Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
Something about cool winter mornings and crisp afternoon air can make for some great days on the water. I still prefer the hot and heat, but the short breaks are nice at times. It looks like sometime Saturday afternoon or evening a front will be moving through with strong North winds behind it. Friday and Saturday morning will offer the best conditions. If you can get out, now is the time! The fish are hungry and the action is pretty steady. The best bets will be red-fish around the bays and bridges, flounder near the passes and shallow wrecks, and whiting running down the beach.
The whiting run has been epic the last week. Its a very under rated fish. It provides lots of action, easy to catch, and great fried with grits. Look for most of the action to come from around the deeper pockets between the shore and outer sandbar. A two drop rig works great with 3oz pyramid weight and either sand-fleas or shrimp. Using multiple rods will let u fish different distances from the shore and help to focus in on the where the bite is quicker. Be sure those sand spikes are in the ground well and the drag is set right. Lost rods from passing redfish or pompano can happen quick.
The fall flounder run is in motion and the fish will be working their way off the flats, out of the bays, and into the Gulf for the winter. The best bets will be fishing live bull or mud minnows on the bottom with a Carolina rig. The best places to try first will be the passes, jetties, and buoys. If the bite is slow it may be worth riding a few miles off the beach and trying the outlying areas of wrecks and reefs. Look for the fish to hang on the outskirts waiting in ambush in the sand.
The redfish bite just seems to never slow down. Bull reds seem to be everywhere even a few have been caught up the bays in the marsh areas. The easiest way to find them is to spot them on the water surface crashing in the bays and outside the passes. A 2-3oz buck-tail jig will be the best bet with a short piece of 60lb fluorocarbon to keep from chaffing off the fish. Look for slot fish to come from around the Hathaway Bridge in Panama City, 3mile in Pensacola, and Destin Bay bridge. A shrimp tipped heavier jig head up against the structure should work. Keep on the move checking each piling until u find them. Sea walls and deeper docks in the 18-25ft range are good ideas too.
Looks like the seas are going to be flat Friday and start building sometime Saturday. The local favorite thing is to stay overnight, well Fri/Sat looks perfect. There is good water close and its that time of year to find black-fin, wahoo, and even a white on the edge. Further out the tuna bite continues to be steady at the floating rigs like Marlin and Ram Powell. If bottom fishing is your thing the vermillion are biting and there are plenty of fish like black snapper, almaco jacks, and white snapper to help round out the box.
Bottom fishermen will want to spend a little bit of time catching a few live baits for bonus fish like king mackerel and scamp grouper, then head South as soon as possible. The more time fishing the better the box. Look for the larger deeper wrecks like the Orinskany and natural bottom area to produce vermillion and almaco jacks, while the natural bottom areas will be the best bet for scamp and white snapper. Be sure to keep a flat line out the water looks good and you never know when that stud mahi will show.
The ledges and drop offs between 200 to 900 feet can early winter hot spots for wahoo, white marlin, black-fin, and the occasional yellow-fin Trolling rigged ballyhoo behind blue and white islander lures is a staple around here. Live baiting hard-tails and cigar minnows can work well too. Down rigger fishing can be deadly this time of year, especially for wahoo holding 100ft down. Keep and eye on the surface for weed-lines debris or crashing fish. The only way to catch them is to get out and wet a line. Tight lines and calms seas!