St. Vincent Island to Steinhatchee
Includes Apalachicola, St. George Island, Carabelle, St. Marks and Keaton Beach
The Forgotten Coast is still heating up as we enter the last full week of July, and for some, the last week of summer. I have talked to loads of people from Atlanta and northern states that had to make up several ice and snow days, which gave the kids less days of summer due to the make- up days. It flies by so fast when you’re having fun they say, and I guess I’ve been having too much of it. Our weather and water conditions have been great this year and the rain has been somewhat slack, keeping the water clear and beautiful. This is a two edge sword for us because the better and clearer the water, the more the fish can see our baits and us.
Live baits are key at this time of year for several factors including the stealth factor. Most fish in our waters are feeding very early and very late and sometimes after dark. Proper presentation can mean the difference from an OK day to a stellar day right now. As the water gets hotter, the baits get smaller. This is true with shrimp right now. The bay shrimp that the baits guys are catching are grass shrimp and a few smaller white shrimp, mostly 1-to 2-inches and this means that if we use the live shrimp, we must change out our hook sizes to match the hatch. A smaller and lighter presentation is a great way to land more fish, and some trophies are being caught this month in our region. Larger trout are in deeper water with the occasional trout over 25-inches on the flats at daybreak and at dusk. We have seen a trend of fish moving due to the numbers of scallop goers in our waters and down the coast to St. Marks. In St. Joe Bay, the trout are feeding right in the middle of the scallop grounds, making for a displaced bunch of fish. These fish are constantly on the move and are not in the same places often right now. The redfish are following suit and I have seen some huge schools in St. Joe and in Indian Pass this week. Indian Pass has a resident redfish population feeding on fresh oysters and crabs living in the oyster bars. This is why the fishing is so good and with low tides, these fish are nearly untouchable by boat. Wading and kayaking is sometimes the only way to access these fish and a fly rod may be best of all.
Scalloping in St. Joe Bay is at its peak from visitors this month and it will soon be over for many of them in a few weeks. I like to start out my season in mid-August because the scallops have started to mature and get bigger. Not many people are finding huge shells right now but the super moon last weekend has the shells growing to good size right now. Good numbers and proper management have seen an increase in the population and the FWC reports are encouraging for now. I am not sure that opening the season for tourist reasons is a long-term gain for any of us, why can’t they do that for red snapper? If you can’t find any scallops in St. Joe Bay, try looking north near the eagle Harbor side under the boat docks and on the flats in that area. I have scouted it out for several weeks and seen plenty to go around, just try and pick up larger shells.
Offshore action is pretty hot this week, as kingfish have invaded our area in huge numbers. It doesn’t take a skilled angler to land a trophy fish right now from Mexico Beach clear to dog Island. I have so many king fish reports that I can’t report on them all. I have seen several fish over 30-pounds so far and I think we could get into the 40-plus-pound fish offshore this month. Slow trolling or “bump” trolling and even drifting over near shore wrecks will produce good fish and fast. A flat line or drift rig is my favorite with a Northern Mackerel or Cigar minnow seems to always find one high in the water column. Gag grouper are showing up at the boat ramps in the west part of our region is good numbers. Most anglers are reporting good fish over live bottom 30-to 50-miles due south of Apalachicola and Cape San Blas fishing cut baits. In my last several trips, I have not had very good luck on live bait, except for the endangered red snapper. I have been fishing huge Boston Mackerel with great success for red grouper and gags in about 150 to 190 feet of water. The bite is slow due to water temps, but the fish are there. Try vertical jigs and deep water jigs also to get past the snapper. Plenty of summer left for the taking, so come on down for some tight lines and big smiles!