Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Includes Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
February 19 – 21
Weather, weather, weather, in these winter months along the panhandle. The weather continues to play to biggest role when it comes to getting on the water and finding the fish. This week’s cold front was one of the worst ones of the year, dropping temperatures below freezing, but we made it through and the weekend looks promising! Between the rain, cold snaps, and gloomy days we have all been experiencing, the weekend forecast looks very favorable for everyone to wet a hook and get out on the water. Sunny skies and low winds are ahead for the panhandle and while it won’t be in the 70’s just yet, it will be warm enough for most of us Floridians to brave it out!
The inshore bite throughout the panhandle remains in the winter pattern, and the most consistent bite through the ups and downs of the weather has been on the flats. While the bite is a bit tougher in the winter months, the grass flats will have fish on them year-round. You will not find the same numbers as you do in the warmer months, but the fish are there and typically you will find bigger fish than normal. Schools of fish have been spotted pushing up into flats as shallow as 1-2 feet, trying to soak up any bit of sun there is to offer. When you see these schools, keep in mind the cold water brings down their metabolism which makes them very lackadaisical and looking for an easy meal they do not have to expend a lot of energy to get. The best presentation is going to be slow and steady. Make it easy for the fish. Crawl your bait just fast enough to get his attention with light ticks. The lure of choice has been a 3″ DOA shrimp or a 3″ pinfish Z-Man paddle tail. A few other tips for winter sight fishing; add some scent to your lure and lead the fish further than you normally would. The water is much clearer this time of year which makes for much spookier fish.
If sight fishing is not your thing or the weather does not allow it, the creek mouths have also been producing for redfish and trout. Find those deeper areas around the mouth of the creeks and work them good before moving on to the next spot. Also, the sheepshead bite is still good and getting better every week. Most have been found on docks and bridge pilings closest to the Gulf.
The seas look to be laying down across the panhandle for Saturday and picking back up on Sunday, so make sure you check all your resources to make sure it is safe to get out for your vessel. The go to for bottom fishing remains to be vermillion snapper. Cut bait and a two-hook rig is the best set up for catching a cooler full of these tasty fillets. If you can get your hands on some live pinfish, throw those down for a fun fight with red snapper or grouper. Although you cannot keep them right now, they make for a fun fight, photo, and release! Always remember, if you are bottom fishing and catch anything you must throw back, make sure you handle the fish with care, quickly take a photo, and vent the fish before releasing them back to the depths, this will give them the best opportunity to survive and gain a few pounds before you come back to catch them in the summer. I’ll see you out there this weekend, be safe and tight lines!