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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
May 14, 2004
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report


On the Forgotten Coast of Florida out of Apalach the water temperature is in the low to mid seventies and climbing rapidly now. Eighty degree days makes it feel like summer already and warms bay and offshore waters. Generally, now through summer, the offshore sea buoys will report ambient air and water temperatures to be about the same.

In the Apalachicola Bay and St. George sound trout fishing has improved dramatically on the north side of the barrier islands. The traditional, but effective technique to fish seatrout on sea grass is with floats. The basic premise is to keep your live bait or jig from picking up grass that makes for an unnatural presentation. Many smart anglers know that large trout are suckers for a noisy surface lure like a Rapala, YoZuri or Mirrorlure. This technique has proven successful, particularly at first and last light as summer approaches. Live baits are the go-to option for many skilled trout anglers and guides. The very best live trout baits will include small pinfish, silver-dollar pogies and lively shrimp. On an incoming tide with good current, these natural baits are hard for trout to turn down. Fished on a quality float, these baits stay off bottom where hardhead and gafftopsail cats are not as much of a nuisance. That is not to say that lots of folks don’t love pulling on 5 pound gafftopsails just for the sporting thrill. Some even eat these slimy, ugly crtitters. To each his own!

Speaking of sporting thrills, blacktip sharks have taken up summer residence now in the West Pass. I love to catch these speed-burners. They are not real big, but they have serious shoulders and will play some sweet string music on your drag system. Cut pogies will always get them chummed up. Use a short wire leader and just sacrifice it at the boat, as you cut the running line at the leader. These boys can chomp you with their razor incisors, so release is best. If you don’t pay the utmost respect to sharks at the boat, sooner or later sharky’s machine will affix himself to one of your body parts and likely one you really value. One note of caution here about sharks regarding tackle. If you do not gimbal your rods into the flush-mount gunwale rod holders, it is probable that sharky will extract your rod from the holder at the speed of double triggers. Watching one of your $500 outfits sink will bring tears and a lump in your throat, trust me.

Offshore of Saint George Island and out to the southeast, groupers and snappers are eating like there is no tomorrow. Red and gag groupers are shallow now and available to small boaters within 10 miles of the Cut. All you need is to find live bottom and drop anchor for some fine fishing. Recent trips have produced many double-digit specimens. The fillets from a 10 pound gag grouper make for one delicious meal.

Pogies are plentiful now and make first-class grouper and snapper live baits. Use the larger baits for the groups and the smaller ones for the snaps. Virtually every drop induces a bite when there is current. Limits can be had quickly. This allows anglers to move on to other target species.

Kings, cobia and amberjacks are biting well now. Your favorite wrecks are prime locations now for these hard-fighting gamesters. Live baits are the best choice. Always keep an eye out for the wreck’s resident turtle. Cobia are famous for swimming under turtles looking for free eats.

The old Saint George Island bridge is being dismantled and barged out into the Gulf only about 10 miles southeast of the Government Cut. It won’t be long before this huge area of concrete and steel bridge rumble will begin to nurture a new underwater ecosystem. Because of the sheer volume of material being deployed, many boats will be able to anchor and fish different sections of this new artificial reef.

In other offshore news of note, this past week one of my guide friends showed up at my dock with an 82 pound wahoo. This fish was 6 feet plus in length, a monster ‘hoo to say the least. When the film is developed, this wahoo will become a movie star. Targeting wahoo way out south in the wild, blue is a specialized pursuit. Not many guides around this small pond are willing to invest the time and fuel to chase wahoo 40 or 50 miles out in the Gulf. The same is true about other glamour, bluewater species like yellowfins and blue marlin.

Til next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,

Captain Alex Crawford

www.topknots.com Proud Member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association

Proud Member of the Florida Guides Association

Proud Member of the Florida 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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