Dog Daze Delight

Charter captains amass huge catalogues of fishy waypoints as they work the waters around Panama City Beach but if you think you’re at a disadvantage without a list of secret spots, think again. In this episode, Capt. Justin Leake and Meredith McCord prove public reefs and wrecks can be very productive if you know how to fish them properly.

On a flat-calm day late in red snapper season, Justin ditches his own “numbers” and turns to public reefs pre-programmed into his Humminbird CoastMaster® software. And instead of conventional, heavy duty reels and hefty weights, he’s armed with light spinning tackle and a plan to mitigate the challenges posed by a highly-pressured population of wary fish.

“I want to fish behind people and see what we can catch where they’ve already been but we’re walking a fine line,” says Capt. Leake. “When we’re light tackle fishing, we want to get those bites from the big, educated fish but we’re pushing it to the limit.”

After priming the water with small chunks of Spanish sardines, Meredith and Justin send their drop shot rigs to the bottom with a 30-pound leader and a tiny inline circle hook buried in the bait. On the first drop, Meredith hooks a huge red snapper but it’s a race to the boat as dolphins try to steal an easy meal. This time, the angler wins but it’s a signal that it’s time to move on.

“Dolphins are so smart and sometimes they outsmart us,” says Meredith. “They learn quickly what we are doing and they sabotage.”

After a slight detour to lure the dolphins to another area, the duo returns to their hotspot and spend the rest of the day landing several species of snapper – red, vermilion and mangrove. It’s proof that there’s plenty of action to be had in a single spot on a public reef.

“This is not something that requires years and years of experience and you don’t need that top secret spot,” says Capt. Leake. “If you fish it right, you can catch fish anywhere.”

Also, we meet a group of divers from the Adapt-Able Foundation which brings adaptive and able-bodied communities together to experience the wonders of SCUBA diving.