The holidays are over and a new year has just begun. Just because we are in the middle of winter doesn’t mean we have nothing to catch out there! We have an entire season of possibilities. Trout, reds, flounder, sheepshead, and black drum can all be caught in the bay. Along the coast and just off the piers, winter bonita are cruising just off the shore line and sand bars in the early mornings. Surf, pier, and jetty fishing produce pompano, whiting, redfish, and sheepshead. On the bottom, fisherman can catch amberjack, scamp, red grouper, triggerfish, and vermillion snapper.
PANAMA CITY OFFSHORE AND INSHORE
Offshore bottom bumping has landed some nice Red grouper in the cooler. Amberjack, Bee liners, Trigger fish, Black sea bass, Lane snapper have all helped to make the trip out there worth while. There have also been a few very nice Cobia found out there either while on the bottom or they just swim up to the boat to see if you have anything to eat! Trolling has been absolutely great, plenty of Kings, Wahoo, Mahi mahi and even some Black fin tuna to round out your day. The blue water has been in real close lately and made for some really good trips offshore in between fronts. There have even been some Sailfish spotted, caught and released. In closer the surf bite has been on fire on those days with a good southerly wind, calmer days seem to slow the bite down a bit. Pompano have been a good bet, Redfish, Jack Crevalle, Whiting and of course Spanish mackerel have been picked up as well. For the die hard boaters who cruised the coast looking to throw on a Cobe, last Wednesday and Thursday was pretty good. Several fish were caught right around the jetties.
Trey Pike sent in this fishing report and picture below from May 3rd, 2012.
"I would have to say this was one of the better offshore days I've had. Ran out about 14 miles and could have smoked the Bonitas and Blues all day. Looked like the ocean was quivering for miles. Landed a few of each and then started bottom fishing. Caught and released several nice Gags and Red Snapper but put a couple Beeliners as well as AJs in the boat. Got a single Rudderfish and filled the limit of lesser Amberjack. Landed one Greater AJ. After the weather started kicking up, we ran back in to the 6 mile line and set troll. Landed 12 Kings, a big Spanish as well as, a 30 lb Blackfin Tuna (According to Bogagrips). To end the day, we stopped and hit the Buoy chains with shrimp and landed several nice Black sea bass. Below is a picture of the Blackfin we landed. We actually had another on and it pulled free."
ST ANDREWS BAY SYSTEM
We have had several good reports of nice sized Speckled trout getting caught pre dawn and right after sunset. They were in areas like Millville, the Cove and back up in Grand Lagoon. Some oversize Redfish were caught in that same time frame using whatever live bait they could cast net up. There are still plenty of anglers getting their limit of Spanish in the sandy point area as well as trolling areas like beach drive and the channel near Courtney point. A few more Flounder were landed last week by hook and line. We have not gotten any reports from the night crew with gigs and lights. Either it has not been good yet or they are not talking. Big drum (both red and black) are still being found in deeper water with a good strong tidal flow, they can’t resist cut up blue crab and chunks of lady fish is a good bait as well (now that is one of the best uses for Ladyfish I can think of).
PANAMA CITY BEACH PIERS
This week saw the bait fish mass up at both piers in huge schools. Those using #4 and #6 sabiki rigs have been catching all the Cigar minnows, Hardtails, and Threadfin they need. Since the bait fish are here in such numbers King mackeral fishing has been fantastic this week with a bunch of fish caught. Most Kingfish anglers are either catching live baits or using dead Cigar minnows attached to a wire leader with a #4 treble hook.
Spanish makerel are still being caught in good numbers as well. Those having the best luck are using either 7/8 ounce Gotcha plugs attached with a 40 to 50 pound monfilament leader or a clear bubble and straw rig.
Pompano were caught on jigs and sand fleas. Early in the morning and the last couple hours in the afternoon seem to be the best times to catch them.
A few oversized Redfish were caught on cut bait fished on the bottom on either side of the first sandbar and a handfull of Blackfin tuna up to 30lb size have been caught in the last few days.
Although Cobia season has been tough so far, there were about a dozen fish seen and a handfull caught off of the two piers this week. So make sure you bring your Ling rod with you when you come out and get in on some of the great mackeral fishing this week.
Offshore fishing is really heating up!! There plenty of Wahoo and Dolphin being caught around the edge out to the nipple and beyond using Ballyhoo. Once at the nipple and out to the spur, you will encounter White marlin, Blue marlin and some tuna.
Near shore trolling there plenty of Kings, Chicken Dolphin, Bonita and some Blackfin tuna. Very close to the shore line there are still quite a few Spanish mackerel.
Bottom fishing inside 10 miles there are Trigger fish, Mingo snapper, Red grouper and some Flounder. In water 150 to 400 foot some nice Scamp, Amberjack and more numerous Red grouper along with a few Black grouper.
Robert Ratcliff of Destin caught this Amberjack Sunday, April 29, 2012 on 22' Sea Hunt on steal ships south of Destin
Surf fishing is great for Pompano, Whiting and Sharks. If you just want some action there are hoards of Ladyfish to be caught on spoons and gotchas.
On the pier there have been a good bite of Kings, Spanish, and occasional Cobia and lots of Ladyfish.
In the bay the Reds are very consistent and some Trout on the flats along with plenty of Ladyfish, Spanish and Blues.
Cobia- There have been a few fish caught this week, but the action has slowed. Most anglers are throwing 3oz Cobia jigs. Some are tipping with squid strips. Other live baits that work well are Pinfish, Hard Head Catfish and live Eels.
King Mackerel- The Kings have moved back in. There have been quite a few fish being caught this week. Blue runners and live cigar minnows rigged on stinger rigs are always very effective. Although frozen cigar minnows will work.
Spanish Mackerel- The Spanish have been chewing the pier down. Gotcha plugs have been the most popular. Bubble rigs and spoons will take their share. Small live baits will work as well.
Whiting- The Whiting bite has remained steady over the last week. Fresh peeled shrimp fished on the bottom will produce fish. A standard two hook bottom rig will produce fish. A better rig is a fish finder rig with a fluorocarbon leader and a #6 hook.
Pompano- There has been some nice fish caught this week. Live sand fleas, live shrimp and fresh dead shrimp fished on the bottom with a double hook rig will produce. Pompano jigs will also take them.
Bonito- I have had reports of a few fish being caught this week. Jigfish jigs, Diamond jigs, Buck tailed jigs and silver spoons will take these fish.
Blackfin Tuna- I haven’t had any reports of these fish being caught this week.
Redfish- A few Reds have been caught this week. Some have been oversized and some have been in the slot. Anglers are using live shrimp, live finger mullet or any cut bait. You can catch them with a fish finder rig and a circle hook. Good artificial include a ¾ oz Johnson gold spoon and a 1oz jig with a 4” Berkeley Gulp shrimp.
Flounder-I have had no reports of these fish being caught this week.
Sheepshead- There have been some nice fish caught off the pier pilings. Good baits to use are fiddler crabs, small live shrimp, oysters and crab knuckles. A size 1 to size 6 circle hooks with as little weight as possible is a good rig to use.
Black snapper / Grey Snapper- I have not had any reports of these being caught this week. As the water warms these fish will be readily accessible by late spring.
Black Drum- I have had reports of fish being caught this week. These fish aren’t particular on what they eat. Best baits are shrimp, live or fresh dead, and a half of blue crab for the big fish.
Dolphin – I have had reports of a few being caught this week. I have not heard of any sizes of the fish.
Skipjack (Ladyfish) – There have been several caught this week. These fish are not particular, they will take live shrimp, live minnows and frozen bait. The will also hit Bubble Rigs, Gotcha plugs, diving plugs and small spoons.
Pompano- There has been some nice fish caught this week. Best baits are live shrimp and sand fleas. Although fresh dead shrimp will work well. Most anglers are using a two hook bottom rig fished in a cut in the sand bars or just over the sand bar.
Redfish- Anglers are catching some big bull reds, and a few slot reds, while fishing for Pompano. The will hit the same baits, but don’t be afraid to try some cut mullet or LY’s.
Sharks- There is several species to catch and area anglers have been catching Black Tip, Spinners, Mako and Bull sharks. Most shark fisherman are fishing high capacity reels with 80# test line on a 50# to 100# rod. They are using fresh Bonito or Skipjack for bait and using a 6’ leader of at least 400# test with large circle hooks and J hooks. They are placing the bait usually behind the first sand bar. There are smaller sharks available in the trough right off the beach.
Skipjack (Ladyfish) – There have been several fish caught this week. These fish are no particular on what they hit. Anything from live shrimp and minnows to frozen baits. They will also hit diving plugs, jigs and small spoons.
Whiting- The Whiting bite remains steady. These are being caught using a two hook bottom rig with live shrimp or peeled fresh dead shrimp.
Speckled Sea Trout- Fishing for trout has been very good all this week. Live shrimp is a great bait fished under a popping cork. A live Croaker, Finger Mullet or Pinfish can be fished on a cork or on the bottom. Good artificial baits include silver spoons, DOA Shrimp, Yozuri Crystal minnows, MirroLure Mirrodine lures and Berkeley Gulp soft plastics. I have had reports of these fish being caught on the grass flats in 2’ to 5’ of water this week. Don’t overlook top water baits early in the morning.
Redfish- These have been caught on the grass flats with the same baits used for Trout. Although don’t leave home without a 1/4oz Johnson Silver Minnow in gold, DOA shrimp and Berkley Gulp on a jig head. Deep water docks, dock pilings and bridge pilings are all good places to find Redfish, they like being around structure. There can be some good top water action early in the morning casting Skitter Walks and Top Dogs on the flats. Live shrimp fishing next to docks on a fish finder rig works well.
Maddie Roberts below with a keeper Redfish caught on 5-6-12
Flounder- There has been a few reports of fish being caught. I use as light of weight as possible when fishing with live bait for these fish. Don’t over look the jig and grub combination or jig and Berkley Gulp combination. Flounder should be showing up in the bay in more frequent numbers this month. Flounder love structure, find some pilings, rock piles and oyster bars a little later this month and you should catch fish. Old wooden dock pilings are a great structures that holds fish.
Sheepshead- I have heard of some fish being caught this week. The Pensacola Pass has been very good as of late. Also, these fish will school on the grass flats this time of year. Try fishing around structure like dock pilings, bridge pilings and rock piles too. Best baits are fiddler crabs and small live shrimp.
Black Drum- There has been some nice fish caught around the bridge pilings and any other structure in the sound. Best baits are live or fresh dead shrimp, half of a blue crab and cut mullet. Use a standard fish finder rig and a 1/0 to 3/0 hook and fish it on the bottom around structure.
White Trout – The bite has slowed for these fish this week. These fish like structure in deep water, bridge pilings or submerged structure. Jig and grubs and jigs with fresh dead shrimp work well fished slowly on the bottom. Live shrimp and fresh dead shrimp fished on the bottom with a fish finder rig works well too. They will also hit cut bait fished on the same rig on the bottom. As the water warms the bite will slow down.
NEAR SHORE GULF
King Mackerel- I have had some good reports of some nice kings being caught right off the beach on live cigar minnows and hardtails rigged on a stinger rig. Duster rigs with live and dead cigar minnows and silver spoons have been popular too. A lot of reports have come from Kayak fishermen. A stinger rig is made with either seven strand or single strand wire, 31# to 60# works well. A 1/0 front nose hook and a size #6 through #2 stinger treble hook completes the rig.
Spanish Mackerel- Good reports all week. If you are casting, Gotcha plugs, silver spoons and bubble rigs will take their share. If you are trolling, Mackerel trees, silver spoons, live cigar minnows and live hardtails get the nod. Most reports have been from Kayak fisherman fishing right off the beach.
Dolphin- There was some nice fish caught earlier in the week. Most were caught by the kayak fisherman trolling live cigar minnows and hardtails for Kings. When the water conditions are right again we will see these fish being caught most o the summer.
Sailfish- Had some beautiful sails caught earlier this week. Again, by the kayak fisherman trolling live bait for Kings (see dolphin report). When the wwater conditions are right we could see more action from these fish all summer.
Blackfin Tuna- I had a few reports of these being caught right off the beach earlier this week. You guessed it, by the kayak fisherman. I did not hear what they were catching them on, sorry I can’t give you the information.
Trigger Fish- No reports this week.
Red Snapper- This season is now closed for harvesting. Catch and release only. These fish are everywhere! From 2miles out of the pass to the edge. Live cigar minnows, threadfins, hard tails, pinfish and grunts all work well. Frozen squid, cigar minnows and Bonito chunks will work as well. Butterfly, Bomber and Williamson jigs will catch their share. Look for them on the artificial reefs and natural bottom.
Black Snapper- No reports this week
Scamp- These have been caught this week. You can use a lot of the same baits as with snapper, although live pinfish with the top fin cut off and the tail trimmed work for me. Look for them on any natural bottom or artificial reef. The Yellow Gravel area has been producing fish.
Grouper- The Grouper bite has remained good this week. These fish will inhabit the natural bottom and artificial reefs just like the Red Snappers. Live Grunts, Pinfish and Cigar Minnows will produce fish, but so will the Butterfly, Bomber and Williamson jigs. Try butterflying a natural bait and fish it just off the bottom. Fish are being caught this week in 60’ to 100’.
Amberjack- Some nice fish have been caught this last week on the Tenico and Oriskany rig. Jigs have been the hot baits, but any live bait should produce well. Bring some stout gear to turn some of these fish.
King Mackerel- I have had some reports of some fish being caught on the beach. Live bait can be caught in Pensacola pass and on the Massachusetts. The Mass is also a good place to troll live bait around for the kings. Also, I have had some reports of fish being caught on the edge fly lining live blue runners (hardtails).
Wahoo- No report this week.
Dolphin- There has been some fish caught on the weed patches around 20 miles out. Anglers pitching live cigar minnows and sardines have been very productive using 30# spin gear with 50# braid.
Tuna- There have been some nice fish caught on the weed patches 20 miles out, live cigar minnows and sardines pitched toward the edges of weed patches have been very productive. Yellow Fin in the 60# to 70# range have been readily available.
Black Fin- There has been some good fish caught around the rigs this week. Most fish are between 15# and 30#. Hot baits are the Shimano Butterfly and Bomber Darter jigs in the 3oz and 4oz sizes. A lot of fish were lost to sharks which are very thick on the rigs right now.
White Marlin – No reports this week.