Surrounded on three sides by water, Panama City Beach offers fantastic and diverse fishing opportunities year ‘round. You can fish the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico from white sandy beaches where you can expect to catch pompano, flounder, redfish, whiting and a plethora of other species. Inshore, you can cruise the grass flats of West Bay and St. Andrews Bay in search of schooling redfish, speckled seatrout, and sheepshead. If you like to challenge yourself with a fly rod, I suggest you try to catch a sheepshead in about a foot of crystal clear water. Good luck and bring plenty of patience along with you!
Now that winter temperatures have finally settled in for a while, fish have begun to fall into their typical cold water patterns. Speckled trout will be most concentrated in the deeper, darker waters of bayous, residential canals, creeks and intra-coastal waterways. You may also find them in deep holes on the flats and on the outside of the flat where it drops off into deeper water. Usually, the smaller fish will be in big schools laid up in the deeper parts of the bayous – usually out in the middle – while the bigger fish tend to lay up on transition areas. These transition areas can be from shallow to deep, clean water to dirty or a change in the make-up of the bottom, like going from sand to mud or grass to sand. I generally look for dark colored mud bottom with stained water when specifically targeting bigger fish. Keys to getting trout to bite when the water is cold are downsizing the line and lure, and slowing down the presentation. Small suspending twitch-baits are phenomenal lures to throw at fish that are slow to strike.
Redfish are far more resistant to the colder water temperatures and will still be plentiful on shallow grass, sand and mud flats. Due to the lack of forage fish schools, redfish and other drum species will be rooting around on the bottom – trying to stir up small crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp to feed on. They will commonly be found near, or mixed in with, schools of mature mullet that also stir up the bottom while feeding. Redfish are generally not very picky but small jigs, gold spoons, and topwater baits are safe bets to get some bites.