Panama City Beach / West Bay – February 2020

Fred Wilson with a beauty of a redfish near PCB.
Fred Wilson with a beauty of a redfish near PCB.

Backcountry / Bay / Inshore: This time of year, when the weather can’t make up its mind, you have to remember that the fish will move back and forth between their cold weather spots and spring time areas from day to day depending on the temps. Multiple cold days strung together will get trout to move back toward the bayous, canals, and creeks and can be caught using slower presentations with soft plastic jigs or live bait. Redfish can be found there as well. On the mild days, work the shallows on the flats with top-water lures, your favorite jig or live bait. When the sun gets high in the sky, move out to the 3- to 4-foot range and keep fishing. Targeting docks will help you find schools of redfish if the water is murky. Usually where you find one there will be several more. There will also be some bigger trout hanging around the same structure. Don’t forget that the new trout regulations are in effect as of 1 Feb. The new slot limit is 15 to 19 inches with a 3 fish limit per harvester, with one over 19” per vessel included in the bag limit. Trout are closed to harvest in February, so it’s all catch and release this month. Big bull redfish and large mangrove snapper are being caught around the big bridges in the deeper water. Use light tackle bottom rigs for the snapper and heavier tackle for the redfish…live bait works best. Sheepshead are starting to show up around the pass and inshore structure. A small piece of shrimp, cut bait or sand fleas on light tackle will get them to bite. There are some big schools of bluefish in the bay. Look for them where birds are diving. When they are feeding they will hit almost anything you throw in the school, just be sure to use some tough line.

Offshore: Even though several of the offshore species are closed this month, there are still plenty of fish to take home for dinner. Red snapper is closed but there are plenty of mangrove snapper and several other species open. Gag grouper is closed, but most other grouper species are open as are scamp. As always be sure to check up to date regulations before you go.

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