April has been a very strange month for fishing in the Big Ben area. The water temperature has been higher than normal, the wind has been higher than normal and the fish have been somewhere else other than here. I think the lack of a good cold winter and early Spring has changed the habits of the travelling fish that normally pass through the pan handle during April and May. However, I do expect May to be one of the better months this year and hopefully the cobia will still be around during the first half of May. It will be a real good time to catch that large speckled trout. I am sure the pompano, sheepshead and triple tail will still be around the buoys in the ships channel and probably in sharks hole near the point of St. Joe peninsula. The Spanish mackerel are here already and should be here big time during May as well as some large king mackerel. Hopefully the wahoo and mahi mahi will be here by the time May arrives and we can bring home a good catch.
Off shore fishing was also very limited during April up to this point; hopefully it will greatly improve by the time May arrives. There appears to be an abundance of scamp, black snapper and gag grouper in the deeper water offshore, 180-220 feet. The only problem is you cannot keep a gag grouper but you can bring home all of the other species of grouper and there seems to be a good catch available off shore. The secret to catching that large fish is to have some good live bait that are available around the buoys in the ships channel and on some of the near shore artificial reefs. Put a few real small gold hooks on a line with enough lead to hold it near the bottom and bait the hooks with small pieces of squid to catch a good number of live bait. The weather this spring has been anything but normal however, I have strong hope that summertime weather will arrive shortly.
Don’t forget to file a float plan, and let somebody know when you are going to return.