Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
The weather this week has been interesting the last week to say the least. A ridiculous cold front moved through mid week bringing temperatures in the 30’s and high winds. The cooler temperatures will more then likely play a role in regards to the fishing. The cooler nighttime temperatures will drop the water temperatures and start ushering on the fish to move towards winter spots. The best bets inshore will be sight casting at schools of crashing bull reds, soaking live shrimp around the bridges for slot redfish, or setting up a three to four rod spread on the beach for whiting and maybe a pompano. Offshore will be a little iffy with seas anywhere from two to five feet. If the weather does part now is the time to get and chase some of those big vermillion and scamp grouper. For the hunters archery season is in full swing and the cold front should have the deer on the move. Most of the action has been early to mid morning, but hopefully the full moon passing will start to change things.
The inshore bite will see the largest impact at first from the cold spell in addition to the bait around the passes and buoys. Keep an eye out for schools of redfish. The best reports have come from along the beaches, but it wont be long before they move into the bays and provide some consistent action. 2-3oz buck-tail jigs will allow you to make long cast in the wind as well as fish deeper in the water column if the fish sink. The best advice for those new to this style of fishing is to do the best job possible not to run or drift over the feeding school which is almost a guaranteed way to push them down. Redfish are pretty tough, however the quicker you can get a pick and release them the better off the fish will be. For slot fish, the best bet will be fishing the deeper pockets around the bridges and deeper docks. Live shrimp on a Carolina rig or jig head fished tight against the structure will give the best chance at fresh redfish for dinner.
November first marked the close of amberjack until 2020, but there are still plenty of delicious fish to focus in on. This is my favorite time of the year to get out and focus in on the larger vermillion snapper and delicious scamp grouper. Both species can be finicky and leader shy at times and down sizing leaders to 40-pounds will get more bites. Vermillion really key in on small cut baits like squid and mackerel. Mackerel is one of their favorites, but how you hook it can play a big part in the cooler level at the end of the day. The best bet is to filet both sides off of a northern mackerel then cut into 1inch sections. Double hooking with help greatly with hook ups and hooking the bait so the skin is inside and the meat on the outside will make a huge difference.
Scamp will eat dead strip baits and whole squid but the best way is to use live bait. Cigar minnows and smaller hard-tails are ideal but baits like mud minnows and pin-fish will work too. The best bet for both species will be fishing the deeper live bottom in 200-350ft. Be sure to start fishing on the bottom and as the vermillion fire up the bite should rise up off the bottom to as high as 50 feet up. For scamps the name of the game is keeping that live bait tight to the reef, and be ready for the thump at any time. If they get a head start they may get you in the rocks and make it very difficult to get them out. Keep an eye on the weather and play things safe. Tight lines and calm seas!