Happy New Year to all! I hope 2023 brings everyone countless opportunities to enjoy the water and catch some fish.
January’s temperatures are cool and the weather can change quickly, but it’s still a great month to fish the shallow flats and backwaters surrounding Panama City Beach. On most days, you can find the grass and sand flats inhabited by redfish, black drum, sheepshead, and speckled trout.
It’s the cold snaps – those few days following a front – that cause fish to move. Strong northerly winds will drop the water levels in the bays, drying up some flats and forcing fish into nearby bayous or to the outside edges of the flats where there is enough water for them to survive the impending cold. The fish will often concentrate in small areas which can make for some exciting action if you can get them to eat. Use some type of slow-moving, subtle bait, either a soft plastic and jig combo or a suspending plug. Of course, live baits also work well in these situations.
There are lots of other places to catch fish other than the flats right now, including deep docks which are holding large congregations of fish. These fish are usually more inclined to cooperate and generally don’t move much with weather changes. When fish of different species are grouped up like they have been around docks lately, I recommend throwing live shrimp, fiddler crabs, or some type of soft plastic or hair jig.
Deeper structures throughout the bay commonly hold bull reds, groupers, snappers, black sea bass and white trout during the cold months. While the season is closed for grouper and snapper, they are still a blast to catch on light tackle using artificial lures. Try using deep running crankbaits, sinking plugs and big soft plastics when targeting the bigger fish. Small vertical jigs and a variety of live baits also work well for black sea bass and white trout.
A continuous flow of water, lots of structure and variable water depths make the St. Andrews Pass a great place to fish year-round. You can almost always cruise around looking at your electronics and find schools of redfish among the submerged rocks at the edges of the jetties. Black drum, mangrove snappers and other species also inhabit these areas.
Sheepshead, which are already on the move and stacking up throughout the bays, will soon start to trickle in to the pass and take up residence along the jetties as well. As with most other areas of the bay, natural baits work best; however, most of the bigger predators can be easily taken on artificial lures.
If you have questions about what's biting, how to catch them or would like to book a trip of your own, then give me a call or shoot me an email. Tight lines!