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For some, the joy of fishing is the thrill of the chase. For others, it’s beating last year’s record catch. Still others love the meticulous selection of lures and other gear. But whichever is your favorite part, I’m guessing the peace and solitude are what keep you coming back.

Unfortunately, peace and solitude can be hard to find in northwest Florida… unless you head to the Forgotten Coast in late winter and early spring.

This time of year – before the tourists head back to the Gulf Coast – the water starts to get a little warmer and the fish start to venture out of the rivers and creeks, down the shallow waters of the oyster bars in Apalachicola. All along the east end of St. George Island, where the deep tidal currents run,

Shallow oyster bars and deep tidal currents make for good fishing on the east end of St. George Island, and it will only get better as the surface water continues to warm. This is the time of year to catch monster speckled trout on top of oyster bars very early in the mornings using top-water plugs. In fact, the big fish get so shallow that many seasoned anglers will actually get out of their boats to wade along the sand bars.

Catch and (careful) release is important when you do hook a big one, because these fish are carrying the future of fishing. As surf temperatures rise to 65 degrees and above, you’ll find whiting and possible early scouts of Spanish mackerel and the prized pompano.

As we get closer to spring, the winds pick up and make fishing difficult. But with steady warming along the beaches, you’ll find improving action – especially along St. George Island and the east end of St. George Island State Park.

Just like any other time of year, your best opportunities will always be in the first third of a tide change and, generally, when the tidal current is fastest. Along the beach, you’ll catch Spanish mackerel and ladyfish on top-water plugs and spoons; pompano, mackerel, and flounder on silver-headed jigs; and trout and mackerel on slow-sinking twitch baits. You’ll see more whiting and flounder very close on the beaches, just behind breaking waves; sliver-headed jigs work well here, too.

Now is your chance to get in some quiet time along Florida’s Forgotten Coast – just you and the fish – before Spring Breakers arrive.

Tight lines!

It’s hard to beat the fishing on St. George Island. Its location as a barrier island four miles off the mainland gives fishermen the unique opportunity to fish Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in the same day, if they so choose. And each has its advantages—the Bay is home to more than 100 species of fish, while the Gulf gives opportunity for surfing and offshore fishing along the white sand beaches.

This love of fishing spans the Forgotten Coast region, and locals are proud to include children in our favorite sport. After all, fishing offers children a variety of life lessons, from patience and decision-making to the concept of the circle of life. Many charters, which make fishing hassle-free by including the required licenses, rods, reels, bait and tackle, welcome children. Some are even for children only!

A great way to celebrate the young angler in your life can be found just across the Bay in Eastpoint. The 17th Annual Fisherman’s Choice Youth Fishing Tournament will be held on June 10th, bringing together 200 children ages 16 and under to fish for both fresh and saltwater species. Entry is free and includes a free t-shirt. After the tournament, everyone is invited to attend a cookout at Fisherman’s Choice, the title sponsor and Eastpoint’s premier hunting and fishing supply store.