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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
April 12, 2004
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report


Today the fishing report is all good. Other than the 30 knot winds that are bouncing Topknots around in her slip, the inshore and offshore scene on the Forgotten Coast is par excellence.

Inshore, the spring bite is well underway. Trips this past week produced a plethora of piscatorial delights. The first pompano of the season made it into the paper cooking bag. You will find them eating shrimp and very hard to come by fleas in the surf just east of the West Pass. The die-hard jetty fishermen are catching a few small ones on the east side of the Bob Sikes Cut. Anywhere you find a hole or trough that is deeper than the surrounding bottom, you may find hungry pomps. Reports tell of pomps in the surf at Mexico Beach and at the East Pass of Saint George Island. This info is unconfirmed, but what the heck, go fish.

Spanish mackerel have invaded the passes and are chomping bait pods everywhere. Look for terns low on the water on schools of spring pogies. The water will be oily slick with pogy oil. On a charter this week we pulled Hopkins lures through the frenzy and my anglers had some big time fun with light spinners. Have I mentioned that marinating Spanish overnight in milk in the frig will neutralize the strong flavor.

Right along with the schools of marauding mackerel you will find schools of small, chopper tailor bluefish. They only go a couple pounds or so, but, when you pull, they pull back. A short trace of wire leader works for blues and little macks. Never put your fingers near their razor incisors. I have the old battle scars that proves that dog will bite you. Blues are another favorite dinner entrée for the Boston Bluefish folks.

Finally, inshore I am sad to report the first catfish of the season are here. On a brighter note, so are the high-flying ladyfish.

Offshore, the big news is that American red snapper season is just 10 days away. On this part of the fabulous Forgotten Coast, the opening of red snapper season is comparable to the first day of deer season. So make your plans now, that giant sow snapper is out there waiting, if you can get in the right tree stand. Eat dessert first.

This week on a practice trip we set up on a limestone rock out to the southwest. The water was turquoise clear and flat as a mill pond on Monday morning. We began chunk-baiting with fresh, cut cigar minnows and within a few minutes the triggers and snappers came up for a bite. In my book, sight-fishing individual offshore targets is as good as it gets. This trip added a new learning experience. You have heard me say that current is necessary for the fish to eat. Well, just when you think you have it figured out, wham, the fish behave differently. We had virtually no current on this day. In fact, one ounce of lead was enough to remain vertical on bottom. The fish stayed in a feeding mode all morning, even on a relatively slack tide. The learning experience is practice, practice, practice. Be the eternal optimist, the next shot is going in the hole, so to speak. Tackling teased-up fish will move you to a higher level of enjoyment.

Another piece of good news is we caught the first king mackerel of the year. We were out about 30 miles south and live-baiting black groupers with live cigar minnows, when a 28 pound king moved under the boat for a snack. The first run was a screamer, as the 16 year old held on to the 4/0 for dear life. The king swam into our marker buoy line and, just for spite, bit right through it. When we stuck him with the long handle gaff, he had our nylon buoy line dangling from his most formidable jaw. His tail hung out of the 4 foot fish box. The water is about 70 degrees now offshore and the kings are coming. A side note here about catching cigar minnows for live baits. When you see a pod of cigars on your bottom machine, they are dark red and tightly bunched up in the water. High quality sabiki rigs will outcatch the economy version hands down. Buy the sabikis with stout, red hooks and 20 pound main line and droppers. No squid is necessary on the quills for cigars. Just impart some jigging action on a heavy bait rod with 8 ounces of weight. Dehook them with a small pair of hemostats if necessary to save injury to their paper mouths. Frisky cigar minnows are hard to beat in spring. Share the passion, go fish!

Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,

Captain Alex Crawford

Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers Association

Proud Member Florida Guides Association

Proud Member Coastal Conservation 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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