A Bridge to Red

It’s a picture-perfect late summer morning and, for Capt. Justin Leake and Meredith McCord, conditions are ripe and hopes are high for an epic day chasing redfish. 

“Late summer redfishing is one of my favorite things to do in Panama City Beach because it’s a versatile fishery,” says Justin. “Whether you’re in six inches of water, thirty feet of water or anywhere in between, chances are you’ll be able to catch a redfish.” 

Early mornings and late afternoons produce the best bites, so the anglers head toward the shallow flats just as the sun starts to rise over the bay. But being in the right place at the right time and using the right lures and technique doesn’t always spell success. Aggressive speckled trout attack Justin and Meredith’s topwater baits but the redfish don’t cooperate. “They just weren’t acting right,” says Capt. Leake. 

Fast forward to late afternoon and Justin shifts to a new strategy: targeting deep water bull reds around the Hathaway Bridge, one of three spans connecting the “island” of Panama City Beach to the mainland.  Side imaging sonar helps find the fish and identify where they’re located in the water column. 

“The reason some anglers have more success is because they’re not banking on luck to hope their lure runs into a fish,” says Capt. Leake. “They’re finding the fish and putting their bait in the strike zone.” 

As the sun begins to set, Meredith and Justin finally crack the code and land several trophy-sized redfish before heading back to the dock. 

Also, we watch the sinking of the 239-foot Deep STIM III, a decommissioned oil industry vessel that will serve as an artificial reef providing new habitat for marine life and a new destination for divers and anglers.