The running of the bull reds is here! This is the month that large schools of bull reds make their way from the Gulf of Mexico and head to the passes along the Gulf Coast in preparation for their annual spawn. I’ll be looking in the bay systems for fish as I’m heading out to the beach; for the most part I’m just scanning the horizon as I’m running out. From there I’ll head west – most of the time. The fish will be heading east for the most part, ease along looking for tell-tell signs – this will lead ya to the fish. First, don’t waste your time unless the conditions are right. Calm surf and sunny days! You have to be able to see the schools of fish!!!! Otherwise you’re just out for a boat ride. Once you’ve located the fish then just about anything will catch them. I like the 4 to 6 inch sinking swim baits. What fish can resist a 5 inch mullet trying to commit suicide?
Then there’s the bonus Red Snapper season for weekends only (fir, sat & sun) for the month of October. That’s right another 2-fer this month, head out in the morning and catch ya better half some supper, then as you’re headed back in look for the schools of Bull Red fish! After all It is RED OCTOBER……….
Then for the flat fish fishermen, it’s time to start checking your spots for the flounder movement. If we get a few cool snaps then these fish will be staging up in preparation for their fall migration. Deep structure, finger mullet & Carolina rigged – need I say more?
Slot Reds and Speckled Trout fisher folks can rig up their stuff again. These fish will be searching for food to fatten up for the winter months ahead. Top water and sub surface jerk baits for the specks and gold spoons for the reds. Stay in the 4 to 6 foot of water in Santa Rosa sound between Destin and Pensacola and you’ll be on these fish.
As always there is a lot more going on this month – especially the fall festivals…. Oh my – the food is awesome, the music is great, the water is pristine, the fish are chewing the prop off the boat, the weather is perfect, and I just can’t wait! — come on over – even if you don’t want to go fishing come enjoy the food, music and excellent weather.
Thanks for reading Woods’ n Waters!
The dog days of the summer include high humidity and rain forecast every afternoon. Get an early, start enjoy the sunrise and 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.
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 ole 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, Friday Saturday and Sunday’s 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 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 for back then 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!
August Fishing is – – – HOT, HOT, HOT and it’s time for the garbage can slams: Blue Fish, Lady Fish, Spanish Mackerel and Sharks.
Let’s get back in the bay systems and have a little fun fishing. Light tackle these fish and have yourself a blast. Lots of these fish around, and for youngsters, well there ain’t much better! These fish are easy to catch (most of the time). I’ll ease around the bay looking for bait being chased to the surface and cast chrome and gold spoons to the schooling fish and catch until your arms get tired. A fresh deep fried Spanish mackerel is hard to beat.
Here is how I start my late summer time days. First I’ll find the shrimp boats that will be anchored up in the bays. At daylight they’ll start cleaning their bay catch and in doing so, they create a chum slick. Ease up down current, put on a 2 foot piece of 90 lb test wire leader and a fresh piece of dead bait. Cast it into the chum slick and let it drift away from the shrimp boat (be respectful of the shrimpers they are working and also have thousands of dollars worth of equipment hanging in the water). Hang on cause you never know what you might hook up with! I’ve caught Kings, Jacks, Sharks and Tarpon to name a few.
Then on into the day as the sun starts to get overhead, go to the docks that have some deeper water on them and see if ya can pull on some Red Fish out from around them. Either fresh lively bait on a Carolina rig or a shrimp type plastic will be your best bet here. I’m also finding a few schools of Bull Red Fish along the Grass flats on the south side of the bays and sound near the Passes. And drifting a live pin fish in the passes will catch you a Bull Red Fish when they are there (and who knows what else you might catch in there).
If you wanna get your arms jerked off then head out to the near shore reefs for some Amberjack. A lot of the fish will be undersized. The keepers will still be out in the deep water – out 15 to 25 miles. Get you some good lively hard tails and send them down around the reefs. If there are any Jacks there it won’t be long before you’re pinned to the rail!
I’m really looking forward to the fall Red Snapper season that they’re going to give us this September and October. We’ll have Friday, Saturday and Sundays to catch and keep them. I’ve already booked quiet a number of days; although, I do have some days left. If you’re interested give me a call at (850) 565-0593.
Thank you for reading My Fishing Reports!
Spanish and King Mackerel are easily found out on the beaches and the shipping channel markers as you make your way out the passes. Also look for any bait pods and bird activity, a dead giveaway to the Spanish location. For the King Mackerel, slow troll a lively cigar minnow. You can add a duster to the front of the rig to add some flash if the fish are slow to bite.
You can find big Spanish making their way into the bay systems this time of the year and when it happens you can have a blast catching some of the biggest Spanish Mackerel that you’ll have a chance at. These fish are not the schooling fish that you see scattered around the bays and out off of the beach. I target the oversized fish in the 5 to 10 pound range. How to find these fish you ask? Hit the grass and sand flats within a mile or so of the passes. Anchor, or if the wind is gentle, then you can drift. Use gold or chrome casting spoon in the 3 inch range for best results. This is also one of the most targeted Fly Fishing species this time of the year and a very productive way to catch them.
Sharks are a big time sight fishing challenge in the shallow clear water. I target the smaller Sharks you can cast to and land for a picture. I do not kill sharks. I catch and release only. I’ll ease on the sand bars and look for the fish. Once you find them, pitch a chunk of lady fish out in front of one and hold on!
The near shore reefs are also going to be covered up with fish of all sorts. Chicken Dolphin is a favorite and is the cousin to the Mahi – Mahi. They are great fun on light tackle and very tasty. Cobia can be found around the reefs as they migrate back to the east after they’ve finished up their spawning run. We’ll have 10 days in July to catch and keep Red Snapper in state waters. Gag Grouper season opened June 1st here (check your local regulations- some counties will be closed).
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June is here! So is the Red Snapper season. This year’s season opened on May 7th for weekends only till May 28th, and then it’s open continuously till July 10th. It will then reopen for Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s during the months of September and October. I don’t have any days left open for this first phase but for the fall season, its wide open! (this is for Florida state waters out to 9 nautical miles)
Yep this month’s Best Bet gotta go to the “oh” so popular Red Snapper. Here’s proof that conservation works. Just 10 short years ago fishing in state waters and catching a nice limit of red Snapper consisted of 16 to 18 inch fish. Now I’m culling 20 inch fish and keeping the 24 to 30 inch fish. Likewsie, this year’s 78 day season is up from the 24 day season 6 years ago.
Catching fish in state waters can be a little tricky. The deepest places I fish is in the 80 foot range. Most of the reefs are shallower than that – in the 60 foot range. 60 foot and clear water = stealth. Drop down on tackle size, use braided lines and fluorocarbon leader with the very smallest weight. Don’t go out there with a box of smelly frozen squid or rotten cigar minnows and expect to catch quality fish. Fresh caught lively cigar minnows or threadfin herring is the only way to go. So there ya go now. You know all my secrets to catching these 20+ pound Red Snapper that you see in these pictures.
Inshore fishing is still good for those of you who aren’t interested in the reef fishing deal. Look around the passes for King and Spanish mackerel. They’re abundant now and you shouldn’t have a problem finding and catching all of these you want to. Deep dropping in the bays can produce some real nice fish this time of the year also. Grouper and Red Snapper can be caught around the structure in the deeper water. Catching legal-sized fish may not happen but it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye any day.
As the Speckled Trout bite slows down, the slot Redfish bite will be picking up. Fishing early in the morning or at dusk till after dark for the Speck will be more productive. Then fish in the middle of the day for the slot Redfish. This is because when the sun is straight overhead, the shadows cast by the docks is at its smallest; this tightens the fish up around the docks making it easier to find the fish. There ya go another secret. Around the docks use live bait when possible and use shrimp type lures as an alternate. For the Speck’s, it’s all about walkin-the-dog! If you don’t know how, don’t throw plugs for Specks this time of the year.
My best friend taught me all I know about fishing – I call him Dad!
Thank you for reading my Woods’ n Water forecast. Any comments or snotty remarks are welcome!
As I know you’ve read many times, the months of May and June are two of my favorite months of the spring and early summer. Ya-d, ya-d, da… it’s not such a big deal unless you’re shallow minded….
For my Woods’ n Water’s Best Bet for May — it’s got to go to the Speckled Trout. Yep, you’re getting to my roots of inshore light tackle fishing. Back when Redfish were considered trash fish, I remember saying — we gotta move. These darned redfish are eating everything we cast out there. The Speckled Trout are very tasty and a lot of fun to catch. Please remember to practice good catch and release techniques on the fish that are over 20 inches. (They are our future stock of Speck’s)
When these fish are moving onto the flats into the shallow water after the long cold winter hibernation, they’re hungry. Fooling one into taking an artificial lure is not so hard, that is if you present it in the proper fashion. Until the water temp’s reach into the lower 80’ties the fish are not going to be real aggressive to chase a fast moving dinner. Slow it down, slow moving sub-surface jerk baits are the way to go (if you’re impatient and feel the need to cover a lot of ground). Either style of the sub-surface baits, soft plastic or hard, will work. Then the shrimp type lures are more for the technical angler. He’ll look for the drop offs, pot holes and slight bottom contour changes. These are places that Specks like to lie and wait to ambush their prey. Then he’ll present realistic type bait and retrieve to fool his fish. Both are effective techniques for landing big Specks this time of the year. You’ll be able to find Speck’s all along the Gulf coast, it doesn’t matter your location. If you’re a first timer or a weekend angler just ask around the docks and local tackle shops, if anyone is catching fish to amount to anything they’ll be loose lipped about it. I won’t give up my spots but if I tell you I’m catching them you better be ready to go… they’re chewin and I just gave you my best techniques!!!
Now for my redemption to our Redfish fanatics. They are not trash fish! And now that I kill very few fish for consumption, I’d rather catch a Redfish 10 to 1 over a Speck. Change tactics for the hard pulling drum fish. ¼ ounce to ½ ounce good spoons worked over the grass will draw their attention. The shrimp type soft plastics are also a very good option, especially around docks and that type of structure. Redfish are also aggressive top water feeders; I do downsize my lures when I’m using these. I think it’s easier for them to get it in their mouth.
The Mackerel are here now and the reef fish have been chewing the prop off the boat. Big schools of Crevalle Jacks are moving up and down the beaches along with schools of oversized Redfish. Lots of Pompano can be found along the inside and outside of the sand bars along the beach. I’ll also be on the lookout for the stray Cobia any time I’m in the Gulf. Big schools of Tiny Tunny are due to show up any day now too.
So now it’s plain to see why May is an awesome month to go fishing!
Thanks for reading my Woods’ n Water Best Bet
As always it’s the roots for us Inshore Fishermen, Ol Gator Mouth – Momma Speckled Trout. During April Fishing you’ll find the big females up in the shallow water where they’re easier to catch. These fish are there preparing themselves for the first spawn of spring. I DO NOT kill these trophy fish; I’ll handle them with care, take a picture and release them. You’ll be able to catch plenty of the 15 to 20 inch slot-sized Speck for the table. You’ll catch most of your better fish on big live shrimp. They don’t have to exert any energy to catch and eat a big live shrimp. While these big female fish are roaming the grass flats, live shrimp are plentiful and is one of their main food sources. Artificial baits will catch fish also; use big dog walking top water early and sub-surface jerk minnows after the sun gets up good.
Slot Red Fish will be all over the place from Pensacola to Destin in Santa Rosa Sound. Grass flats and docks will produce fish. Use gold spoons on the flats and shrimp around the docks.
The big Spanish will be showing up by the droves. You’ll be able to catch these fish in the five to seven pound range very consistently. If you put a big Spanish to the end of a 10 pound test spinning outfit or an 8 weight fly rod and you got yourself a handful.
Crevalle Jack and Bull Red Fish can be found running in real close to the beach. Sight fishing at its best, crystal clear water and the snow white sand makes for an awesome day chasing these fish. Cast a SPRO 1 oz. Magic Bus colored buck tail jig 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. Anchor up and use sand fleas or drift with the current and cast a standard Pompano jig to land these tasty speedsters.
Remember there is always a lot more going on. I’m just hitting the highlights for ya, and if you have any questions just give me a shout!
Thank you for reading my Woods’ n Water fishing forecast!
Your best bet for March is ‘ol Molar Mouth, yes Mr. Sheepshead! This is the fish for you if you want something good to eat. These crustacean feeders are by far at the top of the list for table fare. It won’t be hard to find them either. Get close to the passes, bridges and docks; any structure that has barnacles attached to it is a major food source for the fish. Live bait is a must. Fiddler crabs and shrimp are the baits to have. Carolina rig them on medium action spinning outfits and fish them close, real close to the bottom (the feeding fish are going to have their noses down and tails up looking in the rocks for food). The limits on the fish are liberal, only keep what you are going to use; catch and release will insure that we have a healthy population of Molar Mouths for years to come!
Now is when you’ll find the big female Speckled Trout roaming the shallow flats searching for an easy meal in preparation for their first spawn. Remember, I strongly encourage catch and release on trophy sized Speck’s (over 20 inches). You won’t have a problem limiting out on the 15 to 20 inch slot sized fish. So let the big breeders go to help keep a strong and healthy population of Specks. Use big top water dog walking plugs for the big fish. They would rather have one big meal instead of a lot of small snacks.
Then it’s out on the beaches, sight fishing in the crystal clear waters is my favorite style of fishing. Schools of Crevalle Jacks will be showing up. Now you want to talk about an aggressive top water bite; THIS IS IT! It will be challenging at times but when it comes together it’ll be a memory that will last a lifetime! Schools of over-sized Red Fish will be present along with Spanish Mackerel that will also be making their way into our area and are a blast on light tackle. Then the most anticipated is the spring Cobia run. It always seems to be around the 20th of March when the first Cobia is caught but you never know; when you’re out there you better have a Cobia rod at the ready. If it’s inshore or near shore fishing you’re into, then this is your time of the year to have some fun!
Offshore – Trigger Fish! The season has been closed for over a year and the population of fish has exploded! Rig up a few dropper rigs and head out to the near shore reefs with some fresh squid and have some fun. These fish are very good table fare also. Tackle up with some jigging spoons and while you’re out there give yourself some Amberjack work outs. There will be some keeper fish on the near shore reefs this time of the year. Remember the size limits have changed! Be sure and check your regulations on the size and creel limits of reef fish. It’s too early for any other species of fish but it will be worth the trip out for some Trigger’s!
BRRRRRRR, its cold outside! Well its winter time here in northwest Florida and it’s supposed to get cold.
Speckled Trout – they’re in the rivers and bayous. The Trout are there – so to catch them you’re going to have to slow way down. Smaller leader is a must when you’re fishing the bayous where the water should be Gin clear. The rivers, well that’s going to be a different story this February. We’ve had an excessive amount of rainfall in December and January so the rivers might be too high and muddy to fish. If it’s fishable, going to 15 pound test in the rivers is okay. In the bayous 10 pound test fluorocarbon leader is the max! There are a lot of bayous between Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin and Pensacola Bay along the Santa Rosa Sound. North side is where ya want to be. The sun will hit the north side for a longer period of time and it’s also protected from the north winds – it’s going to be a lot more comfortable for you and the fish.
Also try to work on an incoming tide if you can, when the tide is rising it’ll trigger the fish to want to feed a little better. Live bait is the best. Fact is that there’s not many fish that will pass up a tasty live shrimp when it’s presented properly. Artificial bait are also very productive this time of the year. The fish have been enduring the winter – not feeding very much, so when the conditions get right, they’re ready to eat something, and it doesn’t matter to them as long as it’s moving.
Next best fishing bet is gonna be out on the beach. This is where you’ll find me when the conditions are right. Gin clear water, hungry fish, white sand – man you’d think you are in the Caribbean somewhere! This style of fishing takes a lot more patience and skill level. You ain’t gonna just pull out there and start banging the water and catch fish. First, you got to FIND the fish – sight fishing is a blast, when things come together it’s a lot of fun!
Presentation is by far the most important thing after you find’em. Position of the boat is next. If you get too close to the fish, it’s over with. Remember 2X2 – two feet in front and two feet past the fish with your cast. When you hit this spot it’s game on!
Amberjack on the close-in reefs and Tuna way on out there! The oil rigs to the southwest are where all the big boats are headed to find monster Yellow Fin this time of the year. There will be a lot of Black Fin Tuna, some Big Eye Tuna and Wahoo caught.
In addition to Gag Grouper, all the other grouper species are available also. Deep dropping is a very popular thing to do this time of the year. Anywhere from 250 to 600 foot of water is where you’re going to find these fishermen. That’s gonna be starting at about 25 miles south and going to about 40 miles to reach these fishing areas.
Spring break is right around the corner. It’ll be here before you know it. I’ve got plenty of days still open although the phone has been ringing constantly for the past week. Folks are already planning their spring vacation and I love it. Give me a shout if you’re interested in getting in on the Sheepshead madness!
For you folks want something to eat, look for the Flounder. They are still in the Gulf on the nearshore reefs and around the deeper structure inside the passes where you’re finding bait. They’re not gonna 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.
Keep an eye out for the over-sized Red Fish, this is when they start making their way back into the Gulf, it’s not uncommon to see very large schools of these guys looking for something to eat just off the beach. The Passes are a good place to find Bull Red Fish that are migrating back into the Gulf. They will hold up on the deeper structures and jetties and feed up on a moving tide.
Most of the Speckled Trout are in the Bayou’s and rivers by now. 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 sometime and if you hit it on the right day you could have some big fun catching these winter Specks.
Wait on the right weather conditions then get out on the beach and have some fun. 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 Little Tunny; better known as Bonito, False Albacore and Bo Bo’s. These 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 that’s where the Bo Bo’s will be.
Start by easing down the beach looking for the washouts and bait that are along the surf. Then position yourself on the 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 one of those 5 pounders on.
Here’s wishing you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!