May 26, 2023
By Capt. Si Nelson & Capt. Mark Hotza
Perdido Key to Cape San Blas
Capt. Si Nelson & Capt. Mark Hotza discuss fishing from Perdido Key to Cape San Blas, including Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe
May 26 - 28
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Inshore & Nearshore
The bite is wild right now! The bay bite is great. Plenty of trout and redfish on the flats and schools of big jacks are cruising all around. The drop-offs and deep water are holding bluefish and Spanish as well as ladyfish here and there. The mangrove snapper are here and easy to find. Small baits and light leader around any structure is probably going to pay off. Schools of reds are working the pinch points in the pass with consistency. The bay is very sharky right now. I feel like I’m seeing more around the bay than I have in years past, however, the lack of rain has given us beautifully clear water, so that may have more to do with increased visibility.
The Gulf is getting a great push of blue water and is extremely calm. There are fish everywhere. All the usuals, but the almaco jacks and mahi are all over the place. The extreme visibility is making for some amazing sight-fishing opportunities, even in deep water. Lots of bluefish, ladyfish, bull reds and some pompano on the beaches are making for some epic wade fishing experiences.
Capt. Si Nelson
Nelson Guide Company
Nearshore, Reefs & Offshore
So I think last time I wrote a report it was about how excited I was for warmer weather and the winds to die down. Well, that’s here. And we’re having some hot, flat days, and there are more and more fish to be caught everyday. I’ll try to make this quick. First – Bait. Bait is everywhere - in the pass, on the lip, the channel markers, and was pretty easy to catch until the new moon hit. You’ll see 10-100 boats catching bait in the morning, it will make it pretty easy to find them. Keep in mind there are some nearshore structure areas (snorkel reefs, etc) that hold great amounts of bait and sometimes they are Ly’s, aka pogies or alewifes, and they’re easy to catch!
Most popular bite – vermillion and triggers. This year seems pretty easy for these fish. Seems like we could have dozens of mingos on every trip, pulling them in two at a time on chicken rigs on most days. I’m not big on the word “limit”– in my opinion, just keep what you need. No one cares about the table picture of 60 dead mingos that are 10” long.
I normally check for kings around the spring like this but, like last year, the king bite hasn’t been too great for me and I think that’s true for the guys on the pier too, at least from what I’ve heard. The pier guys are out there almost 24/7 so they’re a great set of eyes to see what’s running the beaches. I’ve only had a few on live herring over the last few weeks. And I spent some time to find those! Seems like tuna has slowed down too. I had an awesome April with multiple blackfin but haven’t hooked one in two weeks or so. That flat-line bite just hasn’t been there for me. Hopefully with water temps heating up those mahi will show up like last year.
That being said, I have heard the bite east of the pass has been much better as far as chicken mahi and also black snapper in state waters. This time last year, I was all over black snappers. I hadn’t seen them much over the last few weeks until this new moon passed. I’ve seen more and heard more reports of better mangroves caught in the Gulf, which is exciting. That will give us something fun to do over the next couple of weeks until red snapper opens up.
A lot of scattered grass in deeper water. The week of flat calm days caused some bigger patches to form and I’ve seen a lot of wahoo and some stud dolphin pictures on Facebook. I went over the edge twice– I think I’m the only person who went out there to troll and didn’t have a bite. But those are the days that make me want to go fishing again. If everyday was easy, I’d get bored. It’s exciting that things are picking back up.
Only a couple of weeks until red snapper opens, but there are plenty of other species and fish to catch. Don’t forget about them! Some of them taste a lot better, too.
Capt. Mark Hotza
Destin Fishing Captain of the Year 2020
30A Light Tackle
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida