If you can withstand some cold temperatures and changing conditions, January is a great month to fish the shallow flats and backwaters surrounding Panama City Beach. The weather can change quickly this time of the year, going from warm and cloudy to clear and cold in just a few hours.
On most days, you can find the grass and sand flats inhabited by redfish, black drum, sheepshead and speckled trout. It’s those cold snaps, the 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 altogether – and force fish into nearby bayous or to the outside edges of the flat where there is enough water for them to survive the impending cold. These fish are often concentrated in small areas which is ideal for some exciting action – if you can get them to eat, that is. I recommend a slow moving, subtle type of bait such as a soft plastic and jig combo or a suspending plug. Of course, live baits also work well in these situations.
There are lots of places other than the flats to catch fish right now. Deep docks have also been holding large congregations of fish that are usually more inclined to cooperate and generally don’t move much with changes in the weather. When fish of different species are grouped together around docks, try throwing live shrimp, fiddler crabs, soft plastics or hair jigs.
Deeper structures throughout the bay commonly hold bull redfish, groupers, snappers, black sea bass and white trout during the cold months. While the season is closed on grouper and snappers right now, they are still a blast to catch on light tackle using artificial lures. Deep running crankbaits, sinking plugs and big soft plastics all work very well when targeting the bigger fish. Small vertical jigs and a variety of live baits work well when targeting the 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 all year round and this month is no exception. You can almost always cruise around looking at your electronics and find schools of redfish hanging out around the submerged rocks at the edges of the jetties. Black drum, mangrove snappers and other species also inhabit those same areas. Soon, the sheepshead, which are already on the move and stacking up throughout the bays and Intracoastal Waterway, will start to trickle into the pass and take up residence along the jetties as well. As with most other places in the bay, natural baits work the best but most of the bigger predators can be taken easily 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!