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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
January 19, 2005
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report

TALES OF TROUTS, TRAILS AND THRILLS

Last week we were returning from Saint Vincent Island with a load of primitive weapons hunters when, on a whim, we decided to stop on the Dry Bar to try some trouts. The tide was within an hour and a half of full and ripping north across the SVI Dry Bar. Perfect trout time! The cold weather had not driven them up in the deeper creeks and river holes, so we were hopeful of a fried trout dinner. I jacked one of my numbers into the Garmin for one of the north/south channels that cuts this 1100 yard bar. It extends from the northeast corner of SVI in a curve out into the Apalachicola Bay. Many dedicated oystermen can be found on the bar in winter, tonging up the scrumptious-eating Apalachicola Bay oysters, best anywhere. And the trout and reds move onto the bar to feast on the critters that provide a consistent food source.

Depending upon the tide stage and the location on the bar, the water depth ranges from very skinny to about eight feet in the channels. A word of caution is appropriate here: stainless steel props and fiberglass/gelcoat donít go well with razor-sharp, rock-hard clumps of oysters, so watch your digital depth sounder intently. Unless you are nouveau riche and like buying new outdrive gears, idle speed is prudent around the bar.

These deep channels are super feeding highways for fish. It is absolutely mandatory to anchor properly to keep baits in the channel. Being set up even 20 feet off the mark is the difference between catching and going home for hamburgers. When the current is running hard with a cross wind, you will need a considerable length of anchor rode, heavy chain and an anchor that will bite into oysters. Fishing luck is the precise moment that preparation meets opportunity. We fell upon a pack of fish who were going crazy during a major feeding period.

Fishing on clusters of oysters can be an exasperating endeavor. Traditional bottom rigs with egg sinkers that slide down the running line to a swivel will hang up in the oysters. Either your hook or your lead will become lodged in oysters shells, particularly if the jig or bait is pulled slowly across the bottom. A couple alternative techniques will minimize hang ups and cut offs. Firstly, fluorocarbon leaders are far superior to mono with their abrasion capabilities. A rig tied with the sinker on the bottom and a loop knot with hook positioned off the bottom works well. Or, forget the lead sinker and tie a tiny barrel swivel on the leader with a quarter ounce slider jig on the business end. This facilitates fishing shrimp or changing to a rubber grub.

As I kicked back in the sunshine with a cold beverage, watching out for rogue tsunamis, the biters started coming over the transom with regularity. It was like sitting in a farm pond catching bluegills on every cast. After a short while of watching the hot action, I just could not stand it and decided to get a line wet. They were all trout, not the first red, or even a little croaker. At first, the fish all measured 14 inches, shorts that went back into the bay to grow up. But at some point, keeper fish came into the trough to feed. When the tide changed, the bite ended as abruptly as it started and we counted over 30 released and nine on ice. These fish were packed tightly in the channel, competing for a meal and both shrimp and jigs drew multiple strikes. In hindsight, I should have thrown a surface mirrolure in the fray. The basic tenet of angling is to have fun and catch fish and we certainly accomplished our mission. Since we exceeded the legal fun limit, I was concerned the fun police might send me back to Vietnam. We had gone totally coastal again on a winterís day of the Forgotten Coast. Oh, the simple joys!

Till next tide, solid hookups and tight lines,

Captain Alex Crawford

www.topknots.com (850) 653-1325

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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