February’s Best Bet… Light tackle and Fly fishing the crystal clear waters along the white sand beaches from Pensacola to Destin. Pick and choose the right days to go, don’t waste your time if it’s not clear skies and light north winds and a good incoming tide and you’ll have the perfect conditions. Make sure you have your Oakley polarized sunglasses – they sure do make seeing the fish a lot easier. Once the sun gets high enough so that you can see the fish, stay as far out from the beach as you can and still see the bottom in 2 to 3 feet of water. Drift, push pole or trolling motor if you’re moving, or anchor and let the fish come to you. Running the outboard is going to alert the fish that you’re there trying to catch them.
Next you’ll want to tackle up accordingly. Use 10 pound test spinning outfits for the Little Tunny, 20 pound set ups for the Bull Reds and Black Drum. Fly casters, 8 weights and 10 weights, will get the job done. I use mostly floating lines, although I’ll have a sinking line at the ready for the fish in 10 foot or deeper water. For the spin fishermen, have a small silver spoon or a glass minnow type jig tied on for the Little Tunny fly casters. There’s only one, Gummy Minnow. Little Tunny are sought-after as a sport fish due to its line-stripping 40 mph runs and hard fighting ability when hooked. For the Bull Reds and Black Drum I’ll use several different lures to try and fool them. One of my favorites is a ¾ to 1 ounce SPRO buck tail jig in the Magic Bus color.
Boat position and control is one of the most important things to focus on, especially when moving. Being able to see the fish is the most important thing to practice. Once you are skilled at seeing the fish and putting the boat in the right place the rest is a piece of cake! The fish are there for one reason – FOOD, and if you do your part right they will eat.
For the State Water reef fishermen, catching table fare is going to be slow. Nothing is open in February – pretty much all catch and release. I’ll still be dropping to the bottom structure for a Flounder here and there but that’s about it.
Spring Break starts the first of March and so do the Sheepshead. Emails and phone calls are on the rise over the last 2 weeks. It won’t be long before spring is in the air!
Wait on the right weather conditions; we will get some of those perfect days to do this. I look for the blue sky and light north wind days. This makes for the best conditions to head into the gulf and look for the winter Tiny Tunny, better known as Bo Bo’s, Bonito and False Albacore. There is little to no food value but a lot of fun fishing here. This is also very good practice to hone in on your sight fishing skills. This fish are feeding on the small bait fish that get real close to the surf, in 6 inches of water. The sun will warm the shallow water and that’s where the bait wants to get; hence this is where the fish will be. We locals call this Redneck Bone Fishing.
I’ll anchor up at a casting distance off the beach and sit and wait for the fish to come to me. Moving around just telegraphs the fish that you are there trying to catch them. This gives the angler a chance to see the fish coming and present the fly or lure to the fish in plenty of time to move it when the fish gets into sight of the lure. Start by easing down the beach looking for the washouts that are along the surf. Then position yourself on either end that best suits you to be able to cast to the opening where the water comes out of the washout. The water this time of the year is super clear so tackle down; I use 15 pound test fluorocarbon leaders and small flies and spoons. An 8 weight fly rod and 10 pound test spinning outfits are sufficient. Just make sure you have enough backing on your reel in case you get a 5 pounder on.
You’re gonna also keep an eye out for the oversized Redfish, they will be making their way back into the Gulf on their migration back to the deep water, it’s not uncommon to see very large schools of these fish looking for something to eat just off the beach. The passes are also a good place to find Bull Redfish they will hold up on the deeper structures and jetties and feed up on a moving tide.
For the fisher person that wants something to eat, fish for Flounder. By now most all the spawning activity is over with and the fish are looking to making their way back into the bay systems. Look around the deeper structure inside the passes where you find bait. They are not going to stay in a place long if there is nothing to eat. Look for the bait pods and drop a jig head with a shrimp type lure or a live finger mullet down.
Most of the Speckled Trout are in the Bayou’s and rivers. Drift or slow troll with a sinking jerk bait and work it slow. Especially on the days it warms up, the fish have to eat sometimes and if you hit it on the right day you could have some big fun!
Thanks for following my blog!
By now there are thousands of oversized Redfish that have gathered up in the bays and along the beaches of the Northwest Panhandle of Florida. This annual phenomenon just keeps getting better and better every year. It’s hard for the person that hasn’t seen it to realize the magnitude of this event.
Starting late September and through October giant schools of Redfish start their migration into the passes along the Gulf Coast. They spend the summer in deeper waters of the Gulf where food is plentiful and the water is cooler. As they make their way into the bays to spawn there is tons of bait (menhaden and mullet mostly) moving out of the upper estuaries to the deeper waters of the bays. This is why the magic happens in the bays during November into December!
Anglers are coming from all over the country to get in on this fantastic fishery we have here on the Panhandle.
If you’re not into catching big fish then try your hand at the Flounder bite. These fish are in the Gulf by now and around the nearshore reefs. On the days when the surf is flat, head out with a bait tank full of finger mullet and put some flatties in the cooler.
Here’s a big shout out to the entire list of guests that came and fished with me this year! I had a great season and really looking forward to a banner 2018 season.
Thanks for reading my fishing reports!
October is a great month to head out into the outdoors for just about anything. I’m already enjoying the cooler temperatures that come with this month. Let’s see there’s hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and all the Fall Festivals; just to name a few activities that will increase over the next 4 months.
Well let’s see if I can help with that decision. October’s Best Bet is as always – THE RUNNING of THE BULL REDS! Yes this is the month that thousands – hundreds of thousands of these beautiful fish make their way out of the depths of the Gulf of Mexico and head to the passes along the Gulf coast in preparation for their annual spawn. Remember to handle these fish with care; it’s all catch and release, land the fish get a picture revive and release promptly.
Fly fisherman from all over the world come to our area to experience high numbers of chances at and to successfully land several of these oversized beasts. The light tackle fisherman will also have the opportunity fulfill one of his bucket list items. I don’t know of any other place in the world that an angler can go to and find this many Bull Redfish at one time than right here along the Gulf Coast of Northwest Florida.
There’s gonna still be a fair number of Spanish and Kings around, till the water temperature gets below their comfort zone and they start their migration back south. You’ll have lots of fun and some good eating also.
That’s not the only thing we have to look forward to…. This is the month that the Flounder will start ganging up along the beaches deep structure around the passes and on the near shore reefs in preparation of their annual spawn. Now is the time for the flat fish fisherman to get a nice bag of Flounder for the freezer.
One other bonus for us this fall the FWC has opened a weekend Trigger fish season for four days in Florida state waters on Oct. 7, 8, 14, and 15; 2 per person per day 14 inch minimum length to the fork. Weather permit I’ll be out there thinning the herd a little.
As always there is a lot more going on; oh my – the food is awesome!!!!!!! I just can’t wait — Can you tell I’m getting excited just writing about it?
So come on over , even if you’re not coming to go fishing come have some fun, food, music, excellent weather, beautiful water and of course our award winning white sand beaches!
Thanks for reading my blog!
We’re going into the late summer fishing pattern. The dog days of the summer; high humidity and rain forecasts every afternoon.
Get an early start and enjoy the sunrise. Fish till 10 or 11 o’clock then head for the hill. For you anglers wanting to catch a Speckled Trout, start before daylight around the docks that have lights and cast a big dog walking plug. Any of the bigger specks that are still up will be looking for a big bait to satisfy their need for food till the night fall comes again.
For slot-sized Red Fish, focus on the docks that have 4 plus feet of water and lots of shade. These fish will be seeking a place that is a little cooler and have a food source available. Cast net some small pin fish or better yet small 3 inch LY’s; Carolina rig them with an 1/8 ounce weight and work them around the edges of the docks and as far under the dock as you can cast. The Bull Red Fish are gonna be showing up this month also. I search for them on the beaches east and west of the passes as they start their migration in from the deeper water for their annual spawning run.
Chicken Dolphin (Mahi-Mahi) will be on the move this time of the year too. Look at anything floating in the gulf and watch for schools of bait getting busted up on the sand bars along the beach. I’ll be casting a ¾ ounce sidewinder spoon rigged with a 40 lb. test fluorocarbon leader.
Now for your Septembers Best Bet – High action and lots of fun has to go to the full grown Spanish mackerel. I target the big ones on light tackle, casting the ‘ol trusty sidewinder rigged with a 12 inch piece of 40 lb. test wire. Wind it as fast as you can for this is a reaction strike, if he gets a good look at it he’ll figure out it’s a hunk of metal instead of a fleeing bait fish. Be sure and work the tide movement; for if the water is not moving the fish will be feeding. My fly casters love these fish as they are readily available and will smoke the drag on an 8 weight fly reel.
September reopens the bonus Red Snapper season on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through October. I have a few days left open. If you haven’t already booked with me you probably won’t be able to get a day. As always, I’ll help ya find a guide that will work hard for you, so if you’re interested, give me a call.
Here’s a GIANT shout out to my mother for putting up with all the nonsense created by my father and siblings for years! Cooking nonstop the game and fish we brought home every weekend. Cleaning the bird shot from the Quail, Doves and Turkeys so we didn’t chip a tooth. We watched as she came up with multiple recipes for a tasty venison meal for us to enjoy back when there were no wild game cook books. We helped as she packed the camper with all the essentials to have a fun filled weekend at the lake. Not to mention all the endless hours carting us back and forth to the ball fields. Just a tip of the iceberg for all you did for us Mom – Thank You, I love you dearly for all you did and still do!
Thank you for reading my fishing forecast be safe out there!
Full grown Spanish Mackerel is August’s best bet. I target the big ones on light tackle, casting the ‘ol trusty ¾ oz. sidewinder rigged with a 12 inch piece of 27 lb. test wire. Wind it as fast as you can for this is a reaction strike. If he gets a good look at it, he’ll figure out it’s a hunk of metal instead of a fleeing bait fish. Be sure and work the tide movement for if the water is not moving the fish will not be feeding. My fly casters love these fish as they are readily available and will smoke the drag on an 8 weight fly reel. These fish make good table fare – fresh, it’s not a freezer fish. So catch and keep only what you plan to use in the next couple days and let the rest go to be caught again another day.
In the Gulf … this is the time of the year for the Chicken Dolphin (Mahi-Mahi) which will be showing up in good numbers. Also watch for schools of bait getting busted up on the sand bars along the beach. I’ll be casting a ¾ ounce sidewinder spoon rigged with a 40 lb. test fluorocarbon leader at these tasty fishes.
For the Speckled Trout angler’s, get an early start and enjoy the sunrise, fish till nine o’clock or so – then head for the hill. Start before daylight around the docks that have lights and cast a big dog walking plug. Any of the bigger specks that are still up will be looking for a big bait to satisfy their need for food till the night fall comes again. After the sun gets up, head out towards the deeper water and change to a sub-surface jerk bait. You’ll catch some of the fish as they head for the deeper water to lie up for the day.
The Bull Red Fish will start showing up this month also. I search for them on the beaches east and west of the passes as they start their migration in from the deeper water for their annual spawning run. This is sight fishing so pick your day. Once you find a school, ease into casting distance and cast a 1 oz. SPRO buck tail jig in front of the school. Let the jig settle on the bottom then start a jigging retrieve keeping the jig close to or on the bottom.
For slot-sized Red Fish, focus on the docks that have 4 plus feet of water and lots of shade. These fish will be seeking a place that is a little cooler and have a food source available. Cast net some small pin fish or better yet small 3 inch LY’s. Carolina rig them with an 1/8 ounce weight and work them around the edges of the docks and as far under the dock as you can cast.
Thank you for reading fishing report for the Northwest Panhandle.
Summer fishing in Pensacola is here. Time for the garbage can slams – King and Spanish mackerel, Sharks, Tinny Tuna (bonitos), Lady Fish, Blue Fish and the list goes on.
I think you get the picture … lots of fun fishing but the table fare drops down a notch from the Red Snapper. By the way, I had a banner Red Snapper season. Lots of fish over 15 pounds came in the boat with several over 20 pounds.
Spanish mackerel are very good table fare when eaten the day you catch them. These fish don’t keep very well. When frozen then thawed out the flesh gets very mushy. They are big now so just keep a few 5 pounders for supper and let the rest go.
The King Mackerel bite is as good as it gets right now. The fish are close in and are fairly easy to find. Find the bait and you’re on the fish. Most of the close in fishing is around the sea buoys as you work out the passes. There are a lot of buoys so don’t get discouraged if you don’t hook up on the first couple just keep working your way out until you start getting knock downs and then you’re on the right spot. The near shore reefs are another good place to find big numbers of King Mackerel.
My technique is old school but it works and it will also catch big fish. To start with don’t over tackle!!! I use 30 pound test braid on 4500 size reels. Most will hold 300 yards of line – it’s more than enough. There’s not many fish out there that can spool off 300 yards of line. Next – to the wire leader this is the most important part – I start out with the smallest swivel’s that are available. SPRO Power Swivel size #8, they are tiny & tough!! Then I use no more than 18 inches of main wire in the 27-pound size. To the nose hook I use Gamakatsu #4 extra sharp round bend treble hooks, then I jump up to 40-pound test wire to the stinger hook. This is the catching hook and that wire is a very important part because this wire is in the toothy critter’s mouth most of the time. Add a good lively Cigar Minnow and you’re on your way to catching big King Mackerel. Just remember that King Mackerel have very large eyes and can see very well. God made them that way to give them an edge so downsize your tackle and I will guarantee your catching ratio will improve.
For my Fly fishermen, let’s go Bo-Bo! There’s nothing better than a five pound Bonito on an 8 weight. Tie on a gummy minnow and strip it as fast as you can, then get your knuckles away from the reel knob. I can tell ya from experience it hurts when it’s spinning 20 mile per hours backwards and you stick your hand in!
Red Fish are another good table fare fish. Slot Reds can be found in and around the flats between Destin and Pensacola. They’re called slot Red Fish because they’re resident fish that haven’t reached the 30 inch range yet. Once they come of size, they become what we refer to as the Bull Red fish (not legal to keep). The fish are good around the normal area’s now such as the docks and the grass and sand flats.
Thanks for reading my fishing forecast
Pensacola Gulf Red Snapper is a very highly sought after species, both for the table fare and for the thrill of the battle. When you get hooked up with a 15 plus pound snapper you’ve got your hands full. I’m a state licensed boat, so that keeps me inside of the nine mile line. In these waters there is hardly any water more than 75 foot deep. This is where learning how to fish for and catch these fish takes a little finesse, especially on the slick calm days. If there is a wind chop on the water it makes it easier to fool the fish. You can go with the standard Carolina rig using as small of weight as needed to get the bait down at a reasonable rate. Also I’ll tackle up a little – 4 foot of 60 or 80 pound test fluorocarbon leader and a 6/0 inline Gamakatsu Circle hook, add a lively cigar minnow and hang on. Now, on the calm days this is where the finesse part is very important. Tackle down, smaller weights, smaller leader and hooks, 6 to 8 feet of 40 or 50 pound test fluorocarbon leader, 4/0 Gamakatsu inline Circle hooks, start fishing the reef at 100 feet away instead of 50. This gives you a little more room to stop the fish before she makes it back to cover. Next if you can’t get the bites go to a knocker rig – this is where using a good spinning reel and rod is a must. Add a small egg weight on the main line at the hook, pin on a lively cigar minnow and cast it up current and let the current and weight pull the bait freely down toward the reef. Don’t play around here when you get the bite. Work hard to stop the fish, otherwise she will beat you every time! Try these tips and I bet you’ll have better success this season.
Next it’s Mackerel time. King and Spanish will be prolific – close in. Start with stocking up the live well with fresh cigar minnows, then head out to the passes and slow troll. Bump troll them around the buoys that have bait hanging around them. I use spinning gear – 4500 size reels and 20 pound test line on 7 foot medium action rods. Add 2 foot of wire leader with a stinger hook and you’ll be successful.
Pensacola Inshore – the Speckled Trout bite is going to be early in the morning. At daylight, I’ll use the dog walking plugs 99% of time. Give it an hour or so then move on to different species. Finding a school of Crevalle Jack is very probable. I’ll keep a couple of rods rigged with a big chugger at the ready. You never know when a school will swim under the boat. Slot Redfish are a staple this time of the year. Once the sun gets overhead the fish will get closer to cover which narrows down the strike zone making it easier to locate the fish. Go with live shrimp, LY’s and small pogies for live bait; plastic shrimp and gold spoons for artificial baits.
June is one of the best months of the year to go fishing. You can just about name a species relevant to our area and go catch it. So get out there and have some fun!
Thank you for reading my fishing forecast,
May’s best bets is going Pensacola Bay Fishing. The bait has shown up in force around all the passes. King Mackerel and Spanish are there as well. Use fresh lively Cigar minnow’s for the King’s and flashy spoons for the Spanish mackerel. If you’re in search of big fish then go for Amberjack. Hit the nearshore reefs with some big live baits and catch ya some reef donkeys. Then head back in and cruise the beach looking for schools of Crevalle Jacks. I only use big top water chugging plugs for the Crevalle Jacks. Talking about a top water explosion – WOW!!! Remember to keep a close eye out around the boat for Cobia while you’re in the Gulf. I always keep a rod rigged and ready for the flatheads.
Here it is May already, if you’re not out there fishing or at least trying to make plans to get out there, then you sure are missing out on some of the best fishing that the early summer has to offer!!
After fishing most every day in April, I can tell you for sure Speckled Trout are on the move. I’ve been relying on Santa Rosa Sound to deal her hand at paying the bills for the month of April. The inshore fishing is off to a real good start serving up several nice Speckled Trout over 20 inches. Remember to practice catch and release on the trout over 20 inches – Please. The slot sized Red Fish are doing good also on the flats in Choctawhatchee and Pensacola bay system. I spoke with Capt. Pat Dineen last week and the redfish to the east (Destin) have been very consistence in the middle of the day around docks and on the flats. The Speckled Trout are hitting artificial baits good at first light. Redfish were caught on live shrimp. So what does that tell you, GET SOME LIVE SHRIMP!
Man what a mixed bag of fish, and they are all fun to catch on light tackle. I get the biggest thrill out of taking first timers Pensacola Bay Fishing, the excitement of a youngster with his first redfish on is why I love doing what I do. I still have a few days left in May but I have no days left in June. I’m looking forward to a great summer of fishing and getting to see my guests having a fishing experience that last a life time!
A man never stands as tall as when he helps teach a child how to fish……… thank you Dad!
Thanks for reading my fishing forecast for the Panhandle!
Our Pensacola Bay Speckled Trout bite is gonna be really picking up during the month of April. It’s time for their first spawn to start happening and this puts the big females up in the shallow water, which makes them a lot easier to catch. Please remember DO NOT kill these big breeder fish. There are plenty of fish in the 15 to 20 inch slot. I’ll handle them with care, take a picture and release them. These fish are our future to a good and healthy population of Specks!
You’ll catch most of your better fish on big live shrimp. What’s the reason why you ask; it’s because they don’t have to exert any energy to catch and eat a big live shrimp. While these big female fish are staging in the deeper water adjacent to the grass flats in preparation for their spawn, live shrimp are plentiful and this is one of their main food sources. Don’t worry if you can’t find any live shrimp – artificial baits will catch fish also. Use big dog walking top water plugs early and sub-surface jerk minnows and shrimp type lures after the sun gets up good.
Slot Redfish will be found in Santa Rosa Sound from Pensacola to Destin. Grass flats and docks will produce fish. I’ll find fish in real shallow water, 2 foot or less, sometimes big schools of 20 to 50 fish. Use gold spoons on the flats, make long cast and be quiet. These fish in shallow water are real spooky! Then go to live bait around the docks, especially after the sun gets high overhead. These fish will seek the shade cast from the docks.
Big Spanish are showing up by the droves. You can catch these fish in the five to seven pound range consistently. If you put a big Spanish to the end of a 10 pound test spinning outfit or an 8 weight fly rod, you got yourself some fun. I’ll use the smaller chug bugs on the calm days and ¾ ounce casting spoons. Color doesn’t matter as long as it’s chrome!
Crevalle Jack and Bull Redfish can be found sight fishing along the beach. Cast a SPRO PRIME BUCKTAIL JIG, 1 oz. Magic Bus color to the Red Fish and big top water Chug Plugs to the Jacks. Better tackle up for the Jacks – they are mighty powerful Fish!
Pompano are stacked up on the beach. Use sand fleas on a Pompano rig or standard Pompano jigs to catch these tasty speedsters.