Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle
Capt. Alex Crawford
March 17, 2005
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report
BIG GAME FISHING IN THE ST. GEORGE SOUND
Last week was windy, rainy and inhospitable for all creatures. What are addicted anglers to do? I decided to take a good friend and fish the Saint George Island fishing pier for the first time. Last summer the Florida DOT, Franklin county and the good folks with the Organization of Artificial Reefs (OAR) completed a massive project. The old SGI bridge was dismantled and barged into the Gulf of Mexico about 10 miles southeast of the Government Cut. Tall spans of the old ICW steel and concrete were deployed in about 60 feet of water. In time, this new reef will become a terrific area to catch all manner of fishy critters including snappers, groupers, cobia, kingfish and amberjack. The new reef consists of hundreds of acres of material that will attract a consistent food source for the highly-prized bottom species and a few ocean pelagics including mahi mahi. It will be accessible to small boaters and become a popular spot that will accommodate many anchored vessels with space for everyone. The center of the new reef is located at:
But I have digressed from my story about big game fishing from the SGI fishing pier. There are two pier fishing opportunities now. You can walk out onto the north pier on the East Point side or try the one on the SGI side. As of right now there is no charge, but I have it on good advice that there are future plans for a tackle shop vendor to operate a concession. This will be a good thing because bait and tackle and other pier necessities would be available to the land-locked fisherman.
We arrived on the East Point pier at mid-tide on an incoming, a few hours from full high. Our weapons of choice were small spinners with ¼ ounce slip sinkers and 1/0 live bait hooks tied to 30 pound fluoro leaders. Having fished the old bridge many times on inshore trips, I knew there were areas covered with oysters that would yield a reasonable dinner catch. Our go-to bait was fresh-dead 40 count shrimps. The basic idea was to impale the small shrimp completely with the 1/0 hook to prevent hanging up in the sharp oyster shells. When the big game quarry showed up at the bridge, we would be ready.
One of the joys of pier fishing is that you have an opportunity to meet new folks that share your passion. Walking up and down the pier casting to new areas is a chance to socialize and chat with the fishing brethren. In all my years of pier fishing I don’t ever remember meeting a pier fisherman that was not friendly and willing to share his successful techniques and best fishing stories. In fact, during this time every early spring, some of the best fishing reports come from avid anglers who brave the early March winds to wet a line. Look for the guys with Bermuda shorts and T shirts. They are always the guys that catch all the fish, stay out all day and are generally oblivious to the 40 degree wind chill. It is a heat wave for these hardy souls who probably have tags on their trucks from Michigan or Minnesota. They always are the first to know when and where to find the early season pompano, cobia and trout. I keep a couple beers handy to bribe these gentlemen with complete fishing reports. They are a tremendous information resource.
As we stood at the rail anxiously waiting for the bite to begin, I looked way down the bridge to the south and noticed several guys with bowed rods. This is part of the fun of it, we all get to watch each other fight fish and the cheering section is loud and supportive. A pulled hook causes a quick silence and we stare at the ground, so the unlucky angler does’nt feel badly in view of his new compatriots.
The huge schools of whiting arrived about 2 hours prior to high tide. They were feeding on crustaceans on the oyster bars. The drill was simple. Cast out your fresh-dead crustacean as far as you can with the west wind howling over your shoulder, come tight when you reach bottom in about 8 feet and wait for the rod tip to jump. Don’t reel in slowly, as this will surely result in a special catch I call the oyster clump fish. The real thrill of pier fishing is that it is a never ending opportunity for hope. One never knows what will come over the rail, maybe a small silver trout, a 2 pound whiting, a big redfish with shoulders or possibly a doormat flounder or bulldog black drum. Today was a day to fill the box with early spring whiting and bunches of them would make it into the fryer for a spectacular dinner party. An ice-cold beer and a perfectly fried whiting fillet is almost heaven.
Sometimes it is great fun to simplify the fishing experience. No boat, live bait, fuel, pounds of ice, many rods and rigged tackle, all that is necessary to enjoy a fun day on the water is a rod and some shrimps. The joy of fishing for the sake of being in the beautiful outdoors, scaling down the planning for efficiency and most importantly, a chance to meet new people who share the hobby and are good comrades. Much can be said positively about the simple, easy way.
For some it is the thrill of the chase and hours of trolling with a chance to hang a monster fish at the dock for testosterone-induced bragging rights or cash money. Others find the simple pleasures of catching a bucket of fish for a casual dinner party to be the quintessential experience. Whatever floats your personal boat is the primary objective. Big game fishing can be as simple as a day at the pier with new and old friends. The endeavor of the journey is the best thing. Get out there and endeavor to catch your own personal “big game 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
More Fishing Reports: