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.