It’s shaping up to be a fantastic month of fishing in Panama City Beach. Water temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees, clarity is improving on a daily basis, and several migratory species have already moved into area waters, with many more likely to arrive soon.
Along the beaches, Pompano and Redfish are being caught daily in the surf using shrimp or sand fleas on a multi-hook rig. If you don’t want to fool with natural baits, a heavy compact jig is a great second choice.
On the piers, Redfish and Pompano are also being caught, along with good numbers of Spanish Mackerel and the occasional Kingfish and Cobia. Small spoons or Got-Cha® plugs are good for Spanish Mackerel, while bigger plugs and spoons work well for the Kings. Cobia will eat just about any live bait that is properly presented, but the preferred way to catch them from the piers is to throw bucktail or feather jigs at them.
In the pass, you can catch something just about all the time. Currently, there are Sheepshead, Pompano, Redfish and some Spanish Mackerel being caught on a regular basis. The best bait for a wide variety of species is shrimp – live or dead – fished just off the bottom. Use the lightest weight that the current will allow for a natural presentation. For most fish, you can get away with a lighter leader and it will generally get you more bites. Count on 15-20 pound leader to handle 90% of the fish you hook.
In deeper areas of the bay, the bull Redfish are still big, plentiful and willing to eat. Lots of these fish have been hanging out near the bottom on the outside of big points that drop off quickly into deeper water. The big bulls, like many other predator species, will lay up in eddies and areas of slack current right on the edges of where the current flows. I normally throw jigs in these situations and select the size depending on the water depth, wind and speed of water flow.
The action on the flats is heating up fast. On most days, seemingly unending schools of Mullet pour out of just about every nook and cranny in the bay – and there are lots of Specked Trout and Redfish waiting to ambush them. With the bay water still colored by recent rains, topwater lures have been terrific go to baits even in the middle of the day with high sun. If a fish misses the plug and you have a jig already rigged on another rod, you can usually toss the jig to the spot where the plug got hit for a second chance strike. If the fish are tracking your topwater bait but not eating it, try switching to a spoon or wake bait. A different retrieve action or speed might also trigger a bite.