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Pensacola Fishing Report January

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Pensacola Fishing Report January
Sheepshead have become a very popular species for anglers in the Florida Panhandle to target, partly due the tight restrictions on offshore bottom fish. January is typically a little early for sheepshead, but you can definitely catch a few here and there. If youíre fishing Pensacola Pass youíll likely find a lot of small sheepshead, many too small to keep, in January. The bigger fish will show up sometime in February. In the right situation sheepshead can be easy to catch, just rig using a Carolina rig with a 15-20 pound fluorocarbon leader, a small hook, and as little weight as possible. Live shrimp and fiddler crabs are hands down the best baits to use.

Speckled trout are another species that a lot of anglers target throughout the winter months, especially January and February because thatís out two coldest months of the years. During the winter youíll want to focus your time in the bayous, rivers, and canals. If youíre looking for big fish youíll likely have the best luck in either Bayou Texar or Bayou Grande. If youíre just looking to catch a bunch of fish the canals in Gulf Breeze like Villa Vynce or Santa Rosa Shores are always a good choice. Live bait and artificial lures will both work and it might be a good idea to try both.

The winter white trout bite in Pensacola is a fishery that is often overlooked. A lot of people donít eat white trout, but they are actually great if fried fresh. Remember years ago people didnít eat triggerfish either. As many people know the best spot to find white trout throughout the winter is around the Pensacola Bay Bridge. With the construction of the new bridge youíll want to fish on the east side of the bridge. A variety of live bait and artificial lures will work, a good way to go about it is move around using lures until you locate them and then turn to live bait.

With red snapper, triggerfish, amberjack, and gag grouper all closed a lot of anglers looking for action from offshore bottom dwellers turn their attention to vermillion snapper, also known as a mingo or beeliner. They are smaller than red snapper typically ranging in size from 1-3 pounds, but are great to eat. They currently have a bag limit of 10 per person and are open year around. Youíll find them on a lot of the bigger public wrecks and natural bottom areas in both state and federal waters. A two-drop rig with small circle hooks is the way to go when it comes to rigging. Bait of choice is usually either cut northern mackerel or squid.

If you can catch a nice weather window January is a great time to make a run to the rigs in search of yellowfin and blackfin tuna. These fish congregate around rigs off Mississippi and Alabama starting about eight miles from Pensacola Pass. They bite both night and day so you may want to plan to try to be there in the dark as well as during the day. Thereís a number of different ways to fish for them, so be prepared to live bait, chunk, jig, and throw poppers. Thereís been a lot of small hardtails around the buoys out Pensacola Pass lately.

Captain Chaz Heller