The inshore bite throughout the numerous bay systems and along Panama City Beach is on fire right now!
If you get out on the flats early, then expect to get into a very productive topwater bite for speckled trout and redfish. I have found the bigger trout to be holding in areas with sandy bottoms and big patchy grass beds with a water depth of one to three feet.
If you are looking for slot trout to eat, then you’ll want to target thick grass beds in depths from two-and-a-half feet to six feet around potholes and drop offs. I have been targeting flats redfish using the same method I do for trout, with the exception of where I look for them. Most redfish will be cruising right up along the hill on higher tides, mixed in with the sparse marsh grass. They will also start to stage in the mouths of creeks and bayous as the tide falls, therefore concentrating in a much smaller area. You’ll often be much more successful sitting in the same place and letting them come to you instead of trying to chase them around. As the day goes on, switch from topwaters to jigs and other slow sinking hard or soft plastics to continue getting the bites.
The bridge redfish bite continues to be phenomenal on strong outgoing tides. The surface of the water is littered with half dollar sized crabs and the redfish have been crushing them throughout the entire tide cycle. As you might imagine, a flat-lined crab is the best bait you can throw to really put a hurting on them but, if you want to test your skills, you can throw small dark colored topwater baits or flies to the fish as they come up and feed on the surface. Since these fish are mostly in open water away from the bridges, you can use relatively light tackle. I use a medium size spinning reel on a 8-17 pound class rod rigged with 15 pound braided line and this combination handles the job while still being light enough to use all day.
Several of the inshore structures in 25-35 feet of water have been holding gag groupers and red snappers. These fish have far different attitudes than fish out in the gulf but, with a little know-how, you can catch a quick limit of legal fish. I generally target them with artificial lures on medium spinning gear and step the line up to 30 pound test line because you have to really put some pressure on them (but that combination is plenty heavy for 99% of the fish you will encounter in the bay). A 5½ inch jerk bait has been a staple for this kind of fishing for me and if you give it a shot I’m sure it will prove to put plenty of fish in the boat for you, too.