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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
January 19, 2004
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report

Convicts at the Cut. Sheepshead are spawning now and their appetites are voracious. The granite boulders that form the jetties in the Government Cut are primetime winter magnets for these accomplished bait-stealers. With water temps in the high fifties, sheepshead are making babies and hungry.

In winter the Cut is a fun place to fish with very few boats. Summer and spring it is sometimes like playing bumper cars, as boats jockey for position in 6 knot currents. So, Saturday I transported my party of three Saint George Islanders to the Cut for some sheepshead catching. When the water began to run, the bite turned on like it always does. Virtually every cast induced a bite and, at one point, I apologized that two minutes and thirty-seven seconds had actually passed between bites.

Successful jetty fishing has its own unique techniques. Many moons ago my old friend Captain Fred taught me the art of jetty fishing at the mouth of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. The first and most important consideration is location, location, location. Or, as you have heard me say a thousand times, fish where the fish are. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds a jetty, they barge the granite boulders to site and deploy them so that water moves through the rocks, but does not move them. The rocks you see

on top of the jetty are only the tip of the iceberg. Many more rocks spill down into the pass and create ideal habitat for crustaceans and fish. Parking your boat on top of these underwater rocks is the key.

Proper anchoring is an inexact science at best. One must consider set and drift based on the speed of the current and the wind speed and direction. If you must pull and reset anchor several times to get in the right position, so be it. Some crafty Captains use an anchor that sits on top of the jetty. If you use your traditional Danforth style anchor, you risk hanging it and losing it in the rocks. But, if you set your anchor in the sand and drift back to the rocks, you are good to go.

Catching sheepshead requires some specialized terminal tackle and bait. Tie extra leaders in advance, as the rocks always claim a few. Try 30 pound mono or fluorocarbon leader material, as hungry sheepshead are not typically leader shy. Because of small mouths, I use #1 or 1/0 live bait hooks that are stick-in-your-thumb-nail sharp. Sheepshead mouths are tough as nails and aggressive hook sets are required. With fast currents it is mandatory to increase the size of your egg sinkers so you stay vertical over the fish. At the first faint tap-tap, emulate the rubber worm bass fishing hook set ala Jimmy Houston or Rowland Martin. Pump the rod up quickly over your head and crank and wind.

Baits are a personal preference, but my list includes live fiddler crabs, small live shrimp, cut clams and salt-toughened oysters. Whatever stays on the hook is best.

Remember to take only what you can use for personal consumption. It is not about the having in this crazy life, it is about the GETTING!

Til next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,

Captain Alex Crawford


Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers Association

Proud Member Florida Guides Association

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Captain Alex Crawford is a full time guide who has fished the Florida Panhandle offshore for 26 years. He specializes in grouper and snapper trips with light tackle on live bait. Custom trips for companies with multiple boats will be arranged. Inshore trips targeting specific species and custom eco trips are available for birding, gator watching, shelling, picnics and barrier islands. Contact Captain Alex for a fun and productive trip on Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Contact Info:

Topknots Charters
P. O. Box 1029
Carrabelle, FL 32322
Phone: 850-697-8946
Alt. Phone: same
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