Saturday, March 07, 2009

Panhandle Fishing Report 3-09

Salt Water

The fish are still hanging out in the deeper water at the 120’-200’ range. Since live bait is so hard to come by, bring some Northern mackerel, Cigar minnows and squid as back up and try jigging diamond jigs. The amberjack were still around the deeper wrecks hitting jigs such as the AJ glow jig or cigar minnows.

Several flounder caught this week in the deeper holes in the head of St. Joe bay and live shrimp accounted for all these reported catches. Many trout caught and released in the gulf canal and some fair Redfish too. Live shrimp placed directly on jig heads or frozen shrimp on the bottom using a Carolina rig and Mutu light circle hooks size 1/0 are both very effective rigs for the canal. The fishing activity this week based on our reports, is about halfway up the canal from the Tapper bridge up to the “T”. Still some big Sheepshead are being caught around the seawall and out around the marker buoys. Use a small shank Mustad live bait hook and fluorocarbon leader with just enough weight to keep your rig under control. The whiting run seems to have slowed in the surf and the few that were caught were off Cape San Blas around the "stump hole" area and the lighthouse and Crooked Island beach.

The Black and Gag Grouper season is closed now until Mar. 31st. Red Grouper is closed Feb. 15th through Mar. 15th. Several AJ’s are being caught around the 100 foot mark over bridge spans and large wrecks.

Sheepshead have started to move into the jetties now. Live Shrimp or Fiddler Crabs with just a split shot is all you need. Bull Reds are being caught with live shrimp and pin fish around the jetties. Trout have moved into the creeks and bayous with the cooler temperatures. The Steam Plant is producing a lot of fish. Live shrimp will produce the most fish.


The Pompano bite in the surf has increased this week. There have been some reports of a few good fish being caught. Best baits remain live or frozen sand fleas and live and frozen shrimp. Most fish have come from the other side of the sand bar here lately, but I would still fish the deeper holes and breaks. Pompano jigs will catch them too. The Bonito and Bluefish are in the surf as well. Any bright colored lure worked fast will catch them. Bright spoons, Gotcha plugs, Straw Rigs, Top Water and regular plugs are all good. Live and frozen Shrimp is always a good bait choice. Redfish have showed up on the beach. Some will be slot size fish but for the most part they will be over the slot. Live, frozen and cut baits, especially cut mullet will catch them. T. Don’t forget about the Whiting. The bull Whiting can get up to two pounds and make great table fare. Try peeling your shrimp when fishing for the Whiting. As the eater starts to warm up the fishing should continue to improve.

Trout remain up the rivers, canals and into the bayous this month. You can still catch your biggest Trout early and late in the day on top water baits and on live baits in the bayous and bayou channels. Live Shrimp and Mullet are the best baits to use this time of year to catch these Trout. Try fishing the deeper holes and bends in the rivers as the water gets colder. A jig tipped with a shrimp tail or a GULP shrimp or standard curly tail will catch these fish. As the water gets colder don’t forget to work you jig very slowly. Redfish will remain in the sound and bays. Don’t overlook the shallow flats either. Redfish can be caught on the same live baits. Artificial lures will take their share of fish too. Work all visible and underwater structure to increase your chances at hooking up with a red. Flounder and Sheepshead can all be caught in the bay this time of year. Finger Mullet, Bull Minnows and Tiger Minnows are hard to beat for the Flounder and Sheepshead can’t resist a small fiddler crab or live shrimp. Tie on a 12” piece of 12# to 20# fluorocarbon leader, a #1 hook, ¼ to ½oz sinker and a live shrimp or live Fiddler crab. This rig is a Sheepshead killer. The upper part of east Bay has been good for Redfish and Trout. Try fishing around the power lines and the surrounding oyster bars. As the water continues to warm the bait will arrive and the fishing will continue to improve.

There have been some reports of the Flounder showing up over the near shore wrecks within one or two miles of the beach. Live finger Mullet, Tiger Minnows and Bull Minnows are great baits to use. The big Redfish are in the pass. Jigs, cut bait and live bait all take these fish. You may encounter a slot Red while fishing, but be sure to put the big ones back. This is a good time of year to look for the big schools of Redfish to be on top in the pass, just outside the pass and within one or two miles of the beach. Try looking for birds working the schools. Throw top water baits for some great action or a large spoon or jig. For the fly rod enthusiasts this is prime time. Any pattern that imitates a large baitfish will serve you well. Live baits will catch them to. I expect the Sheepshead to show up in the pass at anytime. This is great fishing for the entire family. Live shrimp and Fiddler crabs make great bait. The Cobia run along the beach should start next month. Now is the time to get prepared to catch this great fighting and eating fish.

The bottom fishing for Amberjack and Grouper remains very good. Live Hard tails, Mullet and Pinfish will work on both. However a large Boston Mackerel is hard for a Grouper to resist. Jigging with a Butterfly jig remains a good tactic to catch the Amberjack. I have had some good reports of Yellowfin and Blackfin Tuna being caught around the offshore oil platforms. Jigging, chumming and trolling are all effective in taking these fish

Fresh Water
Sight fishing for Bass in Lake Wimico will be productive around any good sandy areas like cold-water bend and the mouth of Depot Creek. Use white lizards, Zoom flukes and any of your favorite soft plastics. The fish that are in transition right now and beginning to bed, will hit crank baits in depths of around four to six feet. There are a few crappies biting at Indian Bayou on live minnows and you can trolling or drift to find the schools.

Half Hitch Tackle
2206 Thomas Dr
Panama City, FL 32408

Fishing Report prepared by Half Hitch Tackle Staff.

The Captains Corner Fishing Report is provided by local charter captains and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Half Hitch Tackle.

This report is dedicated to the memory of Al Hubbard.
Al Hubbard was a field editor for Florida Sportsman magazine, an outdoor writer for the News Herald and a board member of the Florida Outdoor Writer's Association.
Mr. Hubbard was also the owner of Al's Outdoors Outfitting Services.

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