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.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.
Pier fishing will vary day by day this month. Typically you can expect to catch whiting, flounder, bluefish, redfish and bonita 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
The surf is best on warmer days when the fish will feed near shore. The pompano we get in January are usually those that have never left. If we have a very, very cold December all the pompano may have already left but just depends on the weather. However, as always there are some reds working the surf in winter as well as a few black drum and sheepshead. On the pier there are some flounder, bonito, sheepshead and reds. The flounder are best caught on bull minnows, Berkley Gulp or jigs tipped with Fish Bites. The bonito take white jigs or straw rigs and live minnows when they are around the pier. The sheepshead, reds and black drum like live shrimp. Reds also like bull minnows, cigar minnows and jigs. Both the surf and the pier are weather driven in winter and the warmer south wind days are much better than a hard north wind day.
Reds can be just as easily found in winter months. You have the choice of catching mostly oversized or mostly undersized. The trick is to find the right size. Trolling with Yozuri’s, Stretch 25’s or Rapala’s around the Destin Bridge, the adjacent channels or the Midbay Bridge will help you locate the larger reds. Once you find them you can either keep trolling for them or use live shrimp, live bull minnows and look for keeper size fish in the school or switch to live pinfish and continue catching the larger throw back reds. I like the live bait method once you locate the fish as the mortality rate for the released fish is much better than those caught trolling. You can also fish the west jetties and Coast Guard Station for small reds using live baits as well as most deep water boat docks in the bayous and bridges.
Sheepshead are most abundant around the bridge pilings and jetties using live shrimp or fiddler crabs. Shrimp are readily available but the fiddler crabs can be more difficult to come by. You will find that a hook much smaller than you think will do the trick and help you get more fish. The smaller hooks help because of the size of the sheepshead mouth, I you use no larger than a size # 2 owner fly liner hook, a # 4 or # 6 would be better.Reds can be just as easily found in winter months. You have the choice of catching mostly oversized or mostly undersized. The trick is to find the right size.
Grouper and amberjack will be the best and easiest species to catch. They hold on ledges and reefs from along the edge 160ft deep to around 400ft drops. The deeper the water the better chance of getting keeper sized fish. There are also options for trolling in winter. It does require fishing farther from home and watching the weather but there are wahoo and tuna that stay all winter. You will find them normally no closer than the spur and then over the rigs, so the average fishing distance to get them is 60 to 100 miles, thus the weather watch. Swordfish are also available all winter and they live so deep they are unaffected by the cold temps.
Out in the gulf close to shore you are somewhat limited in the available species but there should be enough to keep you busy. One of the main targets will be flounder. Fishing the leeside of larger metal wrecks or reefs will be the best. Flounder like the leeside or down wind side to lie on the nice flat sandy bottom waiting to ambush small bait fish. Using a Carolina rig with 20lb leader and a #1 Mutu light circle hook or a Owner K hook is best along with a 2-4oz lead depending on current and depth. Some reefs might hold a few grouper but most the throw back size. Fishing towards the timber holes you have a good chance to locate some nice trigger fish and mingo snapper. On occasion but not always the two liberty ships hold some amberjack as well as some of the near shore barges. The only thing available for inshore trolling are winter bonito and some oversized reds. You can find the reds feeding along the coast just off the sand bar early in the mornings. They will be mixed with bonito feeding on glass minnows. Look for them also on the beach both east and west of the pass.
January brings many things to us and the anticipation of a new and exciting year of fishing full of opportunities is what I like the most. The trout are normally easy to locate this month, when the weather is cooperating. What I mean by cooperating is far from the norm. In January when large fronts are coming from the north and you get days just before the front when the weather is gloomy but very little rain is the best time. Look to find the specks in the back of the bayous where fresh water creeks run in. The fresh water run off attracts bait fish which in turn attracts the specks. What I like best are where there are some deep water boat docks with close access to deep water like you find in the back of Cinco bayou. This type of scenario where you have a shallow flat, with a fresh water creek runoff close to deep water and boat docks is a prime area. Flounder have mostly moved out of the bay into the gulf by January but there are always a few around, jigging around boat docks or dragging a bull minnow is best. If you can stand the cold there may even be a bare few to gig. White trout can be caught jigging around most bridges in the bayous. Either a Seastriker grub or a Berkley Gulp tipped with shrimp is best for them. I have better luck on the coldest of mornings during the morning, from about a hour after sunup and then for several hours.
Whiting will cruise the shores in good numbers in January and everyone can get in on the action. The stump hole off Cape San Blas is a favorite among the locals, as well as Mexico Beach between the pier and the entrance to the canal. Use our custom 100% fluorocarbon 2 hook pompano rig with mutu light circle hooks rigged with shrimp for a great set-up. Use a pyramid weight with just enough weight to hold your rig in place or you might end up with the longest cast of your life with nothing to show for it. Sheepshead will also start showing up this month and can be caught on the same set-up as the whiting. A few 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
There are plenty of beautiful days in December to get out and surf fish. Depending on when the cold fronts get here, and how cold it gets, you could expect to catch redfish, bluefish, whiting, pompano and flounder in the surf. Usually by the second week in December the pompano will be gone, but again it depends on the water temps. Most of the surf fishing can be done by using the same rig, which is a 2-hook surf rig using #2 Owner circle hooks or 2/0 Khale style hooks baited with fresh dead shrimp or sand fleas. Be sure to use a pyramid style lead so your rig doesn
here 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.
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.
Trolling around the beach should produce plenty of bonito and a rare chance at a king mackerel. Things here are mostly quiet until spring
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.
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.
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.
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.
November is typically a very good month for surf fishing in our area. The species you can expect to catch are redfish, Spanish mackerel, flounder, whiting and pompano. A good thing about surf fishing is that you can use the same type rig to catch the redfish, whiting and pompano. The rig is a 2-hook bottom rig with fairly small hooks - a 2/0 Owner Mutu-Lite Circle hook is ideal. Be sure to use a pyramid style weight to prevent your rig from rolling down the beach with the tide. Use dead shrimp and sand fleas for bait. Some folks also like to fish for pompano with a pompano jig, which is also very effective. There will still be schools of Spanish mackerel caught from the beach in November. The best rig for Spanish mackerel is the bubble rig with a straw. Some people prefer to replace the straw on their rig with a piece of bright rubber tubing like you find used for neck straps for sunglasses. One other tip for surf fishing is to use a sand spike to put your rod into. This will help keep your rod tip above the breaking surf, as well as keep your reel out of the sand. Pier fishing in November can be very good. You can expect to catch redfish, whiting, pompano, flounder, and Spanish mackerel. King mackerel will also be caught during up to about the middle of the month. Fish for the whiting, pompano, Spanish mackerel and flounder in the same manner as detailed in the surf fishing section. A good way to catch the kings is to use a sabiki rig to catch some cigar minnows that will be hanging around Pier. Put the cigar minnow on a stinger rig with wire leader and cast it out with no weight. Be sure to hold on to your rod when fishing in this manner, because when a king mackerel hits it, he will take an initial long fast run. The jetties will be a great place to fish in November. There will be Redfish, bluefish, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel caught from the jetties this month. Later on in the month the sheepshead should also start to make a presence. The jetties can be a bit tough to fish if you don
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.
October is typically a good month for surf fishing as the water starts to cool off. The fall run of pompano should move through and using pompano jigs or a 2-hook pompano rig baited with shrimp or sand fleas can catch them. Spanish mackerel will still be around for most of the month, and they will bite bubble rigs and Got-Cha plugs. Flounder should also be caught in the surf during October, and a good way to catch them is by using a live bull minnow attached to a Carolina Rig. Redfish can also be caught in the surf this month.Due to the pier being shortened by last year
Surf fishing should be pretty good this month as there will be a good variety of fish to target. At the beginning of the month, target spanish mackerel and bluefish using spoons, Got-Cha plugs and straw rigs. Once the water temperature drops a few degrees it will be time to change the rigs over to a 2-hook bottom rig with shrimp for bait to catch whiting and pompano. Towards the end of the month, be ready to fish a live bull minnow rigged on a flounder rig for flounder that will be starting their fall migration into the gulf. Although September is a prime king fishing month, it has been a tough year king fishing at the pier thus far, due in part to the length of the pier. Last year
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 changesLarge 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 tuna this doesn
Did some one say Shark, well now is the time the roam the shallows looking for food. No the food they are looking for is not people but small bait fish. Most of the sharks are sand bar sharks, black tip spinners and assorted others. You can catch them best at night when all the swimmers have gotten out of the water. The sharks are much more afraid of us the we are of them and this is one reason they can be caught better at night when it is more quiet along the beach. 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 made.
Hard tails and ladyfish will be plentiful if you need action for the kids. Both hardtails and ladyfish are not much 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. There is a good chance for real nice Spanish this time or year and maybe a good supply of bonito also.
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.
There are several things going on here, because of the heat the fish have moved to deeper water looking for cooler temps. If you are willing to fish a little farther offshore fishing can be very productive. 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.
Well how good was July, we can only hope that is was a precursor as to what the fall will be. After some of the best tournaments in years, the Emerald Coast Classic and Bay Point we can only hope the fishing holds up. We had a record number of boats in the Emerald Coast Tournament along with recorn numbers of fish, in the Bay Point tournament there were more bill fish caught than number of boats entered, which was 80. 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