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redhooks

NW Florida Salwater info

16 posts in this topic

We're heading to St. George Island/Apalachicola for a week Feb 16-22 and I'm clueless about saltwater fishing and what to bring for gear. It sounds like it will be the off season down there and that the only coldwater species around will be possibly some reds,pompano and sheephead. We are flying down and I'm not sure if I should bring rods/reels and tackle or buy a cheap combo set up down there. Any suggestions for gear? I know saltwater eats stuff up and gear needs to be rinsed off, will it wreck nice reels? For lures I'm thinking some raps,jigs w/ twisters/gulp,maybe spoons and spinners. Is it worth bringing waders? Does anybody know of recommended guides or inshore LMB/crappie opportunities in that area?Thanks for any info,

redhooks

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Hey Red, how ya doing? I see you moved to GM a while back, lucky dog:) I haven't fished the salt in FL, but I can offer a little advice. When I go on the road, if i can swing bringing my own gear, I'd MUCH sooner do that then buy some cheap stuff on site. After all, you're after some potentially big, tough fish, and it's a good time to have the best tackle, not some outlet store junk. I've seen many tourists on rivers in AK with lots of broken rods/reels that messed up thier fishing...I've got 2 travel rods that are great for airplane travel, and a full 7 ft rod tube that goes to Mexico for the big boys. Salt won't ruin your best gear if you take a couple precautions; mine come into the shower with me when I get off the ocean, and stay in there till I come home. Lots of fresh water rinseing is the ticket. Then, when you get home, a through stripping down and relube and it's all good. One of these days i'd like to head to FL for some of the inshore stuff, Reds, sea trout..cobia sound like very cool fish. I'll be interested to hear how you do. What kind of fish have you been harrassing up in GM? We used to fish the heck out of the little trout lakes, though it's been a few years since we did it regularly. Love the hex hatch:)

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The last two years I have been on Cape San Blas for surf fishing, and have taken an in-shore charter out of Apalachicola. Once in January and twice in March. You are correct, it is the off-season.

On the cape, fishing in the surf, we caught a lot of whiting (small but good eating), some black drum (larger fish, fun to catch), one red fish (rare in the surf), lots of hardhead and sail catfish (annoying rough fish), a few small pompano, a few sharks, and a few other fish. No stingrays for me but I saw some caught. My boy caught an extremely rare fish, a stargazer, which has poison spines and also emits an electrical shock if you touch it. Fortunately I had a pretty good idea that's what it was so we didn't touch it.

Most of the surf fish at that time of year are small. I was using 8' shore casting combos (similar to catfish gear you buy here) and that was plenty. After my first trip I also brought along a regular 6'6" medium spinning rod with a reel with a lot of line capacity and used that a lot and had fun with it. I rigged my catfish rods for sharks to try to get something bigger, I had big sharks on every day but didn't land any that were very big, most of them were too big for the gear I was using.

In the surf I would wade out to cast, in swim trunks and beach shoes (shuffle your feet so you don't step on a stingray). No waders for me but I met a guy that brought some and he used them in the surf. He also went wade fishing inside the cape, in the big shallow bay, and caught some small halibut and some other species that I didn't catch in the surf.

Rigging for the surf is easy and cheap, it's mostly double dropper rigs with weights from 1 to 5 ounces depending on the surf, a couple circle hooks, and some frozen shrimp for bait. It only costs a couple bucks to get rigged up. You'll need a sand spike rod holder but they are also only a couple bucks. And a good long needlenose pliers. Up to you if you want to bring your own gear or buy some there, biggest thing is length for casting distance and a reel with a lot of line capacity. I sprayed my gear off thoroughly with fresh water and there are no effects from the salt. I wouldn't do it with my expensive Stradics or anything like that though.

I didn't use lures in the surf, just frozen shrimp or squid, or fish strips that were supposed to resemble sand fleas (good bait for pompano but there are no sand fleas on the Cape). The guy I met that waded in the shallow bay was casting some jigs but you could use a dropper rig in there too.

We took an inshore charter out of Apalachicola a couple of times, mostly going out around St. George island. Most of the fishing was with live shrimp on what looked very similar to a live bait rig for walleyes. We caught redfish, sea trout, pompano, sheephead, black drum, and a few other things doing this. I also did some casting with a big jig. A lot of the charter guys aren't even fishing at this time of the year, as it's not really "tourist season" there until April when things start warming up.

I didn't look into freshwater fishing for bass or crappie at all, we stayed on the beach on the cape and I was only interested in fishing in the ocean.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you want any other info. And have a great trip.

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Lots of good info Perchjerker; but I'll say again, if theres a chance of getting into some bigger salt fish, I want my best gear. I could buy 3 stradics for the price of one of my Avets, but I wouldn't hesitate to use them. After all, thats why I have them. Compleat rinseing and a strip down when you get home will do the trick.

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I understand what you're saying traveler and don't disagree with you.

The beaches I was fishing were super-fine sand, which got into everything and was just as bad for the equipment (or worse) than the salt. I didn't use cheap or crappy equipment, but I didn't want to bring my best equipment to the sand and salt. Also, I was surf fishing and you need a lot of line capacity for that, and the reels I use at home just weren't the right size.

Depending on how serious you are ....... and I wasn't that serious about it (I was on vacation hanging out at the beach house and playing with my kids and drinking cocktails) ....... I think that an average quality reel, with a big spool that turns easy and a lot of line capacity, will handle any fish you're likely to catch in the surf in the Gulf in Jan - March.

Every 3-4 days I'd take my drags apart and make sure they were clean and lubed up, just in case. I had shark lines out every day trying for big fish, but I only landed small sharks. I had several larger ones bite me off (60 lb marlin wire leaders) and had 2 of them spool me. Better quality equipment wouldn't have caught those fish for me, I needed heavier equipment --- or smaller sharks grin.gif

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PJ, sure, that makes perfect sense. I wouldn't recommend anyone go out and buy bigger tackle just for a short trip; it always depends on your situation. I see there are a couple of new style reels out there (one by Diawa, on called (I think) a supercaster by US reels that have very big spools as opposed to the current longcast reels that have elongated spools. Though about trying one of them, they aren't terribly expensive.

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Hi guys thanks for the great info, especially the shuffle.

Hey Traveler life in GM is great,I've been busy chasing lakers on weekends and doing well for numbers but am still looking for a lunker. We were out on greenwood this morning and it was -40 windchill so Florida is going to be a welcome change.

I found a couple 10' surf casting rods that I plan on bringing along w/ some shimano 4000 reels spooled w/ 30lb powerpro. I'd like to try for sharks and may buy something down there w/ more line capacity.I also plan on bringing a couple bass/eye rods for bay fishing. I think the red drum and seatrout season is closed so it looks like it'll be mostly C&R for whatever bites that doesn't swim in mn waters. Perchjerker who did you go fishing w/ and would you recomend them again? I wouldn't mind doing some bayfishing or maybe a party boat offshore. I heard johnson silver minnows and xraps work and plan on buying some pyramid sinkers/circle hooks and gulp/rubber stuff down there.Thanks again, I'll post some results when I get back.Tightlines

redhooks

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We went with Boss Charters. Easy to find the website if you search on that name. We did the in-shore charter on the boat called the Double D, went out on it twice over 2 years. The captain's name is Dennis, he's pretty quiet but a really nice guy. If you look at his booking calendar you can see that he doesn't do many trips in Jan - March, which is the case for all the charter guys we talked to down there. Even though he hadn't been out fishing, he knew a bunch of spots and talked to some other guys he knew before we went out and while we were on the water, and I liked that about him.

Having talked to other charter captains and the guys at the

Scipio Creek Marina down there, but not having experience with other charter captains, I'd go with Dennis again. I wouldn't give him an A but I'd definatley give him a B. His boat and equipment were nothing fancy or elaborate but were functional and Dennis knew what he was doing.

The rods we used were 6.5 foot MH spinning rods with 14 to 20 lb mono, if you have something like that with you (typical bass or pike gear for MN) I'd bring it with if you take out a charter.

We fished with him in March and kept redfish, sea trout, sheephead, pompano, and black drum. Fishing started with live shrimp on a live bait rig on the bottom in a cut with current between some islands out by St. George. Later on we moved and fished some bridges and oyster bars with live shrimp under popping corks, or on the same live bait rigs. And I wanted to do some casting so he gave me a rod with a big jig/plastic on it.

If you want some other ideas for charter captains the guys in the store at the Scipio Creek Marina seemed pretty nice and helpful, although it seemed like they were really pushing their buddys on me. The other marina wasn't open yet when we were there so I don't know anything about them.

When I was surf fishing for sharks, after I'd had some bite-offs I worked up through heavier and heavier gear, until I finally got to a rigging that was working well. I only caught small sharks, but I had 2 large sharks spool me, I had 3-4 bites offs on shorter leaders and on 40 and 50 lb leaders, and I had a couple sharks that I thought I was going to catch --- they'd made long runs but I was able to stop them and gain ground on them and handle them with my equipment --- and then the hooks came out.

For shark bait I caught whitings or pinfish or hardhead cats, the pinfish I would use whole and the others I would cut into 2"-3" thick steaks. I got circle hooks at the bait shop there, I don't recall the size but those guys were helpful. I finally worked up to 60 lb marlin wire, and made 4 foot leaders with a circle hook on one end and a swivel on the other end. The guy at the bait shop showed me how to do a "wire wrap", it's a "knot" you make with the wire by wrapping and twisting and then twisting off the tag end, it was easy to get the hang of and worked great. Above the swivel I had 50 lb super line and a sliding pyramid sinker. I had 20 lb mono backing behind the super line.

I usually had 2 shark lines out, 1 out not too far and the other out as far as I could throw it. I fished between the shark lines with a 3rd line with a double dropper rig and frozen shrimp and caught a bunch of whiting and some other stuff but mostly small fish. Most of my shark hits came on the close-in line. I'd get some sharks during the day but most were at dusk or shortly after dark.

Hope you have a great trip, I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

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Awesome Info-thanks again-hope to have some exciting tales to report!

redhooks

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Hey FMers- Here's the NW FLA report

We just got back Sunday and although I didn't catch any sharks we had a ball catching little fish and enjoying the warmer weather. We stayed at St. George island off of the Apilachicola river where most of the oysters come from. It's the off season so there wasn't many people and many of the businesses weren't open yet, I really liked that cuz I'm not into crowds. The water was too cold to swim in and weather was cloudy and windy w/ a few rainy days but it was still comfy weather for shorts and sandals w/ a hoody. There was an old highway bridge turned into a 1/2 mile fishing pier w/in walking distance of our condo. It took a day or two to figure things out but then the fishing was pretty easy. I fished 3 rods, one lightweight rod w/ a double dropper and circle hooks w/ shrimp/squid and the other two surfcasters had heavy leaders and a chunk of mullet/cut bait for sharks. From the pier I caught lots of whiting,catfish,grunts and a few sea trout. The key was to hang a mesh bag full of chum on the other side of the bridge upwind of your baits and let the current spread the scent out. I also fished the oceanside in the surf a couple days and caught whiting and a couple blue crabs. I did some night fishing a couple times under the full moon hoping for a shark, but only managed cats and whiting. Wednesday we went on a party boat for 6hrs out of Panama City beach and did ok. The boat was full w/ 80 fisherman and the capatin took us out 15 miles to some reefs in about 100 FOW and gave the order to drop the lines, unfortuntatly with the boat bobbing in the high seas and 80 guys fishing shoulder-to-shoulder we spent more getting lines untangled than reeling in fish. Due to early season and federal water boundries some fish had to be released, but we brought enough back for dinner.

All in all it was a great vacation and I'd go back to St. George again but preferably later in the year when there is more warm water species in the area. We met lots of nice people and I learned a fair amount about ocean fishing, so now I have more rods/reels and tackle to aquire for future ocean adventures! Sooo in the meantime it's back to the lakers, can't wait for next weekend. Tightlines to all!

redhooks

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your last paragraph spells trouble my friend..."More rods, reels, tackle to aquire for ocean adventures"! I'm there with ya:) Gotta love the salt...too bad it's 2000 miles away!

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Thanks for the update. Fishing in the ocean is a blast, something I wish I could do more of. Even if the fish are small, it's sure a nice change from Minnesota grin.gif

I think we fished near that bridge / pier you mentioned for a while when I was out on my charters.

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Yeah there are never enough toys in the toybox especially when you learn a new game. I definetly need some bigger volume reels and maybe a stout rod w/ roller guides for deep sea jiggin. It was really nice just getting out and fishing in some warmer weather. We get a week off in feb every year so I'm going to try talk my wife into making a tradition of somewhere to the coast for some warm weather and ocean fishing. I have a grandma down by S. Padre and am thinking of going down there next year. I think it may be warmer water and heard there are lots of cheap party boats that go out daily.

redhooks

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Red; did you see folks useing roller rods? I only see them as heavy duty (and heavy) rods suited to big game in the 200+range. I haven't gone to rollers for my heavy gear, a couple Avets with 30-40 lb line on 30-60 lb St Croix rods. If i were looking to jig, I'd have a serious look at the Shimano Trevala (sp?) series rods, i saw a couple in Cabo and they're top notch from what I hear. Very powerful, but light and deceptivly strong. They were developed for "butterfly" jigs in deep water and should work most any jigs well. They were developed for use with braid, with guides that will stand up to superlines. Do a search and read about them, i think you'll be sold.

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Yea there were several guys on the party boat who brought their own rods w/ roller guides. We were bouncing 1lb weights and I can see where they would be advantagouis, that and teh boat rods were junk.

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I hear ya about the boat rods being junk. Seen that too many times. I figured you must have seen some roller rods in action; what lb test were you useing? Mono? How deep? I just got my march issue of Sportfishing mag and theres a good article on just the kind of rods I mentioned above(super sticks, pg 58). Check it out if you can.

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