Off & On Redfish
Renowned professional fly angler Meredith McCord returns to Panama City Beach to attempt a redfish “triple play” by catching the prized gamefish on artificial lure, live bait and fly.
It’s a cool, windy day and Capt. Justin Leake has a plan: fish the crystal-clear water off Crooked Island, a desolate stretch of coastline on the edge of Tyndall Air Force Base. But that initial strategy is thwarted when he learns the base will be conducting aerial training missions and his favorite hotspot will be off limits for the day.
“The moment you think you have it all dialed in, something changes,” says McCord. “More often than not, you have to go through different plans because you never know what you’re going to get.”
Undeterred, Justin navigates to another area and drifts along the coastline while Meredith tries to catch her first-ever beach redfish on conventional tackle rigged with a soft plastic shrimp.
It doesn’t take long to get hooked up but, this time, it isn’t a redfish that takes the bait. Justin can hardly believe it when Meredith reels a sheepshead alongside the boat. “Catching a sheepshead on artificial bait here is stupid hard and rare,” he says.
The redfish eventually cooperate on artificial and live bait but when the wind picks up, the pair head to West Bay in search of calmer water and redfish schooling in the shallow flats. There, McCord returns to her comfort zone and breaks out a fly rod to accomplish her redfish trifecta.
“There’s always technique, skill, thought and processes involved in fishing,” says Capt. Leake. “Every year, I still encounter things that I’ve never seen or done before and that’s what keeps me learning and that’s what keeps it fun.”
Also, we feature some of the popular activities that visitors can experience “rain or shine” during their trip to Panama City Beach.