It’s a fantastic time to be fishing the waters in and around Panama City Beach, regardless of what you’re trying to catch. The huge quantity of baitfish in our bays is nearing the point of absurdity and there seems to be no shortage of predators taking advantage of seemingly endless feeding opportunities.
In the shallows, the speckled trout and redfish bites have been really good throughout much of the day, as long as the water is moving. Early morning is best for artificial baits because the water is cooler and fish are more active. During the midday hours, fish will stack up in deeper potholes on the flats and in troughs around points. Pilchards, menhaden or small mullet fished on a flat line can be very effective during the middle of the day. Cast the bait up current of the fish and let nature run its course. I encourage you to use quality circle hooks to make sure that you can safely release the fish after a good fight.
Lots of shallow structures in water 5-15 feet deep are holding some really nice mangrove snapper, especially when those structures are close to deeper water. I like to chum them up with pilchards to entice them off the structure and then use either a flat line or small split shot weight to get my bait to them. If there are a lot of smaller fish nibbling at your bait and disrupting your plan, then switch to a medium-sized pinfish for bait and that should keep the small fish off long enough for a big fish to eat. In addition to the mangroves, I’ve been catching some nice flounder mixed in around the structure. Docks, seawalls, rock piles, tires, jetties and bridge pilings have all been productive.
Out in the middle of the bays, those big bait balls have been attracting bluefish, jacks, mackerel, sharks, ladyfish, bull reds and even the occasional tarpon. I like to cruise around and look for schools of bait that either have birds crashing down on them or fish attacking them at the surface. It’s practically a sure thing to catch fish if you can visually see action.
Sometimes, if you only see bait near the surface, you can cruise through it with your side scan sonar and look for fish hanging out nearby. Most of these fish will quickly eat any small, shiny metal lure worked erratically at a high rate of speed. Some of my bigger catches are the result of using large plastic baits and reeling them slowly underneath the school of baitfish.
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.