore the water is definitely cleaning up, but the reports have been mixed. It seems the best pelagic water is still around 120-plus-miles out. I have heard good and bad reports from the oil rigs, yet most heading that way are finding some school sized yellowfin in the 20-to 60-pound range. Live hard-tails will be your best bait but chunking and trolling will work too. Tight lines and calm seas!