Ice and snow is not what we normally expect in January in the panhandle, but 2014 has so far given us the unexpected.
I moved to Florida 15 years ago during a particularly cold winter in Indiana, and although we still get seasonal weather, we haven’t had to break out the ice scrapers before. We had temps here around 14 – 20 degrees for two and a half days. It was just crazy and this place just shut down.
Needless to say we didn’t fish much the last week of January. Before the Ice Storm of 2014 for Pensacola and the surrounding area, the trout bite was pretty good quality in Escambia and Blackwater. Anglers had also been catching some nice slot redfish. For this time of year, I typically rely on artificial baits to go after the trout and reds. For my soft plastics, I like ZMan PaddlerZ and the MinnowZ, and I just started using the new PogyZ; these three baits rigged on a 1/8 –1/4 oz jig head are deadly and dependable.
With hard baits, of course it’s MirrOlure! One of my go to baits is the 17MR; I’ve been using the 17MR since I became a guide 11 years ago. Last year they came out with the 18MR, which sinks, and in water over 6 ft it is a deadly lure. This year they came out with a new bait called the Soft Dine, which is a cross of two baits, the Paul Brown and the 17MR. I’ve used this new bait and trust me when I say, you’re gonna catch some big trout and lots of them when you use it. Paul Browns usually are winter and fall baits, but I think the new Soft Dine will be great this spring on the flats!
The big reds have slowly moved back offshore, and with only a few schools still around, it’s kind of been hit and miss. This past November – December was just awesome for the reds, and I can’t wait till next season.
Before I jump off of here, let’s talk about what’s coming up in Feb–March.
February is a great month for trout in the upper rivers and upper bays, and from time to time you’ll come up with some fun redfish. Depending upon how cold it is outside will determine if the fish are deep in holes as deep as 18ft or in depths of 4-10 ft. Drop-shot rigs, and vertical jigging is a very good technique for trout in the deeper holes.
As February ends and March comes in, it’s the only time I exclusively put live bait on the boat for MONSTER SHEEPSHEAD! It’s tons of fun regardless if you’re an avid angler or newbie! The sheepshead bite starts around March 15th and lasts till around April 25th. So, if you’re in the area or heading down this way, look me up and let’s get you HOOKED UP on The MEGA-BITE!
I’ve been guiding for 11 years now and run two styles of charters; one is my basic charter business Mega-Bite Inshore Charters, and the other is listed below.
Three years ago I started an instructional fishing charter called SALTWATER FISHING ACADEMY.
Saltwater Fishing Academy is a fishing experience like no other for local or visiting anglers to the Pensacola gulf coast. It’s designed for both the experienced angler who wants to up his game or the novice angler who wants to improve his skills. I will teach you inshore fishing techniques for redfish, trout, pompano, Spanish, jacks, and much more in our area while using artificials. 99% of my fishing trips we’ll be using artificials only, but I will also explain when to leave the plastics in the bag and switch over to live bait, for instance when fishing for Sheepshead in late March and early April.
This is the trip for someone who wants to be able to get out the next time on his own, and have a better understanding of how to fish our waters. The family style trips are still available, and they are booking up fast for spring break, so if you plan on coming down, give me a ring, and we’ll get you hooked up on the Mega-Bite.
Capt. John Rivers