One way to beat the heat along the Florida Panhandle this time of year is by wade-fishing the Intracoastal Waterway from Pensacola Bay to Panama City. In summer, turtle grass flats along the shoreline harbor shrimp and large schools of baitfish that, in turn, attract roving schools of spotted seatrout, redfish, jack crevalle and other Gulf Coast favorites.
This is strictly minimalist fishing. A typical wade fisherman simply hangs a few lures from his favorite fishing hat, bungee-cords a landing net around his chest and wades into the water with a bait-casting or spinning outfit. An old tee-shirt, cut-off jeans and a pair of well-worn tennis shoes complete the outfit.
Near Pensacola, in that part of the Intracoastal Waterway called Santa Rosa Sound, there are a number of grass-lined points that extend into deep water. These are excellent places to wade and cast into the adjacent deeper water. Likewise, various points that jut into deeper water in Chotawhatchee Bay near Fort Walton Beach and Panama City Bay near Panama City Beach also are dependable fish attractors. Check navigational maps to find such hot spots. One thing to keep in mind: When you fish inshore saltwater areas, fish on a moving tide. It doesn’t matter if the tide is flowing in or out, but if the tide is dead, so is the fishing.
Some of the most popular baits are bass plugs such as the Smithwick Devil’s Horse and Rapala Minnow, or inexpensive plastic-tailed grubs. Keep a stringer handy in your pocket to tether trout and redfish. Unless you’re really bored, pray your lure doesn’t attract a jack crevalle. These fish, which range to about 30 pounds in weight, love to take lures away from wade fishermen and may even steal all your line, too.