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Florida Panhandle Weekend Fishing 4Cast

Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe

July 18-20


Tyler Massey of Hot Spots Charters with a nice beach redfish caught with his son near Ft. Pickens in Pensacola Beach Fl.

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! {850-529-8655}

  • Rich Smith

    Great info, thank you. We just moved to the Emerald coast from PA and are still learning
    saltwater fishing. Keep up the great info. I will check back as often as I can. Looking for good info
    on 2 main places, 1 is the pier at Fort Walton Beach, the other is called the Lagoon, I thingk it is at the Destin bridge, near crab island. What is good there ( Lagoon) at this time of year and when are good times to go there?
    thank you again and keep up the good work.

    • Chaz Heller

      Thanks Rich! The pier is always a great place and as the summer gets closer the action will heat up. Cobia are just around the corner, but will be a few more weeks before the its at its peak. Spanish and king mackerel should also be showing shortly after the cobia. In most any Lagoon, bayou, canal, etc you should be able to find trout, redfish, and flounder. Working dock to dock with a trolling motor is the ideal set up. Live bait will work great but a jig/gulp combo and 15-20lb leader is a more versitile set up. Spoons are also a good choice, just be sure to keep your retrieve to a slow roll during the cold months.

  • Alvin White

    Thanks for all your work in preparing these reports. I mainly surf fish Perdido Key, and your reports are my way of keeping up with “the bite”. Thanks again.

  • Devin Thompson

    I just found your report for the first time.I will be back in the future to follow you.I live in SW Georgia ,and fish the Port St.Joe area when possible, but the weather this year has not coroporated.Do you have a report to post for the June 1st weekend?I fished in March and April caught a few flounder and Spanish ,but no trout .This time last year I killed the trout ,but no luck this year.Anyone catching trout?

  • Bradley Wilson

    I plan on fishing at Grayton Beach out of my Kayak the week of July the 12th. I was reading your update here and was curious about the “Safety equipment needed for Mackerel fishing” Would you mind going over that? Also what baits / leaders should I bring?

  • Alysa

    Going to Perdido Key in December. What usually bites during that month?

  • Jeff

    Anything biting aroun St. Andrews bay

  • Cody

    im a skinny water fisherman from south texas. heading down to port saint joe this weekend for my first time. I’m used to wading and spot casting trout, black drum, and reds, and I’m pretty stuck on berkley gulp. any other advice besides live bait techniques?

  • Paul Baker
  • Bobbyg123

    Looking for a place to stay in the Destin area for an upcoming fishing trip. Can’t seem to find any fish camps/cottages like they have in the Keys. Anyone have any recommendations? No frills plan to be fishing.

  • pagsfish

    I’m going to be staying in Destin the week of 4/12 thru 4/19 and would like to share a charter trip. I’d be up for either inshore or offshore but probably not a bottom fishing trip. Anyone interested give me a call; 508-737-0738

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