Pensacola, located in the panhandle of Florida, is a favorite vacation spot for many outdoor enthusiasts. The weather is mild to warm most of the year with some cold spots added from time to time. The people are friendly and nice to be around. It is the county seat of Escambia County and one of the very earliest US settlements. It has a rich history that you can enjoy through visits to local museums.
Have you ever been saltwater fishing in Pensacola? Have any luck? Well, I do pretty well when I go. Having lived there all my life I’ve been fortunate to do a wide variety of fishing, both salt and fresh water. One of the best Pensacola attractions is the fishing; personally I prefer the salt since the fish are generally bigger. I will talk about some of my past experiences and the time of year they happened.
During the summer months the water is calm for the most part. Except for the afternoon thunderstorms you will have smooth waters. My favorite pattern at this time is trolling. I mostly go for the king mackerel but all fish strikes are great. Before the trip I head down to the local bait store and pick up a few packs of rigged Ballyhoo. Keep them on ice until needed. Get your gear in good shape by checking for any damage to rods, reels, and line. Keep the gaff in a convenient place.
I always put a snap swivel on the end of the line for quicker bait hook-up. Head out of Pensacola pass to about 2 miles distance and get the gear out and in the holders. Open the Ballyhoo, break off the bill, and snap them on. Put the boat in gear and rev it up ’til you start getting white prop wash. Put the baits in the water back about 20 – 30 yards. Set the drag and put on the clicker. If you are operating the boat, I find it easy to keep the lines from tangling by keeping an eye on just one line. Keep it straight behind the boat and you will have no trouble.
If trolling isn’t for you, there is always drift fishing. Pick up your bait; I like cigar minnows, from the bait shop. Head out into the gulf and find a spot you like. I would stay out of the channel since there is lots of boat traffic there. Turn off the engine but don’t anchor, take the bait without weight or bobber, put it on the hook, cast out and let the tide have it. I have taken kids out fishing and this trick works great. Some days you can get a good workout. I have gotten some nice Bonita this way, and some King Mackerel as well.
Since I’m on the summer months, let me talk about something known as June Grass. Out in the gulf you may see large patches of grass floating about. These are very productive fishing spots. They not only provide shade from the sun but are home to a variety of life, such as small crabs. Upon spotting these I have had good luck trolling and casting to them. One of the fish I have caught has been Dolphin. You could put on some large diving plugs and troll around the edges. Vary the distance behind the boat; I have caught fish on plugs with the plug in the prop wash.
The winter months can be productive as well but I tend to stay closer to shore due to the winds.
In the winter the water is general choppy in the gulf. Fishing around the pass in the winter can be fun. The pass is some 60 – 70 feet deep with current from the tides. I have trolled plugs here and caught some nice Blue Fish. Bottom fishing can turn up some good catches of a variety. Speckled and White Trout can be caught in the shallower areas, say 4 – 10 feet. You can fish with shrimp, cut bait, or sting ray grubs. On warmer days you can get strikes from Speckled Trout on top water plugs around grassy spots.
For the more adventurous there is the Desoto Canyon. It is a bit of a ride from Pensacola Pass, some 25 miles or so, but usually well worth it. Go out the pass and follow the channel markers to the very last one, the sea buoy. Make your heading 168 degrees and travel about 25 miles out. On your depth sounder you will notice the bottom start to chop up. You are there. Look for some good bottom contour, put on the weights, and hook on some bait for some bottom fishing. You can get some Snapper, Mingo, Grouper, Trigger, and maybe some Amberjack.
Whenever you go, always file a float plan with someone ashore. Check the weather beforehand. Check your license and be aware of any catch restrictions. Have a safe and productive fishing trip to Pensacola, Florida.