Summer in Panama City Beach means sun and fun and perhaps the widest variety of fishing that you will find all year, both inshore and nearshore along the beaches.
A successful inshore trip to the flats depends on a couple of key factors. For one thing, you should fish during the cooler parts of the day – early morning or late afternoon. Second, look for moving water where temperatures will stay a little cooler even as the air temperature rises. From first light until just a couple of hours after sunrise, the topwater bite for speckled trout and redfish has been really good lately. I prefer to throw skitter walks and chug bugs but most walking or popping plugs will work as long as they mimic the dominant forage. After about 9:00 a.m., switch to spoons or soft plastics rigged weedless or on a light jighead.
On hard falling tides, the bull redfish bite has been excellent around the bridges. With artificial baits, I use the trolling motor to move with the fish but that can be difficult if you’re trying to float baits back to them. If my clients want to use live crabs, then I set up on the up-current side of the bridge and float the crabs back with the current. Catch rates increase when you continue to feed outline because a crab that is not moving with the current doesn’t look natural. Once the line gets out a ways, reel in your bait and start drifting it back again. Meanwhile, I always keep a couple of skitter walks at the ready in case fish start blowing up within casting range.
For table fare, few bay fish taste better than those in the snapper family. The most common inshore species is the mangrove snapper but you can also catch legal-sized shallow water red snappers as well. Unlike their offshore counterparts, the inshore reds can be a little finicky but once you get them turned on, you can catch quite a few (and some pretty decent ones at that). Chumming live baits or chunks of dead bait is the best way to whet their appetite and, if you are marking fish on the sonar, then you can watch them as they move off the bottom and start following your chum chunks toward the surface. I like to use a small, medium-wire circle hook on a medium spinning rig. Twenty-pound fluorocarbon will attract more bites than a heavier leader but you really have work to get the fish to the surface. A small split shot, just enough to get the chunk bait to sink slowly, is all the weight you’ll need to start feeding outline until you hit bottom or get a bite.
As always, if you have questions about what’s biting, how to catch them or want to book a trip, give me a call or shoot me an email.