Pompano will become harder to catch sometime this month as the June grass takes over but there is a good chance it won’t happen until either late in the month of maybe even into July sometime. We call it June grass because it usually comes in June, if you surf fish much you know what I’m talking about. It is the green slime seaweed looking stuff that takes over the beach for 2 to 3 weeks every year. What it actually is a bloom of algae that looks like seaweed and happens when the water temperature and salinity come to a certain point with just the right amount of rain water. We all hate it as it gets all over your rigging and is a slimy nuisance if you are swimming but it is a natural happening and refurbishes the beaches and water. So don’t be disappointed when it happens as it is a good thing. There are other things to catch when the pompano bite slows, there are whiting near the beach, plenty of ladyfish and all the sharks you want late in the afternoon and early evening fishing with cut chunks of the ladyfish you caught earlier in the day or a whole porgies that we sell here at Half Hitch Tackle.
Kings at the pier are going to be biting good for the same reasons they are good while trolling. The best days at the pier are the days the wind blows for the south or southwest. There will always be a few kings caught early in the morning and a few right at sunset but for the rest of the day the mid morning will be slow. On those afternoons the wind blows good (10 miles or harder) the afternoon bite should be really good. Spanish we be biting most days on gotchas and bubble rigs. Tarpon will also beginning to show in numbers in June. Tarpon are fantastic pier prizes but remember they need to be released in good condition, this means no gaffing them. Once you get them to the pier you need to get a quick picture of them in the water and then break the line as close to the fish as possible to ensure there life for future generations.
The kings have been late showing up this year so I expect June to be a better than normal month for king fishing. The water did not warm up nearly as fast in May and the bait fish are just now starting to show in really good numbers. There will be a steady bite of threadfin herring just north of the Destin Bridge, then some on the south side. Farther out towards the jetties you will find regular herring and cigar minnows for live bait. With cooler water temps than some years I would think you might have an excellent chance of limiting out on kings most days trolling the new Braid Runners, Yozuri Tobi minnows or even a duster rigged with a frozen cigar minnow. If you go during the heat of the day it would be best to use either a planner or downrigger to fish deeper. There is also the opportunity to catch a black fin tuna, wahoo or chicken dolphin inshore this month.
Now here is where I start to get extremely excited now that the blue water has fully moved in. Opportunities are abound for those wanting to venture deep. This is truly big Dolphin month as large weeds lines consisting of Sargaso weed bunch up in light to moderate wind conditions. I have seen weed lines inside of 12 to 15 miles but these most hold only chicken dolphin, an occasional wahoo, bonito, barracuda and hardtails. The real action on big dolphin happens on the weed lines that form offshore of the 100 fathom curve. This is the same area as you will find the larger wahoo, blue and white marlin and tuna. Smaller juvenile whaoo (15-40lb) can be caught on the south or southwest edge as well as the rock cliffs but the larger more mature fish will be in open water as they become more solitary and less school oriented. I concentrate more efforts on wahoo, dolphin and tuna because of the dinner table factor. But the blue marlin fishery is as good as it gets in June and all the tournament winners will attest to that. There is almost a tournament every weekend in June somewhere along the coast and I would never feel comfortable with a fish on the leader board unless he was a solid 500-600lbs.
June is going to be a fantastic month for bay fisherman as like the kings in the gulf everything is about a month late because of water temps. All during May the trout never really left the deep water docks and moved to the flats like they were supposed to until the last week of May. This said you have a fantastic opportunity to catch some super sized trout over the flats using top water plugs, live menhaden and live shrimp. If you are using menhaden a Owner Mutu Light #1 hook is all that is required for terminal tackle, if you are using a live shrimp you need a rattle float or popping cork attached to a 24 inch mono leader and then the hook. Use the popping sound of the cork to attract the trout to the shrimp and also to keep the shrimp from hiding in the grass. Remember the smaller trout like hiding in the grass on the flats and the larger trout hang out on the sand beds surrounding the grass flats. Jack Cravelle will be in the bayous crashing schools of mullet and menhaden and are huge fun on fly tackle or smaller spinning outfits.
May is still a time of optimism and opportunity for the surf angler as many options abound. If you like evening fishing there will be plenty of small sharks to entertain you from late afternoon into the evening. Using a spinning rod rigged with a wire pulley rig and a cigar minnow you can target sharks from 15-50lbs. you have the opportunity to catch several in a couple hours this way. If you want to try for larger sharks using a 114H 6/0 senator reel or larger you can target the larger bull and sand sharks using either a chunk or ladyfish or bonito. You will need to pick a north wind day so you can use a balloon to drift the bait out or swim the bait as it will be to large to cast out. Pompano will continue to be the main target of surf anglers using sand fleas, jigs or Yummy fleas tipped with Fish Bites yellow, pink or orange crab flavor. For the angler who likes jigging May is an excellent month to spot cast pompano and offers good practice for fly anglers targeting Spanish and ladyfish.
The primary targets in May are King Mackerel but again many other opportunities abound on the pier. Come cobia should be hanging around especially when the big bottom rays, turtles and sharks move in. Spanish will be around all month and can be caught jigging Gotchas, Braid Runners or Sea Striker slab spoons. Pompano should be near the shore break at the pier and take jigs, sand fleas and shrimp, and somewhere near the end of the month the whiting should also be moving in good. There is always a chance of a few black fin tuna in May and late may offers a shot at a tarpon. As I said earlier the King Mackerel are the primary target and can be caught best on drifting live or frozen cigar minnows or using the medium size Braid Runner or Rattle traps.
Trolling inshore (inshore I mean 10-15 miles or less) you will find exceptional numbers of King Mackerel. Many of the common spots to locate them can be found on the Custom Half Hitch May we sell here at the shop. If is a list of basic numbers no fisherman should be with out, it is more or less my personal book of numbers I have decided to share, the reefs and wrecks on it are by local name and are easy to locate for the most part ($ 5.99). Some of the more common places to find kings early in the year like this are the southeast rocks, broken bottom, El Matador Gulley, Nicky grounds and the 18”s. kings can be caught trolling many different lures or cigar minnows (live or frozen).
Offshore truly turns on in May, the wahoo, dolphin and tuna are very close (as close as 25-30 miles at times in fantastic numbers. The dolphin and wahoo prefer to feed near tide lines, weed patches and rips. They like these places because weed patches provide shelter for many small bait fish, tide lines and rips also attract bait fish because of extra nutrients collected in the areas from the mixing or ocean currents. White marlin will range to within 35 miles or so with the Nipple being one of the hot spots. The Blue marlin typically likes to feed in the deeper areas close to the spur, the steps or the squiggles. The tuna can be almost anywhere food can be found from around weed patches, tide lines rips and just plain old open water. Why open water you may ask well it really isn’t just open water as many schools of offshore squid and anchovies are present over deep structure and it appears to be just open water. Water color also dictates where fish will be as they like the dark blue to cobalt water over the green water, the blue water is much saltier and carries more nutrients for bait fish there for producing more predators.
The trout will hit the flats this month in force and top water baits will do them in. The new Yozuri soft live plugs and the new D.O.A. chuggers have been working great and will produce excellent numbers when fished over the flats. Reds can be caught on red ripper spoons especially the ones with spinners. Captain Mikes Flats Candy Lures with the Fish Bites inside them really does the trick also on the reds also. The Jack Cravelle will be moving into the bay in search of mullet, menhaden and ly’s. The Jack Cravelle are tremendous fun on light tackle and provide a good opportunity to test you fly rod skills on a large hard fighting brute of a fish.
Sand fleas have become much more plentiful; this is a good sign and should bring many more fish to the beach. Pompano are being caught on sand fleas, shrimp or fish bites and the best fishing has been to the east of Destin but this should be changing and more fish should be on the west beaches. Pompano are the popular targets but there is now a much larger variety of fish to be had. Spanish mackerel are plentiful on Sea Striker jig fish, Braid Blades, spoons and Gotcha plugs. Cobia can be caught bottom fishing with live or frozen eels, cigar minnows and whole squid. As normal don’t be surprised if you get whiting, reds or sheepshead.
Other Information: On tap for April are a bundle of events to tickle you. Cobia tournaments abound starting with the Hog’s Breath Cobia Shoot Out the first weekend of the month, the second weekend brings the Harbor Docks Crab Cruncher Classic, the third weekend id the Outcast Cobia Classic and the last weekend is the Harbor Docks Invitational. Also in April is the Half Hitch Tent Sale April 14-15-16th. Then there is the Free Cobia Fishing Seminar at Treasure Island Marina by Tim Broom at 9:00am. Don’t forget the opening of red snapper season this month. Snapper opens in state waters April 15th and in federal April 21st. For those of you that are unsure state waters are 9 miles and closer.
The first cobia from the Okaloosa Island Pier was caught on Easter Morning by Jay Riordian a (former Half Hitch Employee) now living in Tampa. He was here visiting friends when he made the prize catch earning a free season pass to the Okaloosa Island Pier. Cobia are the trophy catch this month but lots of other opportunities abound. Spanish are the most plentiful and reliable but pompano, sheepshead and reds are daily arrival. This first king should be caught some time near the middle of the month. If by chance you are the lucky one to get the first king it will get you a free season pass to the pier. The cigar minnows are becoming abundant and this is a good sign the kings are only days away. Jack Cravelle are also roaming the beaches and even though they are not great table fare the are exciting to catch as pound for pound there are not many others that can compete for the sheer fight the can hand out.
Using a Penn 555GS reel on a HHT BC84M rigged with 40lb line and equipped with a Braid Blade, Yozuri Deep Runner or Yozuri Tobi minnow is an excellent way to fill you cooler with Kings. The same rod and reel combo rigged with a Sea Striker straw rig with a #1 Clark spoon and a 4oz trolling lead will help you with a limit of Spanish mackerel.
Kings and Spanish are the principal focus here now that the bait fish have shown up. Spanish bite best on trolling style gotcha’s, straw rigs with a Clark spoon and 3-6oz trolling lead. Kings and larger Spanish can be caught on Yozui Tobi minnows, dusters rigged with a live or frozen cigar minnows, live cigar minnows and herring drifted over structure.
Offshore fishing promises to be a productive over the next month. Several reports have it that the Wahoo have started to show. We have heard of several black fin tuna near the edge all of which are good signs for the coming season. I would expect if you want to give it a go by the 15th things should be very productive. We don’t get good reports this time of year from offshore because of all the attention given to snapper and cobia. All this said it is somewhat difficult to say go here and catch this. Just remember that may is just around the corner.
The new D.O.A. chuggers are the new hot lure for this season and the trout and redfish are moving to the flats and becoming much easier to catch. There are plenty of sheepshead around the jetties, bridge pilings and bay reefs. There should be is excellent Spanish mackerel action in the harbor, the coast guard channel and around the Destin bridge trolling. If you like to fly fish this is an excellent chance to hone you skills on the Spanish as they take the fly well and are plentiful. If you are fly fishing try using a white deceiver or glass minnow pattern on a floating fly line on a 6 to 8 weight rod.
In the surf the pompano will begin to bite much better, sands fleas have become much more plentiful. The reds have been abundant in the surf as well as quite a few bluefish. The reds should continue all month but I really cannot say about the blues. The blues are not typically here this time of year but there have been so many that there is a good chance the may be around all month. If you have difficulty finding sand fleas in the surf we have fresh frozen and sometimes live fleas. For the hardest of time we have the fake rubber fleas. If you are using the fake fleas I would suggest adding smelly jelly to them, they manufacture says the smell like real fleas but I don’t think so. I would suggest putting the fleas in a zip lock bag then a little smelly jelly and then micro waving them for a few seconds. The micro waving opens the pores of the fleas allowing the smelly jelly to impregnate them with sent.
Fishing from the Okaloosa Island Pier will get much better over this month. Plenty of Spanish will invade here. Gotcha Lures, Yozuri Crystal Vibes and Sea Striker Slab Spoons catch very well. They should also get the first cobia from the pier late in the month when the water warms a little more. Plenty of bonito will be caught from the pier either on white jigs, bubble rigs or a Sea Striker Gator Spoon.
Out in the gulf the grouper will be on the hunt for food and as the live bait becomes more plentiful the ability to catch them will be much easier, until then the best bet will be frozen Boston mackerel. The triggers and mingos should be good on two hook rigs and cut bait. Red snapper will also be moving back in but remember you must release them until the 15 of April when snapper season reopens. The amberjack will be real good and can be caught jigging over deep water metal structure.
In the bay the trout situation will be improving as the weather warms. Early indications say the tour run will be good this spring. So far they have caught fantastic numbers but they have been on the smaller side. I would think the larger trout will be will be heading from the deep water holes to the flats later in the month. Reds should also be tailing the flats now that the bait is moving up into the grass.
There are a couple options here for the winter fisherman and some new toys that will be available at Half Hitch before the end of the month. Carolina Lures makers of Yummy Sand Fleas have introduced the new Floating Yummy Sand Fleas in several colors. The floating fleas should be a nice addition to the already popular regular fleas. Dipped in Smelly Jelly they make a excellent substitute for natural sand fleas. They have also introduced some new very realistic looking jig heads for the Yummy Fleas also. They will be good for surf, pier or jetty fishing. Pompano should be available on these lures, sand fleas and shrimp. The Reds are also rummaging the troughs scavenging for food and would be a first-class target.
Opportunities should be on the rise here and fishing pressure should be on the light side. Most days there are abundant amounts of Winter Bonito mixed with large Boston Mackerel! They take a variety of lures including white jigs, Seastriker Slab spoons, and Bubble Rigs. Sheepsheads are obtainable around the pilings using live fiddler crabs and live shrimp. They will continue to get a few pompano throughout the month. Make sure you have a Spanish Rod and a Cobia Rod with you also as there is a prospect to spot either especially later in the month. Flounder have been reported in excellent size and should only get better using live bull minnows.
For the most part all is quiet here until the last of the month when the Spanish mackerel start to arrive. Then you can spent some quality hours trolling the sand bars along the beach, the mouth of the pass and the harbor with Clark spoons on a Sea Striker Straw rig with a trolling lead around 4oz’s and catch plenty of Spanish for dinner or even some mid summer blue marlin baits.
Man the new goodies rolling out here from tackle manufactures are almost endless and they are going to make for a really exciting spring. All we have to do is get the trout and reds to corporate just a little. Calcutta is introducing several be lines for you reels. There will be a new softer mono for spinning reels, and harder less likely to backlash mono for bait cast reels and some new braid that will be good for either spinning of casting reels. Calcutta is also introducing a new line of soft baits called Flash Foils that are extremely realistic looking as well as a affordable group of Hook Up lures. Both will be excellent trout and redfish baits. As the water temps warm look for the action to really get good near the end of the month.
Fishing in the surf can vary all winter depending on the weather; there are several options for fishing. Pompano, along with a few redfish, black Drum, sheepshead, whiting make for the bulk of fishing here. Do not look for the action to be fast and furious but enough to make the day enjoyable. The best days will be those just before a weather change, normally temps will be up just a bit ahead of a weather change, also helps to have a nice beach swell and some breakers to stir up the sand and make fish feed better in the crystal clear water you get in winter months. The best baits would be fresh peeled shrimp, sand fleas when available, and Fish Bites. Reports have it there are of some sharks from around the Topsail hill to Grayton beach area. If you are interested in trying your luck for them use, a frozen cigar minnow on the bottom.
Pier fishing is some what like surf fishing in the winter as you can never tell from day to day what might be happening, so there is good reason to try your luck here. Many mornings there are some winter bonito and northern mackerel, they are best caught on white jigs and bubble rigs. Look for flocks of birds to give away the fact the bonito and northern are on the way into the pier. Flounder on bull minnows, sheepshead and black drum on live shrimp and reds most days all oversized. The real prize here is Pompano. With the milder winters we have been having, there are always a few pompano hanging around. They are normally better around the jetties, Grayton Beach and Phillips Inlet but if you manage to catch the first one of the year from the Okaloosa Island Pier you receive a season pass to the pier. They offer a season pass for the first black fin tuna, king mackerel and cobia, but a pompano is a real possibility in January or February. The others there are no real shot until late march.
Using the new Mann’s Stretch Bunker, Rapala CD 18s and spoons you can expect to get in on the action with the abundance of over sized reds that hang out most of the winter. You can venture out of the pass most mornings and look either east or west and see large flocks of seagulls and pelicans working schools of reds and bonito feeding on small rain minnows. Most if not all the reds will be over sized but you get a legal one on occasion. Lots of bonito and a stray black fin tuna also are in the same mix of feeding fish.
There is not much action real close to home but a few black fin tunas and maybe a wahoo or two if you are lucky near the edge. The best thing here would be a Mann’s Stretch Bunker or drifting and then using chunk baits for the black fin tuna. You may want to venture to the rigs or fish the lumps for yellow fin tuna. Winter Yellow fin tuna action can be as good as or better than any other time of the year. We have heard repots of good action but it can be very spotty and you have to look for the right weather. The best days are usually the 2nd and 3rd day after a weather front. These days seem to be less windy and seas calmer allowing you to make the journey to the tuna grounds.
Destin Bridge and Coast Guard Station - Redfish have been exceptional over the last month; the only real problem has been finding one here small enough to keep. Bull minnows and live shrimp are the way to go for bait. Also with colder temps the sheepsheads have been much more plentiful. Live shrimp or fiddler crabs for bait rigged on a Carolina rig made of 15-20 fluorocarbon leaders, a #4 Owner fly liner hook and a 1-2 oz lead.
Mid-Bay Bridge / Bayous / and Flats- Trout have been excellent in the bayous that have freshwater creeks running into them. The back of Cinco, Joes, Indian and Tom bayous are good choices. Alaqua bayou, Mack’s, Hewett’s bayou and the Intercostals water way from Choctawhatchee to east bay in Panama city have been excellent for large quantities of trout. Redfish have been abundant neat Midbay bridge and most any deepwater boat docks.
Pompano can be very good all month on fresh peeled shrimp or sand fleas and if you do not whish to use natural bait. A yummy sand flea sprayed or dipped in shrimp or crab scent or Fishbites will also produce some action. Whiting are being caught on peeled shrimp. There are also some reds from keeper size to bull red size along with a few sheepshead, if you are targeting reds try some frozen cigar minnows. Fishing will be better on days when the surf is kicked up a little and not so calm or on really warm afternoons. And don’t forget there are also some days the flounder will bite good in the surf using live bull minnows, this is not an everyday thing, but something good to try on a slow day.Pompano can be very good all month on fresh peeled shrimp or sand fleas and if you do not whish to use natural bait. A yummy sand flea sprayed or dipped in shrimp or crab scent or Fishbites will also produce some action. Whiting are being caught on peeled shrimp. There are also some reds from keeper size to bull red size along with a few sheepshead, if you are targeting reds try some frozen cigar minnows. Fishing will be better on days when the surf is kicked up a little and not so calm or on really warm afternoons. And don’t forget there are also some days the flounder will bite good in the surf using live bull minnows, this is not an everyday thing, but something good to try on a slow day.
Flounder will be the focus on bull minnows, shrimp or jigs tipped with Fish Bites. A few whiting and pompano are being caught on shrimp, sand fleas or jigs. Reds and sheepshead will also be around. Please be gentle with the reds and use a pier net instead of a gaff, as many of the reds are just oversized or just undersized and you want to be able to release them unharmed. This is also when the runs of winter bonito should start, look for them when we get the first frost on the ground. The bonito like live minnows, white pompano jigs, green curl tail grubs and straw rigs.
Trolling has slowed considerably with cooler temps. A stray king mackerel may be around along with plenty of bonito and a few blues.
Some black fin tuna and maybe a few Wahoo on the edge using live or chunk baits for tuna and trolling islander rigged with ballyhoo for Wahoo. A good yellow fin tuna bite for those of you willing to put in the time and effort to run to the canyon and the rigs. Some of the rigs were damaged by Hurricane Ivan so be careful not to get overly close. Typical winter tuna trips usually produce 6-15 fish in the 50-175 lb range. Live hardtails, ballyhoo and chunk bait works best but some fish can be had with large diamond jigs or Braid slammer jigs. Yellowfin tuna bit best just before sunrise until around 8:00 or 9:00am then again just before sunset for a few hours.
Trout are much more abundant now with cooling temps, the best method is live shrimp but plenty can be caught on Yozuris, Mirrolures, D.O.A shrimp and grubs. Look to find the in good number at the 331 Bridge, around deep water docks, bridges, bayou mouths and river mouths. White trout are fun also mostly during the evening in bayous and the harbor but sometimes you can get nice catches of white trout at the Cinco and Shilimar Bayou Bridges early and mid mornings when the real cool weather arrives. Reds, sheepshead and black drum around bridge pilings, rock jetties and wrecks are great on live shrimp. This is also a good time to find the bay grouper biting on reefs and artificial reefs in the bay. Of course this is the perfect time to find the really big flounder whether you are fishing with live baits, jigs or gigging at night.
Surf fishing will be best towards the east, I like the Topsail Hill State Park, Grayton Beach State Park or maybe even all the way to Phillips Inlet. The beach to the east is in much better condition than to the west in the Navarre area. Pompano and whiting are biting well now that the temperature has started to drop a little. Sand fleas and fresh peeled shrimp are the preferred baits. Ladyfish, Bluefish and Spanish mackerel are good on straw rigs, spoons and jigs. Small sharks and Redfish are good at night on cigar minnows and cut bait. As for all these fish they tend to bite better on the tide movement and on days we get a weather front to kick up the surf a little.
Flounder and Spanish mackerel will continue to be the main focus until we get the second or third freeze. For Kings, a cigar minnow drifted off the end of the pier is the most productive method and live is always better than frozen. You will have to catch the live ones on sabiki rigs and you can buy the frozen ones. If you want kings, be quick about it as with dropping temps they won’t be around very much longer. Spanish like straw rigs, gotchas and spoons. Flounder will be good all month on live bull minnows. Pompano and Whiting near the surf on jigs, sand fleas and fresh peeled shrimp. Look for a few blackfin tuna late in the day and right at sun up.
Trolling will not be as good as summer months but Kings will again stay very good until the second or third freeze. You don’t even have to go very far some days, as just around the pass and the near shore reefs will hold some fish. Once we have a few cold snaps the kings will move offshore to the edges. Live bait is always a winner but the kings are frisky with the cooler water and Yozuri plugs, Mann’s stretch 25’s and 30’s, and spoons. Also loads of bonito if you want something just for fun.
Wahoo and blackfin tuna will be active around the rock cliffs, the nipple and towards the spur. Yellowfin tuna will be in the mouth of the canyon and the rigs to the southwest. If you are going to the rigs be careful, I have heard of lots of floating debris and some rigs are badly damaged and they will only let you get so close before asking you to move on. Marlin are heading out to deeper warmer water now but a few white marlin will stay until the first freeze. Whites will be around the nipple and the flats about 35 miles out, the better bet is a spread of teasers on one shot gun rig. Have several pitch baits ready for when the fish appear. Using pitch bait will help out with the hook up ratio on whites over just trolling lures rigged with ballyhoo.
There are still good opportunities to catch a grouper dinner in the bay as it will take several cold fronts to chase out all the grouper Hurricane Ivan pushed in. Trout, Reds and Flounder are here!! Cooling water temps turn them on and they will stay on the flats much longer throughout the day than during the hotter months. For trout on the flats top water plugs are made for Excitement and numbers. Reds like spoons bounced off the bottom especially gold spoons. Flounder especially around the pass and the bridge will be the main focus. Live bull minnows will produce the largest number and larger fish. Storm grubs and DOA shrimp will get good bites also.
Pompano will be back in full swing now but some of the favored areas may be inaccessible such as Ft. Pickens, the National Seashore between Navarre and Pensacola Beach and Navarre itself. That doesn’t mean there are not any good spots. Your choices are the big hole just east of the east jetty, Henderson Park, Topsail Hill Park, Grayton Beach Park and Blue Mountain Park. As well as Pompano expect good whiting bites, blues and ladyfish can be caught on straw rigs and Seastriker Jigfish. Some sharks at night can be caught on cut chunk baits.
Kings will be the main target but there are a multitude of other options here also. Spanish should be around most days, flounder will be very consistent on live minnows, shrimp and jigs tipped with fish bites. A few blackfin tuna should show up in the mornings and evenings of the full moon. Oh yeah and the Grouper, we have already seen many grouper near shore since “Hurricane Ivan the Terrible” and some of these grouper will stay inshore all winter making for some exciting fall and winter action around the pier.
Kind of the same thing here as with the bottom fishing, there should be an abundance of kings and blackfin tune that have headed east ahead of the storm. If you are looking for a rodeo winning king do your hardest fishing in the first two weeks of the month. In most normal years the winning king is caught before the first real signs of fall. Once the cool snaps come, the small schoolie kings get very active but the big smokers tend to head to deeper water. There are very few years when the winning king is not caught in week one or two of the rodeo. There will be plenty of schoolie dolphin so long as we don’t get an early freeze.
White marlin makes for great excitement because of the sheer numbers. You can find them in a triangle the starts at the nipple over to the flats and out to the spur and back. In the same area you are likely to good numbers of yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, Wahoo and some blue marlin. Remember, kind of like the kings; it is better to get an early start on offshore species for the rodeo, just in cast we get an early freeze.
Flounder will become major targets in the inlets to bayous, the mouth of the pass and the near shore reefs. You will find the flounder bite best on the tide change and the outgoing being the better tide. Reds will be in these same areas and bite on live pinfish, spoons and jigs tipped with fish bites. Trout will be moving to the flats, this is a time for some really exciting top water action. Most bayou mouths, grass flats and points along the shallows will hold good numbers of specks. The white trout will be good near bridges in the day and in the harbor and bayous at night.
Pompano will be making a comeback this month; there will be nice sized fish as well as lots of throwbacks. You need to keep in mind that the pompano did there summer spawn about 10 to 12 weeks ago and there are a lot of juvenile pompano and that the limits have changed to keeper size being 11 inches now form nose to fork of tail. Surely if you pompano fish you will catch some of the juveniles, just make sure you release these fish unharmed so they can grow larger and have a chance to reproduce themselves. There will still be good shark action in the evenings and some nice sized blue fish. Oh yeah and the small jack cravelle should be showing up in real good numbers if you want to have some fun on light tackle or a fly rod.We should see a increase in the numbers of kings from the pier this month mostly in the afternoons. Also when we go on the new moon and especially the full moon this month there will be good chances of a few blackfin tuna from the pier. Spanish will be the mainstay of action on the pier, they like bubble rigs with colored straws, Yozuri Crystal Vibes and Seastriker gotchas and Jigfish. Sometime this month I would also expect there to be some flounder action mostly in the later afternoon and on tide changes.Large to medium redfish attack the jetties on both tide changes. This is a excellent opportunity to get them on a fly rod with a sinking line and either a crab or spoon pattern fly. Carry plenty of flies as the reds are large and can easily break you off in the rocks and the Spanish mackerel and blues also take the same flies and will cut them off. I would use a 30lb shock leader but this wont stop the Spanish from cutting off you fly but does keep the reds on longer. Black snapper will be good on live shrimp fished close to the rocks. If you want to spin fish for the reds the Seastriker Jigfish, Yozuri Crystal Vibes and Rattle traps produce quality action.Snapper will move a lot this month looking for better supplies of food and cooler water temps. I find September to be a good time to find the red snapper and red grouper on the shallower reefs and wrecks to the east south east of Destin. Places like the Grayton reef and Seagrove rock near shore or the hard rock bottoms to the east. Amberjack will hang out on the larger metal man made reefs just off the edge. A good supple of live hardtails and live threadfin herring are a must of the quality bites. Grouper have moved to the deepwater looking for better food and water temperature. They are in mostly 180-350 foot depths. The current can be very strong this time of year and sometimes you will find that more than the usual 1oz for every 10ft of water depth of lead is required to hold the bottom while grouper fishing. Also with the fish being so deep a electric reel sure make life so much more enjoyable in the summer heat.Slow trolling for kings and Blackfin tuna in or near the southeast rocks, broken bottom and pier rubble can produce some wonderful summer action if you really want some of the action from these near shore blackfin tuna you are going to have to sacrifice some hooks and a few kings. As we all know for kings a wire leader is a must but for blackfin tune this doesn
Whiting should be abundant this month. Yea they are small but so delicious. A typical 2 hook pompano rig made out of 10-12 lb fluorocarbon, a #6 owner Mutu light or fly liner hook and a 1 oz lead is the rigging. For bait a piece of fresh peeled shrimp or tine chunks of squid. Once you have a cooler full of the tasty devils try this on for size. Filet them out getting rid of bones. Run the filets through a egg and milk wash, the powder them in Jiffy corn muffin mix and deep fry in peanut oil. Try to avoid turning them a lot as the coating is very light and sweet and falls of easily. When they float turn once and when both sides brown they are done. Add some fresh Cole slaw and new potatoes and a meal is madeTarpon will stay around for the first couple weeks and hopefully when they start to thin out a little the kings will start to bite better. Hard tails and ladyfish will be plentiful if you need action for the kids. Both hardtails and ladyfish are not notch for eating they both bite good and are excellent fighters for there size. From that I have seen kids are not picky about what they catch so long as the action is quick. If you want kings they seem to catch a occasional fish in the mornings but for the best chance you need to fish early afternoon to dark when the wind is blowing. Reds will give you all the excitement here, in the afternoons when the tide starts running out the bite good on Seastriker Jig Fish, rattle traps and spoons. Most of the reds are over sized so you will need to release them. Please be kind a replace treble hooks on the lures with singles so it is easier to release them live. There are so many of them even if you lose one or two this way you will have plenty of action and also help preserve the species. There are some black snapper to be caught on cut bait and sheepshead on live shrimp. like the pier there are plenty of hardtails and ladyfish for the kids using bubble rigs.This is a tough month for bottom fisherman, the weather is hot, live bait can be tough and fish have moved off shore looking for cooler feeding grounds and the current can be very bad. With that said there is still plenty of action if you are willing to work a little. Going to a much lighter fluorocarbon leader, lighter lead, smaller hook and lighter rod/reel you can still be productive. Fish see to like natural bottom better than wrecks when the temps are hotter. Live bait will help a lot but sometimes they can be hard to come by. If you are bait fishing and having trouble getting bites even though you see plenty of bait try out one of the new fluorocarbon bait rigs, there are more money but can save a trip.Kings will be plenty abundant for those who have a downrigger or planners. Catching them on the surface can be tricky if not down right impossible. You do want to run a couple flat lines anyway. What happens is when you get a bite on the downrigger and you fish comes to the surface other fish follow him up and then you flat lines get bit. So make sure you flat lines are you longest out so that when the other fish come to the surface that bait trolls but the hooked fish.August is normally a time I would say the offshore fishing should start to pick back up after a slow July but that would be totally wrong this year as July has been excellent. Normally the white marlin bite stats in august and continues into September and early October. I have no idea how good it may actually be but if the blue marlin fishing in June and July is any indication on how good the white marlin fishing is going to be it may well be one of the best fall runs ever. The blue marlin have been excellent all summer with several tournaments having tag and releases over 20 fish in each tournament. The best water is over towards the squiggles and Alaska but as we get deeper into August look for blue water near the nipple and flats with good catches of Wahoo and tuna plus the white and blue marlin.Reds are the main focus here, look for them especially the larger bulls on the outgoing tide in the pass near the Destin Bridge and jetties. Some tarpon near the shipwreck between the mid bay and 331 bridge. Trout will favor the area around Mack and Horseshoe Bayou.
There are a few pompano still biting and I think there may be even more than we think as the June grass has not yet gotten bad yet. Here is the biggest problem and to some it is not a problem, Ladyfish. The Lady fish are so plentiful they make it difficult to catch anything else they are very aggressive and take anything from sand fleas, shrimp, squid and almost any small lure Gotcha, Jigfish or spoon. There are some whiting on fresh shrimp and a abundance of small sharks both during the day and especially at night. Cut up chunks of ladyfish work great for sharks and blues.They are doing good with the Spanish just at sun up and in the late afternoon leading up to dark. Quite a few tarpon are making there way by and some good catches of kings especially on the days the wind blows. If it is really calm out the kings don
Pompano will bite all month on sand fleas, peeled shrimp and jigs. Many rigs will work for pompano but a custom tied Half Hitch Fluorocarbon rig with custom painted Owner Mutu Light #2 hooks and also adding a pompano floatie will help. The floatie serves several purposes 1. it floats the bait from the bottom so live fleas don dig into the sand and hide, 2. it floats the bait so bottom feeding crabs don
Pompano on sand fleas, shrimp or fish bites are the popular targets but there is now a much larger variety of fish to be had. Spanish mackerel are plentiful on Sea Striker jig fish, spoons and Gotcha plugs. Cobia can be caught bottom fishing with live or frozen eels, cigar minnows and whole squid. As normal don
Sand fleas have become much plentiful in the surf over the past week, along with the influx of sand fleas is the numbers of pompano, whiting, reds and cobia in the surf. The food is here and fishing is on the rise. Some of the favored beach areas for pompano are Henderson Beach State Park, Topsail Hill State Park and Inlet Beach Park.As of the time of publication the only pier in the area to catch a pompano was the Okaloosa island Pier but by the time you get to read this I expect all the piers along the coast will have caught a pompano and several will have caught there first cobia and Spanish mackerel. Expect to have plenty of Spanish over the entire month. The old wise tale is after three straight days of fog the Spanish will be good and the cobia will be right behind them. It the weather stays on course and my prediction is it will you can expect the fish King Mackerel most likely in the first 10 days of April. If all goes to plan Pensacola Pier will get the first cobia, then Navarre Pier, Okaloosa the Panama City Beach Pier. Why you may ask when they are migrating from east to west. Will the water between Navarre and Pensacola heats up first because of it proximity to the canyon offshore, the cobia that are caught early in the season especially before march 25 are mostly resident fish that have spent the winter here and have followed the southerly winds and currents to the beach to feed. When the Panama City Beach Pier catches a cobia you can be assured that those are migrating cobia and not resident fish as the reefs off Panama City are shallower and don
Pompano are beginning to get much better and will improve daily. Sand fleas, Fishbites and fresh peeled shrimp produce the best. The area around Phillips Inlet, Inlet Beach and Ft. Pickens seem to have the best action. Several times we have seen catches of near limits on pompano in both areas lately. Remember the new limits on pompano are 6 per person and 11 inches in length. We also have several new colors of yummy artificial sand fleas and the seem to be doing good when dipped in Smelly jelly or Jacks Juice crab scent.
Pompano, along with a few redfish, black Drum, sheepshead, whiting make for the bulk of fishing here. Do not look for the action to be fast and furious but enough to make the day enjoyable. The best days will be those just before a weather change, normally temps will be up just a bit ahead of a weather change, also helps to have a nice beach swell and some breakers to stir up the sand and make fish feed better in the crystal clear water you get in winter months. Reports of some sharks from around the Topsail hill to Grayton beach area and also in Fort Pickens area if you are interested in trying your luck for them. Pier action has slowed considerably but there is still some action and good reason to try your luck here. Flounder on bull minnows, sheepshead and black drum on live shrimp and reds most days all oversized. But the real prize here is Pompano. With the milder winters we have been having there are always a few pompano hanging around. Yes they are better around the jetties, pass and Fort Pickens but if you manage to catch the first one of the year from the Okaloosa Island Pier you receive a season pass to the pier. They offer a season pass for the first black fin tuna, king mackerel and cobia but a pompano is a real possibility in January or February. The others there are no real shot until late march. Lastly there are some winter bonito and northern mackerel some mornings on white jigs. Look for flocks of birds to give away the fact the bonito and northern are on the way into the pier.Redfish are just as easy as it ever gets on both tides movements on live shrimp, live bull minnows and a few on spoons. Sheepshead and black drum have been abundant on live shrimp and fiddler crabs. There are a few grouper around the jetties now and a large live bull minnow or pinfish will do the trick. Also look for pompano to start biting on the nice days. For pompano jigs of orange, pink or chartreuse tipped with Fish Bites, live or frozen sand fleas and or live shrimp. We have some new artificial sand fleas here at Half Hitch Tackle that work well especially of you dip them in Smelly Jelly of spray with Jacks Juice crab or shrimp sent. Near Shore Bottom Fishing- Plenty of groupers have moved inshore especially on the east beach. This is a good time of year to find the groupers in less than a 150 of water. Yes there are lots of shorts this time of year but some nice keepers can be found and the small can be released unharmed in the shallow water if you handle them correctly. Triggers have been good in the 18s, Nicky grounds and mingo ridge area. Flounders are also still good on near shore reefs on live bull minnows.
Offshore Bottom Fishing- Winter months can produce some very nice size groupers in the 200-350 foot water depths. Pick your days to head to the edge and beyond and make sure to spend a few days prior to heading out catching up a good supply if live pinfish or live mullet. Live baits are sometimes hard to find in winter months but can be the difference in a successful trip. Don
The surf will stay productive all winter if the weather stay mild, you will find the better fishing on the warmer south wind days. Its good to stop and do some scouting on the real calm north wind days even though you may not be fishing. What you want to look for is deep holes where the pompano, whiting and reds will be when the conditions get right. Exactly what you are looking for is water color changes just off the first bar but not to the outer bar, the light green water is the shallower water and the dark green or blue water are the holes. The holes are formed buy the water running off the beach during storms and can change with each storm system. As the waves wash up onto the beach and flow back into the water washing out holes or gullies. These holes or gullies as we call them are hard to find when the water is rough but these are exactly the days you want to fish especially in winter months. So when surveying you favorite fishing areas make sure to take some notes and beach marks of where you see the holes so on a day when its rough a and the water is dirty or cloudy you know where to cast. Other than this of course sand fleas, fresh peeled shrimp and fish bites are the best baits. Take a lunch and spend the day! Flounder all month should be easy along with sheepshead, bonito and whiting. Bull minnows for the flounder on a Carolina rig and a 1 oz egg lead. What you want to do is start at one end or the other of the pier, doesn ot really matter and slowly work you way up the side of the pier slowly dragging you bull minnow along. Once you catch one concentrate on a area as they seem to always be more than on in a spot. Paying close attention to tide movement is a key to flounder fishing. Don
Pompano and a few whiting can be found all winter, look to catch them best on the couple days just prior to a big cold front coming down from the north. The reason for this is most days we have a offshore wind blowing and the water is calm and clear and pompano get very weary. On the days before a weather front we normally get a heavy southerly breeze which kicks up a swell and beach break. This in turns stirs up the sand fleas and shrimp and gets the pompano rowdy. Large red fish roam the beaches in winter and can be taken on cigar minnows, squid and cut mullet, they are even a few keeper size mixed in with that large bulls so dinner is always available. This month the pier will produce flounder, pompano, whiting and winter bonito. Flounder take the usual offerings of bull minnows, live shrimp, jigs tipped with fish bites and grubs. Pompano prefer fresh peeled shrimp, sand fleas and jigs. Whiting of course like fresh peeled shrimp too!!!. Winter bonito can provide excellent fun from the pier to occupy slow winter mornings. Most morning you can see bonito working the beach under the birds. They seem to feed best and be most active the first few hours of daylight. As they move in and out from the pier they can be caught on white jigs, straw and bubble rigs and small spools. Please do remember if you are not going to keep the bonito use a pier net and not a gaff as you will want to release them unharmed and a gaff surely means death and less fish for the future. The jetties still offer some good fishing days through the winter. Grouper roam the rocks looking for food and live or frozen cigar minnows work good and well as live pinfish. Remember the water here is very clear so fluorocarbon leader is a must, because of the all the rocks you will need at least 60 if not 80lb leader for the abrasion resistance. Bluefish and redfish on the falling tide, they like spoons, gotchas and cigar minnows. Pompano should be around for a least a month more and I have seen them stay all winter if the weather is mild. Pink, orange or chartreuse jigs, live shrimp and sand fleas do best. On the offshore side of the jetties you can find flounder laying on the sand bottom close to the rocks. Bull minnows, jigs tipped with fish bites and live shrimp fished on a Carolina rig with a Owner Mutu Light 1/0 hook is the way to go. On the pass side of the jetties there are some flounder but the snags make it hard to fish here, you loose a lot of tackle. Lastly flounder and most of the other fish here bite best on the falling tide, a rising tide is ok but not nearly as good. The falling tide brings lots of bait from the bay along with the tide and turns on the bite. Remember red snapper season is closed but this in now way means bottom fishing is over for the winter. There are plenty of trigger fish, flounder and mingo snapper inshore to keep you busy. The Valparaiso reef balls are good for trigger fish 3008.78/8640.785, also try Okaloosa county concrete fish havens, 3008.381/8648.968, 3008.308/8648.959, 3008.375/8649.064. You can also get flounder off all these spots, when flounder fishing remember to fish the leeward side of the reef and not directly above the reef. Flounder like the sandy bottom just down wind of the reef, this gives them a nice sandy bottom to lay on while waiting to ambush small bait fish. Mingo snappers will be just a little farther offshore on coral or natural bottom.
The fall run of Pompano has been a more of a crawl than a run through the month of September. Bull Red Drum continues to be plentiful in the surf. A few blue fish are being caught but the catch of larger blues has not been reported. Schools of Jack Crevalle are still feeding along the beaches and provide a lot of excitement for your drag system. Peeled shrimp, sand fleas, squid, small pinfish, mullet, and cut bait will entice most of the fish found in the surf.Steve Blouin at the Okaloosa Island Pier said King and Spanish Mackerel continue to be plentiful. Early morning and late afternoon remains the most productive time, but cooler weather seems to increase the numbers caught during mid-day.