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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
February 26, 2005
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report


Depending upon where you measure the surface temperature of the water, it is definitely warming up with some early spring days. Ambient air temps around the Forgotten Coast have been in the seventies and that translates into warmer water inshore and offshore. As we speak, my bottom machine tells me that the water around the mouth of the Apalachicola River is 63 degrees. And offshore at the Apalachicola sea buoy south of here , the sea surface temp is in the low seventies. What does all of this mean? Well, this is important to inshore anglers because everyone knows that the magic temperature of spring is sixty eight degrees (68). When the water warms to this benchmark, every spring, magic things always begin to happen in near shore waters. Spanish mackerel magically appear in the passes and bays of the Forgotten Coast. Pompano start to show up on the beaches for their annual migration. The first cobia catches are reported along the coastal areas from Pensacola, Destin and Panama City Beach.

Offshore, cigar minnows show up with King mackerel shadowing the huge schools of bait. During the twenty six years I have enjoyed fishing the Gulf of Mexico along the Forgotten Coast, my log books will confirm that the first Kings of spring are around the live bottom near K tower usually the second week of April. That is only a couple weeks away folks. Did we really have a winter season? The older we get, time waits for no man.

When you find the huge schools of cigar minnows on your trusty sonar, you have most of the challenge accomplished. Look for Kings skyrocketing on the bait showers. Have several stout outfits rigged and ready with number 8 sabiki rigs. Go ahead and invest in the high dollar sabiki rigs that will always catch more bait. And when the offshore currents run fast, tie a heavy bank sinker onto the bottom of your rigs. This will keep them from tangling as badly when you hook up multiple cigars and each one decides to swim a different direction simultaneously. Try to unhook your baits will minimal damage to the mouth. A small pair of medical, stainless hemostats is the perfect tool for this delicate maneuver. Use a long handle pair with curved forceps. Be gentle so you donít break the small sabiki hooks. Frisky live baits will out catch damaged ones.

Bridle one of your lively cigars on a King rig with light wire. The kings of spring are small school fish called snakes. They will average less than five pounds, but are a blast to catch on light tackle. When you find snakes offshore, it is a catch and release party that can last for hours. Remember the bag is 2 per angler per day with a minimum 24 inch size limit measured at the fork. These small Kings really eat well, have fun.

If your case of winter cabin fever is so bad, you just need a fix, right now is high season on sheepshead catching. Prime locations are the bridge pilings of the old Saint George Island bridge and the Government Cut jetties. Fiddler crabs and small live shrimp are available now and so are the big winter convicts. Pumping and winding on tough-fighting sheepshead is just what the doctor ordered.

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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