Panhandle

Spanish Mackerel, Skipjack

Capt. John Rivers September 22, 2015

The 2015 Spring and Summer Season is in the books.
Here is a brief report on the area fishing.
It was a hot season for sure, with temps well over 100 most days. We had to start out early and quit around 10am to avoid the unbearable heat. I ran some doubles and those days were brutal when it really got hot. Those afternoon trips were hot, but we still caught some fish, and we even went after some shark, as they will bite even on the warmest days. For the most part I did a lot of Spanish mackerel and skipjack fishing, and tried a little red fishing when I could. I didn’t really jump offshore much this year but only a few times for Snapper.

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Photo: Mega-Bite Inshore Charters – megabiteinshore.com

For the past 9 years of my 14 years of guiding I’ve concentrated more on the inshore aspect of fishing, which means going after species like trout, redfish, bluefish, skipjacks, jack crevalle an other inshore species. I was on a pretty good speckled trout and redfish bite in June and even in July and some of August. I couldn’t believe how good a bite we had especially during the heat of the summer, but I did manage to find some quality fish for my clients.
Spring Break was super busy with doubles everyday when I could fish. The sheepshead bite was fantastic on most days and we also caught some nice redfish in the mix. I do have to say that this year I saw more boats fishing for the sheepies than the last 6 years. Probably more people are realizing what a fun species this is to go after, and are taking more time off to go after this quality fare for the dinner table.

So here is my Conservation minute: With so many boats fishing for sheepshead, I try to encourage my clients to keep only what they plan to eat that day or next. During the spring season, these fish are full of row, and to ensure that we have future fish for future fishing generations, we should exercise some self-restraint and take home only what we can use.

May and June were pretty good for specks and reds on the flats. I caught a lot of 18 –19” fish this year, but only a handful of big fish over 22”. We did get three fish this year over 26”, which was nice. These big girls were released except for one as it died due to getting hooked in the gill. She was put on the grill and was tasty. Red fishing for me this year was hit and miss on my trips. Some days I did well and others I was scratching my head. The fish were spread out and when I did find them we did pretty good with most of the fish being 22 to 26 inches. But when I would check back the next day or two days later they were gone, so it made it hard to get a pattern on them.

August was a hot month per usual with temps reaching well over 105-heat index most days. This caused the inshore bite to shut down a little so I went back to Spanish mackerel fishing just off the beaches and in the bay. While I was doing this I always had two rods rigged for Jacks or Reds cruising the surf, because there were many opportunities to break away from trolling to sight casting for these fun fighting fish.

I’m so excited that fall is almost here, because not only does it mean cooler temps, thank goodness, but also some very good speckled trout and red fishing.
As the water cools, the inshore bite will really improve. October through February are some of my favorite months to fish. One main reason is it’s cool out and I’m not sweating my tail off. Second, is the water is cooler and the fishing is much better. What surprises me, is that more clients don’t visit North Florida in the fall and winter to experience some really good fishing. You can enjoy a great day of fishing in our bays, you won’t get beat up, sun burnt, and you don’t have to go out to deeper water. But I’m not complaining, I like having a few extra days off in the fall to do what any guy who fishes for a living does on his day off, and that of course, is go fishing.

Tight Lines…
John

Contact Info:
Capt. John Rivers
Mega-Bite Inshore Charters
850-341-9816
www.megabiteinshore.com

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