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. Finally! SNAPPER SEASON OPENS APRIL 15TH IN STATE WATERS, JUNE 1ST IN FEDERAL WATERS. Fishing should be good as they have been closed since October 31st. several of the charter boats have said they have stopped to catch bait in shore and has had to beat the snapper away. This is a good sign. If you are looking for snapper many rigs work well but I would suggest using fluorocarbon leader and Owner Mutu hooks. A good rule of thumb on the sinker.On the 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. In the 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. On the jetties Spanish are preferential targets here, gotcha's are the best choice, then the new Braid Blades or Yozuri Live Minnows or baits but jig fish spoons and jigs do well also. Pompano are good on Carolina pompano jigs tipped with Fish Bites shrimp, sand fleas or smelly jelly. Reports of blues have been consistent and I expect them to remain thought the month. Expect the reds to be ok with most of them being over the slot limit.Groupers and amberjack will be caught mostly on the edges and deep water wrecks. Where most of the winter you could get a few on live pinfish and frozen cigar minnows and fishing was tough now it is much easier and the live cigar minnows and herring are easy to get along the beach and in the pass fishing is heating up and the fish will be soon moving into shallower water. Remember to throw over a fly line rig now as this is how to catch your first king of the season. There is also a good chance to pick up a black fin tuna fishing this way also. For those seeking the offshore trolling experience there is good tuna action at the rigs and canyon, some wahoo will be moving near the edge and you would have a excellent opportunity for them within 30 miles by the last 2 weeks of April.Trout and redfish are moving to the flats and becoming much easier to catch. Top water plugs will provide excellent action and well a array of plastics. There are plenty of sheephead around the jetties, bridge pilings and bay reefs. Also there is good action on Spanish mackerel 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.
Pier fishing should pick-up noticeably this month. Spanish mackerel will provide plenty of action to those casting spoons, Got-Cha plugs and straw rigs. In addition to the Spanish mackerel, the pompano should show-up this month and they can be caught on sand fleas, dead shrimp or pompano jigs. Bonita should still be around and can be caught on straw rigs, Got-Cha plugs and spoons. Again, have that cobia rod ready especially if you are going to be out there towards the end of the month.March is a good month to catch amberjack, beeliners and triggerfish on some of the inshore wrecks. Grouper season is closed until March 15th and red snapper season is closed until April. You can also troll mackerel tree rigs along the beaches to get in on the Spanish mackerel bite. March is also the month people start to get real excited about the cobia run. They should start to show up in small numbers sometime around the 3rd week of the month. I know if I were doing any fishing at all during March, I would have a rod rigged for cobia, because you just never know when one may pop up next to you!Due to the snapper and grouper closures, there isn't much to run offshore for until after March 15th, when grouper season re-opens. At that time, it would be very worthwhile to fill the live-well with pinfish or other live bait and hit some of the structure and natural bottom spots in water over 100' deep. This is where the grouper should be hanging out, and they should be hungry! Amberjack, beeliners, scamp and triggerfish should all be in the same areas as the grouper are hanging out. In addition to the live bait, jigs will also work great on the grouper and amberjack.March will bring warmer water, which will bring bait, which will attract fish. The biggest excitement usually comes with the arrival of the Spanish mackerel. They can be caught by slow trolling mackerel tree rigs with small spoons attached to them, or by casting Got-Cha plugs or straw rigs. This is usually a good time to take the family out and catch some fish because they will be plentiful and are fairly easy to catch. Smaller children love this type of fishing because it keeps them occupied. The current limits on Spanish mackerel is 15 per person per day, and they must be 12" long measured to the fork of the tail. Also in the bay this month, the trout will be moving back onto the flats and they can be caught on everything from live shrimp to artificial bait such as DOA or GULP! Shrimp or mirro-lures. A lot of people like to fish the Steam Plant Canal during the winter months, which it is catch and release only from November 1st until February 28th. This means starting on March 1st, you can keep your catch of legal fish. Redfish will be caught along the mouths of the bayous as well as along the flats. Gold spoons, live shrimp and various soft plastics will entice a redfish bite. Flounder should start to migrate back into the bays from the gulf sometime in March as well. Live bull minnows or soft plastic jigs are great baits for the flounder. Those fishing the jetties and the pass will have the opportunity to get into some fabulous Spanish mackerel fishing as well as a decent redfish bite.
March brings the start of the real fishing season. Typically they have already caught the first pompano by now and in some cases the first ones of the year are either stragglers left over from the fall run or some that have decided to winter here in town. March does bring the first of the true spring run. They can be caught either bottom fishing with sand fleas or shrimp or jigging with small 3/8 to 5/8 ounce jigs. Spanish will also show up this month and fishing with Seastriker Gotcha's, spoons and straw rigs is the best way to end up with a limit of fish. The Spanish show up anytime from late February to early March depending on weather. You will see just a few one day and then all the sudden they are just about everywhere over night. Cobia show up this month also usually during the last week. There have been rare times they come earlier if the weather gets good. Most of the pier fisherman use jigs to catch them, some will take live eels or bottom fish with whole squid. The ells or squid work much better if you are looking to get one from the surf.Trolling for Spanish is the most productive type of fishing. The best bet is trolling either a Clark spoon with a straw rig, maybe a gotcha troll. Either way it is best to run a trolling lead in front of either. You will find them near the pass, along sand bars and in the harbor. Bottom fishing is mostly triggers, mingo snapper and amberjack. Early in the year you do have the opportunity to get some keeper amberjack fairly close to home. Cobia show up in March and are one of the prize catches this month. They catch the first one usually in the 3rd week of the month but in recent years several have been caught as early as the first week of March. The main part of the run appears during the last week of the month. Cobia jigs, ling tubes and live eels are the most popular baits. More people catch them by sight casting bud a few are caught trolling or bottom fishing.There are always some tuna both black fin and yellow fin around the rigs and the canyon. Also you have a shot at wahoo around the rigs. As for bottom fishing if groupers are open they will be good around the edges and deepwater reefs. Boston mackerel and live pinfish are good baits. Amberjack should be plentiful and aggressive taking Butterfly type jigs, clouts and spoons very well.Speckled trout will open back up in March and with warming temps will start to take lures better. The best lures are Yozuri plugs, DOA shrimp and Gulps, as for live bait shrimp will be the choice. Reds should be plentiful around almost any structure. Spanish mackerel should also be abundant near the pass and in some of the bayous around the Cinco and Shalimar Bridges.
Pier fishing will vary day by day this month. Typically you can expect to catch whiting, flounder, bluefish, redfish and bonita off the pier during February. Target the whiting using a 2-hook surf rig tipped with a piece of shrimp for bait. Many times you will catch a passing by redfish on this same rig. Use a live bull minnow fished on a flounder rig or Carolina rig for flounder. Bluefish and bonita will hit a straw rig or silver spoon.February can be a good month to fish some of the inshore wrecks for grouper, amberjack, beeliners and triggerfish. This year grouper will be closed for harvesting from February 15 to March 15th. At the time of this writing, this closure is in Federal Waters, however the state may very well adopt this same closure. Give the Marine Patrol or us a call prior to fishing in State Waters to find out the latest on the state
February is a quiet month for surf fishing but that is not to say there is no action. We always have a few leftover pompano from the fall run still around and some whiting. If the weather really turns nice we will get some of the early spring migrating pompano late in the month and there is also a chance for a few Spanish during the last week of the month. The primary species for this month are redfish and sheepshead. Also there is always a chance for a shark or two if you like to try for those. Fresh peeled shrimp, sand fleas and Fishbites are the best choices to get a bite or two.
Look for the warmer days just before a cold front approaches and the wind is from the south for your best chances. Lastly look for some bonito to be around on the very calm mornings with a light north wind. Use small white jigs or spoons for the bonito.
Many days there will also be a very good run on bonito at the pier early in the morning and an occasional pompano.
Trolling the channel around the Destin Bridge, Coast Guard station and then around the Mid Bay Bridge with Yozuri and Mann’s Stretch lures will do real well. Please do replace the treble hooks with single hooks for easy release of the reds as most will be over sized. Like the pier the bonito should be plentiful just off the pass if you want some action.
Amberjack will be the main focus and will be very aggressive due to the lack of food supply. You will find the best action on Shimano Butterfly jigs, Seastriker Jigfish and Clouts. Mingo snapper and triggers can be had on squid chunks fishing the near shore reefs.
For tunas the rigs and the spur should hold well this month, they will get both the blackfin and yellowfin tunas. Due to the distance you will need to travel make sure to watch the weather really close to pick and choose the best days.
Remember speckled trout is closed this month but there are plenty of other opportunities. The reds will be around most of the bridges and in the pass. Black drum and sheepshead are plentiful along with the white trout. There are a few flounder lingering around and the stripers can be good near the mouth of the rivers. You will also find that you can many times get a few nice grouper off the bay cones and other bay structures during the entire month of February. This is one of the few times that you can find legal sized grouper in the bay.
The jetties will continue to be a hot spot this month holding some grouper for the savvy bottom fisherman along with some nice sized reds. Using a chunk of Boston mackerel or cigar minnows will work the best. Live shrimp should get you a nice stringer of sheepshead and black drum. Late in the month the Spanish might show up and then a gotcha rig will work very well.
Your best bet for February is definitely sheepshead and blackdrum this month. Big drum and sheepshead will be found around all the range markers and buoys outside St Joe Beach. Use a strong short shank hook like the Mustad's 94150 series Carolina rigged with 20 lb fluorocarbon leader and just enough weight to get your bait down. Be sure to set the hook immediately upon feeling the first nibble as sheepshead will crush the bait in their mouths first and then suck it in after. For the black drum, use the 1/0 circle hooks and just reel upon a bite. Use small live shrimp for the sheepshead and bigger live shrimp for the drum. In February, trout is a catch and release fish only. And if catch and release is your game head into the deeper holes and up into the canals and bayous. Where the trout are, the redfish are there also and fishing live shrimp will be the bait of choice on a jig head or Carolina rigged using a mutu light circle hook and fluorocarbon leader. The Gulf canal is a great place to fish starting past Raffield's Fisheries all the way to the "T" and beyond for the rest of the winter. You will catch trout (remember to release them), redfish, sheepshead, and black drum. Try trolling Mann's Stretch 25's in the bay. Apalachicola bay will have some good trout action with live shrimp off the edges of the shoals and in the deeper channels and bayous doing well. Do not forget the rivers and bayous, as these areas will light up on the colder days. Trolling 5-inch plastics and mirrolures up east river will provide some top-notch action in February.Grouper will have moved to the shallower wrecks and reefs as the water temperature drops. The big hogs will be at 150'. Around the inshore wrecks, trolling with Mann's stretch series lures works very well and you will want to use the 25+ series in 30' or less and the 30+/40+ series any deeper. Of course, using live bait works great, but is increasingly harder to find with the temperature dropping. Frozen cigar minnows & northern mackerel will work well Carolina rigged with 80lb fluorocarbon leader and 10/0 Mustad circle hooks. Triggerfish never leave us and are great table fare. Use a double drop rig with squid on #4 owner fly liner hooks. Amberjack will stick around wrecks and towers; my favorite lure is the AJ glow-jig. Trolling gets a little slow with the temperature drops and your best bet will be at the squiggles 75 miles out. Here you can encounter the Wahoo and some Black fin tuna. Use Yozuri Bonita's for the Wahoo and tuna plugs for the Black fin.Your best bet for February is definitely sheepshead and blackdrum this month. Big drum and sheepshead will be found around all the range markers and buoys outside St Joe Beach. Use a strong short shank hook like the Mustad's 94150 series Carolina rigged with 20 lb fluorocarbon leader and just enough weight to get your bait down. Be sure to set the hook immediately upon feeling the first nibble as sheepshead will crush the bait in their mouths first and then suck it in after. For the black drum, use the 1/0 circle hooks and just reel upon a bite. Use small live shrimp for the sheepshead and bigger live shrimp for the drum. In February, trout is a catch and release fish only. And if catch and release is your game head into the deeper holes and up into the canals and bayous. Where the trout are, the redfish are there also and fishing live shrimp will be the bait of choice on a jig head or Carolina rigged using a mutu light circle hook and fluorocarbon leader. The Gulf canal is a great place to fish starting past Raffield's Fisheries all the way to the "T" and beyond for the rest of the winter. You will catch trout (remember to release them), redfish, sheepshead, and black drum. Try trolling Mann's Stretch 25's in the bay. Apalachicola bay will have some good trout action with live shrimp off the edges of the shoals and in the deeper channels and bayous doing well. Do not forget the rivers and bayous, as these areas will light up on the colder days. Trolling 5-inch plastics and mirrolures up east river will provide some top-notch action in February.
While most people are doing other things such as hunting or working on their honey-do's this month they are missing out on some fabulous near shore fishing this month. The cooler water temperatures bring the grouper and amberjack closer to shore - not to mention all the flounder stacked-up on the inshore wrecks. Fishing on structure, even the public numbers, within 10 miles of the shoreline should provide you with some of the best near shore bottom fishing of the year. Drop a live pinfish, dead cigar minnow or a jig around these wrecks and it shouldn't be too long before you are getting bit by an amberjack or grouper. Drop smaller baits such as strips of squid or cut bait for some great triggerfish and beeliner action. A live bull minnow rigged on a 2/0 Khale style hook and about a 1-2oz egg lead on light (10-15#) spinning tackle should put you in the flounder zone. If you like to fish in the pass or on the jetties you can expect to catch sheepshead, bluefish and bull redfish this month. Try baiting your hook with a fiddler crab or small live shrimp for sheepshead. Redfish will take everything from a 3oz jig to live pinfish or shrimp. Bluefish are not picky and will take just about anything you want to offer them.Pier fishing will vary day by day this month. Typically you can expect to catch whiting, flounder, bluefish, redfish and bonita off the pier during January. Target the whiting using a 2-hook surf rig tipped with a piece of shrimp for bait. Many times you will catch a passing by redfish on this same rig. Use a live bull minnow fished on a flounder rig or Carolina rig for flounder. Bluefish and bonita will hit a straw rig or silver spoon.There isn't too much going on offshore in January with the exception of bottom fishing. January is a great month to fish in water around 200' deep with heavy tackle and large baits in search of that "copper-belly" grouper. They too come in from the deep during the winter months and now is a great time to target them. You will also find the larger amberjack hanging over the wrecks offshore as well as plenty of scamp, triggerfish and beeliners.January is typically a very decent month for fishing in our local bay system. You can expect to catch trout, redfish, bluefish, sheepshead and a few flounder. Where you will locate the fish, especially the trout, will depend on the water temperatures. Trout don't take to the real cold water too well so they will generally be where the water is the warmest. This usually means along an area in the bay that has a dark, rather than sandy bottom. You will usually find these areas in the residential canals and in the bayous. Another great place for trout fishing is Warren Bayou, or locally known as the Steam Plant Canal. You will need a boat that is capable of navigating in some pretty shallow water to get there and it is strictly catch & release fishing there this time of year. Redfish are not as intolerable to the cold water temperatures and you will find them along the flats this month. You can also find the redfish in the bayous around oyster beds as well as around boat docks and other structure. Live shrimp or various plastic grubs are great baits to use for both trout and redfish. Bluefish will be in the main part of the bay as well as up in some of the bayous. They will hit just about anything you toss to them, including live shrimp, chunk bait, silver spoons and plastic grubs. Be careful when handling bluefish as they have very sharp teeth and a strong jaw. Sheepshead can be found around most structure throughout the bay this month. They will feed on small live shrimp as well as fiddler crabs. Fishing around boat docks, bridge pilings and oyster beds with 10-15# tackle and a small but strong hook should yield you a nice mess of fish. Most of the flounder have migrated out of the bay and into the Gulf by now, however you can still pick a few up by fishing a live bull minnow or plastic grub in the sandy areas around the pass.
Near shore bottom fishing will produce plenty of groupers all winter as they have been moving inshore steadily over the past few weeks, especially on the east beach. This is a good time of year to find the groupers in less than a 150 of water. 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. 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.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. 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. This is the best opportunity for shore fishing most of the winter. Many species hold up around the jetties in winter. The rocks provide good hiding and feeding opportunities for most fish. Redfish are just as easy as ever and you get good action on both tide movements, the out going being the better of the two. The best action comes using 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 especially well of you dip them in Smelly Jelly or spray with Jacks Juice crab or shrimp sent.Deep water bottom fishing 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. If you are going to go with frozen baits, larger ones like Northern Mackerel will be better than cigar minnows, producing a better grade of grouper and also be large enough to discourage snapper bites as red snapper season is closed. Don't wait until the day you are going to look for bait. If you cannot find pinfish or mullet try the Broken bottom or Frangista reef for some ruby lips, rockfish and Mingo's for deep water baits. The rigs produce black fin and yellow fin tuna most of the winter. Finding the right window of opportunity is the biggest obstacle here. Winter weather fronts can change fishing conditions rapidly so keep a good ear to the radio for weather changes if you venture this far. Fishing can be excellent this time of year normally a day or so after a big winter weather event.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 will be 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.
Whiting will be along the surf in good numbers in January with just a few pompano thrown in for good measure. The stump hole off Cape San Blas is a favorite among the locals, but along Mexico Beach is good also. Use a 2-hook pompano rig with small circle hooks rigged with a shrimp after you have taken the tail and head off. Use a pyramid weight just heavy enough to hold your rig in place. Big breeder redfish will also be along the shoreline at sunset. Use a 4/0 circle hook Carolina rigged on a 20lb class rod/reel.Grouper will have moved to the shallower wrecks and reefs as the water temperature drops. The big hogs will be at 150'. Trolling with Mann's stretch series lures works very well and you will want to use the 25+ series in 30' or less and the 30+ series any deeper. Of course, using live bait works great, but is increasingly harder to find with the temperature dropping. Frozen cigar minnows/northern mackerel will work well Carolina rigged with 80lb fluorocarbon leader and 10/0 Mustad circle hooks. Triggerfish never leave us and are great table fare. Use a double drop rig with squid on #4 owner fly liner hooks. Amberjack will stick around wrecks and towers, my favorite lure is now the new Shimano Butterfly jigs. Trolling gets a little slow with the temperature drops and your best bet will be Black fin tuna out past the 20-mile mark. Troll skirted ballyhoo and have some tuna plugs ready when you find a school.In January, the trout and redfish are in the deeper holes and up into the canals. Live shrimp is the bait of choice with the lightest weight to keep your baits under control. The Gulf canal is a great place to fish starting past Raffield's Fisheries all the way to the "T" and beyond the rest of the winter. The Port St Joe marina is a favorite trout hole with the smaller trout far outnumbering large ones at the onset of January, but will increase in size by the end of the month. Big redfish can be caught trolling Mann's Stretch 25's in the bay or throwing big soft plastics. The key for the big reds are to look for any bird activity. Apalachicola bay will be a hot bed of some great large trout action with live shrimp off the edges of the shoals and in the deeper channels doing well. Sheepshead bite will be good on the surf at the beginning of January and pick up in the canal and around the oyster beds using fiddlers and small shrimp.
February can be a good month to fish some of the inshore wrecks for grouper, amberjack, beeliners and triggerfish. This year grouper will be closed for harvesting from February 15 to March 15th. At the time of this writing, this closure is in Federal Waters, however the state may very well adopt this same closure. Give the Marine Patrol or us a call prior to fishing in State Waters to find out the latest on the state
There is a good chance the pompano will still be biting. For the most part during this time the redfish will be a good one to catch and on most mornings the bonito should be well within casting range. Redfish should be abundant all month. Blues will show up on nearly all of these days and there is always a chance for grouper during this time. Occasionally you may be able to catch some pompano and the bonito will make runs through in the mornings. Trolling around the beach should produce plenty of bonito and a rare chance at a king mackerel. Things here are mostly quiet until spring.
Mostly over sized reds will be the catch of the day. Some sheepshead will hang around the pilings, and bonito will make daily appearances. There may be a chance for a king or two to be caught during the first two weeks depending on the weather. Black fin tuna falls under the same category as the kings. Flounder should be abundant all month as well as whiting and pompano.
Chances are good here all winter for Yellowfin tuna and a few wahoo anywhere south of the spur and over towards the rigs. When the weather permits there is also a good chance for swordfish at night well into winter. A lot of people think the swordfish run is over but remember up on the east coast they catch them in water much colder than ours, as their water never gets above the coldest temps it gets here. The Grouper bite will be good all winter in the deep water near the edges. The Mingo and Trigger are prevalent as well. Boston mackerel are the better baits for grouper and mingo snapper. Triggers are usually caught on squid. Flounder will also be found on near shore reefs, fish the lee side of the reef for best results.
Reds are going to be the most abundant but there will also be a very good supply of white trout. The trout will run the best when the weather is right. Flounder fishing should be good around the pass and near shore reefs. Also in the winter, it’s a good time to catch snapper and a few grouper off the bay wrecks. Furthermore, during the end of this year, the sheepshead will start to show up in good numbers.
December we will see the whiting move in thick and a few white trout as well. Some bull reds will be cruising the beaches at sunset devouring all types of cut bait and of course live bait if you have it. The fall run of pompano will be over with just a couple being caught. To catch the whiting, use fresh shrimp on a double pompano rig with a pyramid sinker. I highly recommend our custom pompano rigs due to them being made from 100 percent fluorocarbon. Use a 1 oz pyramid for line 8-12 lb test, a 2 oz for 14-25 lb test, and 3 oz and up for 30 lb test and up. A few Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be around also. A little secret for the whiting is fishing the Mexico Beach pier at night using small live shrimp on a Carolina rig only about 25 yards from the surf. December will mark the grouper heading to shallower waters and as long as the seas cooperate for the angler, limits should be easy to fill. The key is using big baits such as cut up bonita or butterflied northern mackerel fished on a Carolina rig with 80 lb fluorocarbon and a 10/0 circle hook. The grouper will be caught in good numbers 10-20 miles out with the water temperature dropping and the most productive areas will be on natural hard bottoms and inshore wrecks. Trolling for grouper will start to be feasible this month, but you will need to use the Mann
December will see the whiting move in thick and a few white trout as well. Some bull reds will be cruising the beaches at sunset devouring all types of cut bait and of course live bait if you have it. The fall run of pompano will be over with just a couple being caught. To catch the whiting, use fresh shrimp on a double pompano rig with a pyramid sinker. I highly recommend our custom pompano rigs due to them being made from 100 percent fluorocarbon. Use a 1 oz pyramid for line 8-12 lb test, a 2 oz for 14-25 lb test, and 3 oz and up for 30 lb test and up. A few Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be around also. A little secret for the whiting is fishing the Mexico Beach pier at night using small live shrimp on a Carolina rig only about 25 yards from the surf.December will mark the grouper heading to shallower waters and as long as the seas cooperate for the angler, limits should be easy to fill. The key will be big baits such as cut Bonita or butter flied northern mackerel fished on a Carolina rig with 80 lb fluorocarbon and a 10/0 circle hook. The grouper will be in good numbers 10-20 miles out with the water temperature dropping and the most productive areas will be on natural hard bottoms and inshore wrecks. Amberjack will be a key target this month and using jigs such as the Shimano Butterfly and Williamson jigs work wonders. Trolling for grouper will start to be feasible this month, but you need to use the Mann's stretch 40's in 60' of water to get them. Be sure to troll the lures 150' behind the boat cruising at 5-6 knots to get the optimum depth and action from the stretches. Offshore will be slow, but some black fin tuna will be caught jigging the Shimano butterfly or Williamson jigs or trolling a tuna plug will work also.December will see the trout, redfish, black drum, and sheepshead in the Gulf canal from the George Tapper Bridge to the "T" where the gulf canal meets the Intracoastal. The fish will also be heading to the deeper pockets such as the St Joe Marina boat basin. Live shrimp on a 1/4oz red jig-head will be the most popular for live bait and the DOA shrimp, Berkley "GULP", and the Saltwater Assassin in the pinfish color will be the most productive for artificial. The favorite rig is the Carolina rig with a red Mutu light circle hook size 1/0 on an 18-24" fluorocarbon leader. You can even go deep fishing the channels using a Carolina rig with a
October brings a wide variety of species into the piers. Spanish will be caught all day long on bubble and straw rig and Gotcha plugs. Kings will show strong runs early mornings and late afternoons, try fishing live baits caught on the pier pilings with stinger rigs. Flounder will be caught using heavy grubs and live bull minnows fished right along the base of the pilings. The first of the pompano and whiting will also start to show towards the end of the month.he big bull redfish will be running in full swing on the beaches this month. Most anglers will be using live bull minnows or small pinfish. Try using a basic Carolina rig but instead of an egg sinker use a pyramid type, which will allow the weight to stay put. Attach live bait to a 3/0 Owner mutu-light circle hook with no more than 30 pound leader. Putting your rod into a sand spike will allow you to fish multiple rods at once. Cooling gulf water combined with the warmer water pushing out of the bays this month bring spanish mackerel to the jetties in huge schools. Try using bubble and straw rigs early into the morning and switch to Gotcha plugs as the day warms up. Most experienced spanish mackerel fishermen will fish a #1 Clark spoon with 3 feet of 50 pound mono behind a 2 ounce casting weight. By letting the spoon fall to the bottom after the cast and rapidly retrieving it back you will catch more than you can eat.The fall run of large wahoo will be here in good numbers in the middle of the month. Try trolling large Yo-Zuri bonita lures in purple or black and orange. Many locals also like pulling locally made Marlin Man heavy head panhandler lures because they have found that they can troll these at a bit faster pace (up to 13 knots) and cover more water this way. Whichever bait you use, be sure to check your drags frequently as the initial strike will be a rod bending, drag- screaming affair.Trout fishermen are finding some nice gator-size fish working the flats hard in the early morning hours. Try throwing floating Mirro-lure plugs for the first few hours of daylight. Big bull reds will be caught around the pass using cut bait and large topwater plugs. On an outgoing tide try the areas just off the points of both jetties. Flounder will also start the migration towards the mouth of the pass to move offshore where they will spawn. Try fishing 1/4 ounce jigheads with root beer colored jig bodies around deepwater point and the kiddie pool.
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. Also expect some pompano and whiting in the shallows and plenty of blues and some sharks at night. In the surf here should be a good supply of sharks and lady fish. Also carry extra bait as there are so many small jack Cravelle that you will us plenty of extra sand fleas or shrimp Pompano will be back in full swing now , some of 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. On the jetties redfish are consistent on live pinfish, Seastriker Jigfish, Yozuri Crystal vibes and 1 ½ oz to 3 oz spoons. Spanish and blues are biting on straw rigs and Gotchas. If you are going to try for the grouper bring heavier tackle than normal. I would suggest a Penn 4/0 113H reel and a HHT BT78MH ROD with 60 or 80 lb line. The grouper will try and take you under the rocks. A 60lb leader and a 7/0 owner circle hook with a 4-6 oz lead would be the correct terminal tackle. A large dip net is a must around the rocks also. Make sure to measure the reds and groupers and also watch the bag limits as we have seen many people get tickets lately. The shallow water on both sides of the pass, from the jetties to the bridge and beyond the Coast Guard Station, can be very productive area for flounder gigging during the fall. The shallows on the north side of the Destin Harbor also produce good numbers of fish. Many of you who enjoy hunting will find that flounder gigging allows you to combine the thrill of the hunt on the water. You will need a limited amount of equipment to enjoy this sport. You can do this by walking the flats, but gigging from a small boat is ideal. You will need a flounder light with power source (12-volt marine battery), a gig mounted on a bamboo or metal pole, and a small boat with electric motor or push pole. Ideal conditions include a night with little wind and an incoming tide. Dirty water and a ripple caused by a breeze will make it very difficult to see these fish, which bury themselves on the bottom. You will recognize flounder by their outline in the sand or the reflection of the eyes as you glide over the flats. Aim your gig at the area behind the eyes, which will quickly immobilize the fish and prevent damage to the meaty part of the fish. The minimum size is twelve inches, and the limit is ten per person per day.
Trolling close 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. As for red snapper Eglin Barge located at N3021.400/W8629.490 and the Frangista Reef located at N3019.655/W8622.879 are examples of two near shore sites that hold fish when the weather turns cool. Most of the other near shore sites will also hold fish. Flounder will also start to filter out of the bay and into the gulf also.
The swordfish have become a staple over the past few summers and you still have about 4 to 5 more good weeks when weather permits. 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. Grouper and amberjack will be on the ledges and big offshore rocks. Natural bottom is better fight now than reefs mostly because of fishing pressure and less is know about natural bottom than the whereabouts of the reefs. Butterfly jigging or live baits will get you a rodeo fish.
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.
Pier fishing should be pretty good again this month. Most of the action will come from king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. If you visit the pier at night, you will see some of our hard-core shark fishermen out there all night. If you haven't seen these guys fight a large shark from the pier, it is well worth the trip out there.The king mackerel will be the hottest bite near shore this month. Troll lipped plugs or cigar minnow/duster combos for best results. Find the bait clusters and you will find the kings. Mahi-Mahi dolphin will still be in the area around weed lines and patches. Usually September is the last month you will find them in our inshore waters, as they will migrate to warmer waters for the winter. Usually in September we see the red snapper bite turn on a bit as well.The water temps offshore should still be warm enough this month to still hold plenty of wahoo, dolphin, marlin (white & blue) and swordfish. The offshore bottom fishing generally picks up this month as well.September is typically a very good month to be fishing in the bays. The water is starting to cool off just a bit and you can generally catch nicer fish throughout the day. Live shrimp and finger mullet or small pinfish should be great bait for both the trout and redfish. Spanish mackerel will still be caught in the bay this month, but if you want them, this will likely be the last month of the year you can find them in our waters, as they will begin to migrate out of our area. Speaking of migrating, towards the middle to the end of the month the flounder will begin their fall migration out of the bay and into the gulf to spawn for the winter. This is an excellent time to target them around most sandy areas of the bay using a live bull minnow or plastic grub for bait.