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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

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


Mahi mahi have attacked the Forgotten Coast with a vengeance. The summer pattern has settled in for these bluewater gamesters. South winds push the grass closer to shore. With the weeds come all the living organisms that depend on it for forage and a hiding place. Ocean pelagics like mahis love the grass since it provides a smorgasbord of tasty treats and a perfect ambush habitat. And for the diminutive chicken dolphin, the weed lines and patches hide them from predators.

It is not necessary to run 40 miles south into the Gulf to score yourself some charcoal-grilled mahi. The price of fuel is, in a word, unconscionable. So, limit your search to near shore waters during summer and invest your fuel savings in beer.

On a charter trip this week we went running and gunning for chicken. As we motored south, we found rips that held weeds. Most were not well-formed in the traditional sense, but a few contained large patches of Sargasso. The basic drill was to approach each patch as if it held a nice school of chickens. We simply motored up wind/current, turned off the motor and drifted into the patch in a stealth mode.

Only two weed patches had any fish, but we found enough for dinner. Making a long distance cast with a one quarter ounce white or chartreuse jig will usually tell you if the mahis are home. Or, get up high on your vessel and pitch some bonito chunks on the upwind side of the patch. Watch for any activity as the chunks sink in the cobalt clear water. If you have some small pinfish, try the same drill.

At the risk of being redundant, have all of your weapons pre-rigged and ready. Large quantities of precut chunk baits are necessary when you find the fish. The last thing one wants to do in the middle of a wide-open bite is to stop chunking to cut bait and risk losing your fish. Designate a separate chunk bait box and keep it iced and ready. Your fluoro leaders will be tied with small hooks in advance. I keep six outfits rigged in the gunwale holders, all twelve pound Shimano Spheros spinners. Tiny barrel swivels will get more bites than larger ones. And did I mention the most important thing about pitch baiting mahis, completely hide the hook in the chunk and allow it fall naturally with the other chunks. Any movement of your offering that is different will shy away the fish. Free lining the bait is best accomplished by feeding line off your spool with your left hand. This all sounds like overkill, but mahis are smart and will not eat at times. Being ready will improve your odds.

We had a nice bull move into our chunk baits, but he would not eat anything, even a live pogy. But we gave it our best shot on 30# spin. Nothin’ ventured…………

Running and gunning is big summer fun. It provides some relief from the oppressive heat. And it puts mahis on the dinner menu.

Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,

Captain Alex Crawford


Proud Member Coastal Conservation Association

Proud Member Florida Guides Association

Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers 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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