I have been able to spend some time on our beloved river since the hurricane and I think it’s safe to say that things have changed. While I cannot say with certainty whether it’s for the better or worse, things have certainly changed. Reports of fish kills around the Dead Lakes area right after the storm have some speculating that the bass population was hurt, but only time will tell if that is true and to what extent.
My fishing success has been spotty, but I have had some success. I believe that the high and fluctuating levels have made the bite tough at times, but it seems that it may now be down and stable. This should make for better fishing going into August. With summer upon us, we should expect the river to hover around 4 feet and lower, but rain will obviously determine actual levels.
I’ve had better luck in the mid- to upper stretches pitching a Gambler Ace and a Stick-O around willow trees: dark colors have worked best. On the main run of the river in the current, a spinnerbait is always a good bet and has been producing well, but pitching a heavy weighted creature bait or worm to trees and stumps making current breaks will get plenty of bites as well. Peg a ½ or ¾ oz. weight above a stout flipping hook tied to 65 lb. test braid and get it right into the thickest part of the snags that line the bank. Be ready to hang up a lot with this technique but it will produce some big fish. A big ¾ oz. Gambler Double Weedguard jig tipped with a Mega Daddy craw works great fished the same way.
The lower end of the river has produced very few bites for me, and most have resulted in small fish, so if you’re headed that way, I’d suggest trying your luck up higher than Wewahitchka.
If you run a high performance bass boat like I do, I suggest you keep the throttle back in many areas until you’ve become very familiar with the changes to sand bars, navigation aids and debris from trees, docks and even derelict boats.
Big fish are still there to be had as you can see in this picture of Kyle Pridgen with this 9 pound beast! Fish this size were hard to come by, even before the storm, so this bodes well for the overall health of this awesome and beautiful fishery.
Good fishing and God bless.
CAPT. RANDY “C-NOTE” CNOTA
Panama City, FL