Just north of Panama City, near Greenhead, you’ll find the Fitzhugh Carter tract of lakes and ponds in the heart of the Econfina Creek Wildlife Management Area. The Special Opportunity Fishing Program here provides a great opportunity for anglers of all ages to fish in cypress and sand-bottomed ponds. The fishing program operates Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday year-round with the exception of established hunting seasons.
If you’d like to spend a peaceful day of fishing on pristine waters with the chance to land a trophy fish, then this is the place for you. The sounds of the surrounding forest are occasionally interrupted by the bump of an oar on the side of an aluminum boat or a feeding fish breaching the water’s surface. Peace and quiet is what’s in store, but often you’ll hear the excitement of another angler landing a big fish.
No boats are allowed to be trailered in, but you don’t need one; call ahead and reserve one of the boats that are there waiting for you. Renting them is free, and oars, life jackets and cushions are provided just to sweeten the deal. All you have to do is check in and provide a photo ID; as long as you’ve made a reservation or if a boat is available, it’s yours to use.
The harvest of bass is prohibited, and they grow big here! Even though these waters are not over-fished, catching them can require some skill and preparation. For most of the year, buzzing frogs, swimming worms and soft plastic jerk-baits will get plenty of bites. The vegetation is thick in many places and that’s exactly where big bass like to hide so heavy line is in order for getting the big one in the boat.
Capt. Stan Cooper has caught many big bream and crappie and has guided many clients on successful fishing trips; these fish can be harvested. Recently Stan and I spent a day on Dry Lake chasing bass and he guided me to some fine ones! Other anglers that day bagged some huge bream.
Stan brought his sculling paddle that day and was able to maneuverer our boat around with stealth and precision. Sculling paddles are not provided but the boats are configured for them. This method of propelling a boat takes practice and Stan is one of the best.
I suggest that novice anglers either hire a guide or simply head out with very basic tactics for whatever species you seek; even if you don’t catch anything, you and your party will very much enjoy the beauty, peace and serenity this place has to offer. Simply viewing the wildlife and scenery makes the trip worthwhile.
The Fitzhugh Carter tract of lakes is located about 5 miles north of Hwy 20 and just west of Hwy 77 on Chain Lake road. For more information about the Carter Tract or to reserve a boat, please call (850) 773-2631.
~ Capt. Randy Cnota