PORT ST JOE AREA
BAY FISHING In January, the trout and redfish are in the deeper holes and up into the canals. Live shrimp is the bait of choice with the lightest weight possible to keep your baits under control. For this time of year, the Gulf canal is a great place to fish. You can start past Raffield’s Fisheries continue to the “T”. The Port St Joe Marina is a favorite trout hole with the smaller trout far outnumbering large ones at the onset of January, but will increase in size by the end of the month. Big redfish can be caught trolling Mann’s Stretch 25’s in the bay or throwing big soft plastics. The key for the big reds is to look for any bird activity. Apalachicola Bay will be a hot bed of great large trout action with live shrimp off the edges of the shoals and in the deeper channels. Sheepshead bite will be good in the surf at the beginning of January and will pick up. Also, try the canal and around the oyster beds using fiddler crabs and small shrimp.
NEAR SHORE/SURFWhiting will be along the surf in good numbers in January with a few pompano thrown in for good measure. The Stump Hole off Cape San Blas is a favorite among the locals, but along Mexico Beach is often overlooked. Use a 2-hook pompano rig with small circle hooks rigged with a headless shrimp. Use a pyramid weight just heavy enough to hold your rig in place. Big breeder redfish will also be along the shoreline at sunset. Use a 4/0 circle hook Carolina rigged on a 20lb class rod/reel.
OFFSHOREGrouper will have moved to the shallower wrecks and reefs as the water temperature drops. The big hogs will be at 150’. Trolling with Mann’s stretch series lures works very well and you will want to use the 25+ series in 30’ or less and the 30+ series any deeper. Of course, using live bait works great, but is increasingly harder to find with the temperature dropping. Frozen cigar minnows/northern mackerel will work well Carolina rigged with 80lb fluorocarbon leader and 10/0 Mustad circle hooks. Triggerfish never leave us and are great table fare. Use a double drop rig with squid on #4 owner fly liner hooks. Amberjack will stick around wrecks and the Air Force Towers. A favorite lure is the Shimano Butterfly jig. Trolling gets a little slow with the temperature drops and your best bet will be Black Fin tuna out past the 20-mile mark. Troll skirted ballyhoo and have some tuna plugs ready when you find a school.
PANAMA CITY OFFSHORE AND BAYS
Flounder are still being caught around the inshore wrecks. Use live bull minnows, shrimp or pilchards on a Carolina rig and target the edges of the wrecks. The Amberjack bite has been strong over the bridge spans and any large structures. Grouper season is closed February 1st through March 31st.
ST. ANDREWS BAY SYSTEM
Sheepshead are being caught more regularly around the jetties with live shrimp and fiddler crabs. The White Trout bite is still very good. They can be found in deep water under the Hathaway and Tyndall Bridges. Use live shrimp on a Carolina rig for best results. Redfish are being caught in very shallow water on the flats in East and West Bays. The Bull Reds are still being caught with live shrimp and pinfish around the jetties. Speckled Trout closes the month of February. For catch and release, concentrate on deep bayous, creeks, the intercostals waterway and the hot water discharge canal.