On the pier tarpon are the most prized catches from the pier but they provide a challenge. The first challenge is to get the bite. Many days the tarpon come in just out of range of most casters. It takes a 9-10 foot rod to reach them most days. The favored lures are Braid Runners, large 4 oz spoons, cedar plugs and the like. Live hard tails and ly's work if they come close enough to reach with these baits. Once you get the bite having enough line and strong enough line to handle the battle of an hour or more with a tarpon is key. Power Pro line will help immensely here as its small diameter allows plenty of line with good strength and does not tend to blow up reel spools like mono will on large species. The other target fish from the pier are king mackerel which are generally caught between 4:30 am and 8 am or in the afternoons if the trade winds blow above 10 mph. any time we have a weather front pass is a good time to try your luck. Live Ly's are the best baits but are harder to get now that they don't allow the use of Ly ribbons anymore. Plain gold hook rigs will work to get baits but are no real substitute for a Fluorocarbon Sabiki rig rigged with a 2oz lead. There always seems to be an abundance of sharks in the surf in summer. There are several sizes of sharks that roam the beaches that you can catch. First there are the black tips and sand bar sharks that are generally just the right size for large spinning tackle using a 4-6 foot leader and a porgies or
King mackerel will be the main target for near shore fishermen this month. Slow trolled duster/cigar minnow combos or lipped plugs should catch the fish. Don't be surprised if a wahoo grabs your offering, as this is how a good many wahoo are caught each year. There will also be a good number of chicken dolphin inshore this month around weed patches. The easiest way to catch them is on a light action-spinning rod with a piece of squid or chunk bait on a hook.June is a great month for offshore trolling. You will have the opportunity to catch Wahoo, Dolphin, Marlin and Swordfish. The closest deep water to us is the Squiggles. Most people will start trolling around the point, which draws a lot of bait, then head towards the Squiggles. The red snapper and grouper bite should remain strong this month. Thus far the better snapper bite has been within 20 miles of the pass in about 100' of water. Live and dead baits as well as jigs have been working well and should continue to do so. The better grouper bite should be in deeper water this month. Try fishing the live bottom areas starting in about 150 feet then move out to deeper water out to about 250 feet. Have at least one larger bottom rig (6/0 with 60-80# main line and 100# leader) with a large live bait dropped down for your best chance at a large copper-belly. Amberjack will be over most of the bridge spans and other structure and can be caught on jigs and live baits. Most bottom fishermen will fish a flat-lined cigar minnow for a chance at a wahoo, black-fin tuna or king mackerel.June is usually a very good month for fishing our bays. The flats will be holding plenty of trout, redfish and flounder. The larger trout will be holding in deeper waters such as channels and can be caught on various artificial baits as well as live pinfish, shrimp and LY'S. Flounder should have migrated back into the bays and can be caught on plastic grubs as well as on bull minnows rigged Carolina style. Spanish mackerel will be plentiful in the bay and can be caught trolling mackerel tree rigs and casting Got-Cha plugs.
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 Pompano in the surf 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. Spanish mackerel have invaded the jetties and should continue to bite all month. The black snapper should be making the appearance this month and are a prized target for jetty anglers because of there excellent table fair. Bonito will make off and on appearances at the jetties along with all the hardtail and lady fish you could ever want. Reds will bit on the out going tides along with the blues. The blues are fun and good eating. The reds are here but not in the numbers you find during the cooler months.Snapper, triggers and mingos should good on the inshore reefs. If you want triggers I would make some rigs say 30lb out of the new Yozuri disappearing pink fluorocarbon. Then use a # 4 live bait hook and tiny pieces of squid. When looking for triggers the smaller the hook and the bait the better, if you use too large a hook and bait it is much easier for the trigger to nibble the bait away and not get hooked. Triggers are very adapt at this because of their exceptional maneuverability in the water. Their size and shape make it easy for them to hover, turn sideways or upside down to nibble the bait from the hook and not get hooked. You should also find a good supply of mingos using this same technique. Red snapper will be caught using slider or egg lead rigs using 60lb leader and a 5/0 Mutu Light Owner cheater rig fishing in water depths between 75-150 foot deep. 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. The grouper (keeper sized any how) will have moved to the edge or deeper (165-300ft) range. Amberjack will get more finicky as the water temps warm; you will need either live hardtails there favorite or extremely lively threadfins to get the bite. The Bait fish have become more available and the AJ's get to where the really want a bait with a lot of movement to attract the bite.Specked trout and red fish at sun up or just before sun down on the grass flats. Live shrimp drifted over the flats underneath the popping cork works wonderful. If you like lures yozuri, crystal minnows, DOA shrimp, fin's lures and top dog lures work also. Mid day and afternoon find the trout and redfish near deep water docks and bridge pilings. Live bait is a must during the heat of the day, shrimp or menhaden are the first choices during these times. At night under dock lights is the time to find a gator trout. Black snapper can be caught around bridge pilings, chumming with menhaden milk and live shrimp or menhaden. Flyfisherman will fin June to be a great month.Green and white clousers, shrimp and crab patterns work very well. Good numbers of Spanish mackerel around bridges, jetties and surf. Spanish can be caught on spoon flies, glass minnows, and red and white deceivers. Along the surf, look for pompano, lady fish and hard tails. Pink or orange crazy charlies, small shrimp and crab patterns. Off shore fly fishing should produce lots of bonitos and some king mackerel. Best bet for offshore fly fishing chumming over natural reefs or wrecks to get fish up to the surface. Bonitos and Kings regularly take large streamers, blue and white or green and while or very small glass minnow patterns. On offshore weed patches you should find plenty of small school dolphin. They will take almost any fly, they are not very picky and are a great deal of fun on a 5-6-7 fly rod.
Everything is pretty much in full swing during May. A few Cobia will still be around and can be caught along the beaches. Blue Fish, Lady Fish, Pompano, Whiting, Jack Crevalle, and Spanish Mackerel will be roaming the beaches.Dan Russell Pier is Open for fishing with the outlying buildings scheduled to open sometime around July 4th Weekend! Great fishing on the Pier right now. Pompano, Whiting, King Mackerel, and Spanish mackerel will be biting all month.As the warmer waters move inshore the tuna, dolphin and marlin become reachable. Watch the satellite temperature charts to see where the warm waters are to save time and money. Wahoo and dolphin will show up first with tuna right behind. Many people will troll high- speed lures, such as the panhandler, to find the fish or tide line then use natural or live bait to really focus on the fish. The grouper bite should be very good in water 150+ feet deep. You can expect to catch beeliners, triggerfish and amberjack over wrecks and reefs. King mackerel will make their presence during this month. People will generally slow-troll a lipped lure like a Mann's stretch 30, or a duster/cigar minnow combination for the kings. Another very popular and effective way to catch king mackerel is flat-lining a live cigar minnow. Spanish mackerel will be caught along the sand bars as well. Amberjack will be hanging around the bridge spans and bigger wrecks.The speckled trout and redfish will return to the grassy flats. As the water gets nice and warm during this month the fish will become more active and start hitting top water baits. Live shrimp is still the preferred bait but top water plugs like Yo-Zuri crystal minnow are lots of fun to use. Generally, the better tide to fish is the high tide and the first few hours of the outgoing tide. Bull redfish can be found in the past between the number 5 buoy and the jetty, again on an outgoing tide. Mangrove snapper will be around most structure in the bay as well as at the jetties. Spanish mackerel will be around all month, and it best to troll with a mackerel tree with a Clark spoon. Early in the month use a size 00 Clark spoon and change to a size 0 mid month as both the Spanish and the baitfish get bigger.
April is finally here and after a long winter of mediocre fishing, things start to happen in a big way this month. When we talk near shore, we are referring in general the waters within 10 miles of the beach. There should be plenty of beeliners, triggerfish and amberjack on many structures. Also near shore this month, those trolling mackerel tree rigs along the sand bars will catch Spanish mackerel. April is the prime month to target cobia, as they will be migrating through our area. Most people in this area sight fish for them by getting as elevated as they can on their boat and slowly cruising the sand bars. Once a cobia is seen, the angler will pitch either a live eel or their favorite jig to the fish. Another way to target cobia, especially if you don't have a tower on your boat, is to anchor-up and start a chum line. This will generally bring the fish to you.The offshore grouper bite should be good this month. Live baits, cut bait and jigs should all produce fish. This is also the month folks start dragging high-speeders in the search for wahoo that should start to make their way into our waters starting this month. Towards the end of the month the dolphin should also show up and can be caught trolling surface lures. King mackerel will start to show-up in our offshore waters this month as well. Don't forget that red snapper season is closed until June 1st 2009.The bays are alive with activity in April. The trout will be over the flats and will start to hit top-waters, such as Mirro-Lures and Yozuri baits, as well as live shrimp and LY's. Redfish will be sharing the same waters and will hit the same baits, as well as a gold spoon. Flounder will be migrating back in the bays and can be caught on live bull minnows and plastic grubs. Spanish mackerel will be thick throughout the bays and can be caught trolling mackerel tree rigs or casting Got-Cha plugs. A sure way to locate the Spanish mackerel is to look for the birds to be diving on bait - the Spanish won't be far. Don't be too surprised if, while you are trout fishing around Redfish point or behind Shell Island a cobia shows up around your boat. Every year there is cobia caught or sighted in these areas.
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.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.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.
March is a good month to catch amberjack, beeliners and triggerfish on some of the inshore wrecks. Grouper season is closed until April 1st and red snapper season is closed until June 1. 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 April 1st, 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.
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.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.
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.The Dan Russell Pier is currently open for fishing. There are no outlying buildings constructed at this time.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.
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 Berkley Gulp Sand fleas here at Half Hitch Tackle that work especially well of you and are much more convenient than live or frozen BaitPier 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 that bonito and northern are on the way to 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.Trigger and Mingo snapper should be good in the 18s, Nicky grounds and mingo ridge area. Flounders are also still good on near shore reefs on live bull minnows. Using Mann's Stretch 25