Category: Marine Sports

Kayak-Fishing the Creeks of Panama City

Ten easily accessible kayak launch sites in northwest Florida

Panama City, FL is a fishing village embraced by the blue waters of St. Andrew Bay. It also boasts meandering creeks and bayous throughout, enticing fishermen to ditch the boat and explore the area by kayak and try their hand at kayak-fishing. The nearby Tyndall Air Force Base alone features 130 miles of largely uninhabited grass and pine shorelines that are teeming with fish.

Panama City welcomes all levels of expertise when it comes to kayak-fishing. Newcomers can hire a guide to accompany them on their voyage, and more experienced paddlers can either bring their kayaks to one of the many launch sites or they can embark on a guided charter with Sunjammers. While the panhandle’s comparatively tranquil Gulf of Mexico offers the most accessible deep-sea kayak-fishing in the United States, the winds and currents can change quickly, making it difficult to paddle back through choppy conditions and tall surf, so kayakers should be weather-aware to ensure a fun day on the water.

Below are 10 easy-to-find public launch sites that offer access to year-round light-tackle fishing for redfish and spotted seatrout, plus seasonal opportunities for flounder, pompano, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead and more. All you need is a map and a wind forecast to start your maiden kayaking trip in Panama City.

1. Crooked Creek Boat Ramp: Located just west of the airport, Crooked Creek Boat Ramp requires a long but scenic paddle south to West Bay. Kayakers can turn left or right at the mouth to look for redfish and trout along miles of virtually undeveloped pine shorelines and wide, shallow grassflats. The area is well-protected when north winds howl. Recommended lures include topwater plugs, suspending twitchbaits and weedless soft-plastics. To find this boat launch, click here.

2. Burnt Mill Creek Boat Ramp: Located just east of the airport, Burnt Mill Creek Boat Ramp offers the option of a scenic, winding paddle up the creek to the north, or a half-mile paddle to the south to reach West Bay. With miles of uninhabited shoreline in either direction, Burnt Mill Creek provides protection from north or east winds. It’s a great area to throw topwater plugs or look for tailing redfish. To find this boat launch, click here.

3. Hathaway Bridge: Paddlers can launch off the sand at Carl Grey Park adjacent to the Hathaway Bridge, and there are plenty of fishing options here —kayakers should look for reds and trout in shallow potholes and under the docks to the northeast or paddle a mile northwest across the bay and work the shallow grassflats on the west shoreline of North Bay. The Hathaway also offers big-game fishing despite its location five miles inside the St. Andrew Pass. Seasoned kayakers should investigate deep water and reefs around the bridge for giant redfish, snapper, grouper or even the occasional kingfish, tarpon and cobia that wanders in from the Gulf of Mexico. Pedal-style kayaks are highly recommended to avoid collisions with concrete pilings while fighting large fish in possibly strong currents. To find this boat launch, click here.

4. Pretty Bayou Boat Ramp: This ramp provides access to the south shoreline of North Bay. Kayakers should look for reds, trout and occasional flounder in shallow potholes and under docks when launching from this boat ramp. Shallow-running twitchbaits, soft-plastics or topwaters recommended for lures. To find this boat launch, click here.

5. A.L. Kinsaul Park: This ramp offers easy access to North Bay from the west end of 5th Street and provides protection from southern winds. Kayakers should paddle west toward the power lines to look for redfish and trout near shore and in shallow sand holes. Recommended lures include shallow-running twitchbaits and soft-plastics. To find this boat launch, click here.

6. Bailey Bridge: Paddlers should launch at Bailey Bridge Park when the wind is coming from the south, or beneath the north end of the bridge if the wind is blowing from the north or east. The Bailey Bridge Boat Ramp provides access to grassflats, bayous and docks on either side of North Bay. When fishing to the east, recommended lures include suspending twitchbaits or soft-plastics rigged on jigheads. To the west, recommended lures change to topwater plugs, suspending twitchbaits and weedless soft-plastics work well. To find this boat launch, click here.

7. DuPont Bridge: The Under the Oaks boat ramp provides access to miles of largely uninhabited East Bay grassflats adjacent to Tyndall Air Force Base. Some kayakers also choose to launch their boats from the beach after crossing the bridge. Both locations provide fishing beneath the flight path of F22, F16 and T38 planes that can be deafening and distracting at times, but the fish don’t seem to mind. The bridge pilings also hold bull redfish that can reach 40 pounds. There is no need to bring a cooler when bridge fishing, as it’s strictly catch-and-release fishing. To find this boat launch, click here.

8. Men’s Club Boat Ramp: This boat ramp offers access to either a winding two-mile paddle north to the source of Callaway Bayou or a ¾-mile trek south to chase trout and redfish on the shallow grassflats and bayous along the north shore of East Bay. To find this boat launch, click here.

9. Downtown Panama City: Kayaks can launch from the sand in downtown Panama City off of West 4th Street and Beach Drive on the north side of City Hall. This launch offers easy access to East Bay near downtown or Beach Drive, as well as the opportunity to paddle across the bay to fish the Redfish Point area and the grassflats inside St. Andrew Pass. Kayakers should navigate carefully when the afternoon sea breeze kicks up chaotic wave conditions near the Panama City Marina seawall. This is also a popular area to troll for Spanish mackerel from spring through autumn. To find this boat launch, click here.

10. Weekend Gate, Tyndall Air Force Base: This boat launch is technically referred to as the St. Andrew Sound Land Midpoint and is a beach launch that is open only on holidays and weekends to minimize interference with military drone flight operations. Kayakers should turn south and drive through the metal gate 7.8 miles east of the DuPont Bridge on Highway 98 and follow the winding dirt trail for half of a mile to Crooked Island Sound. From there it’s a relatively short paddle directly across to the pass at Crooked Island, which is a popular socializing point for kayakers and boaters drawn to the snow-white beaches, crystal-clear water and wildlife. Paddlers can expect to see turtles, rays, dolphins, fish and shorebirds. There are plenty of fish in this area too, including redfish, trout, pompano, flounder, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead and small grouper, or head out beyond the pass in search of kingfish, cobia and tarpon. To find this boat launch, click here.

Jerry McBride teaches kayak fishing and is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer specializing in kayak fishing. He has written for Florida Sportsman and Shallow Water Angler and was the editor of Kayak Fish magazine. You can follow in on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/jerry.mcbride.779

Charter Fishing

Embraced by the shores of St. Andrews Bay, Panama City is an idyllic destination for travelers seeking enrichment and outdoor pursuits in a scenic waterfront setting. The proximity to the water and subtropical climate encourage year-round inshore and offshore fishing. Panama City is known as an angler’s paradise and a world-class sailing destination, with travelers from around the globe envying the constant breezes and calm waters of St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf. Offering near perfect winds that many coastal communities envy, visitors to Panama City have the opportunity to sail in the deepest and largest protected bay in the area.

Sprawling more than 68,000 acres behind the protection of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, St. Andrews Bay is home to abundant aquatic life. The bay spans more than 20 miles and includes a wealth of saltwater flats and seagrass beds that offer rich bounty. Redfish, speckled trout, black drum, cobia, sheepshead and flounder are just a few of the species populating these channels. Shell Island is an undeveloped barrier island occupying a 7 mile stretch between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. Shell Island, only accessible by boat, is a protected preserve with pristinely white beaches, natural dunes, and emerald waters. The clear waters of this extensive ecosystem are ideal for both novice and expert anglers.

Spend the day with one of Panama City’s experienced boat captains on a guided fishing expedition. You’ll love the excitement of hooking one of the Gulf Coast’s many popular varieties of seafood, but what you’ll love more is enjoying the “Hook and Cook” dining experience. Upon docking, a local chef expertly cleans and prepares your bounty for a flavorful meal at one of Panama City’s charming local restaurants.

Watch more here!

Long revered as a sailing destination, Panama City is home to numerous regattas throughout the year. The 2018 ISCA Masters World Championship Regatta will be held on March 17 – March 20 and the 2018 USSCA National Championship at Midwinters will be held on March 21 – March 24. Now is a great time to start planning your trip to Panama City!

HOOK & COOK

Panama City fishing guide provides an ultimate dock-to-dish experience.

How many times have you stood helplessly by, biting your tongue while you watched a friend completely botch preparing and cooking a nice, clean piece of fish he (or she) labored all day in the hot sun, at the stern of a rocking boat, miles offshore, to land? Next time you plan an offshore fishing excursion in Northwest Florida, you may want to avoid committing a similar culinary faux pas and subjecting your dinner guests to overcooked cobia with the consistency of a retread tire. How’s that, you ask? For too many occasional fishermen, catching fish is a bit like the dog that chases the bus and doesn’t know what to do with it once he’s caught it.

Captain Todd Jones knows the waters (both inshore and offshore) around Panama City so well he could navigate them blindfolded on a moonless night. He also knows how to find his way to a good business idea. Captain Todd operates out of Sun Harbor Marina, docking his 27-foot center console Seacraft just steps away from Shipyard Grill. Like most charter captains, he has always cleaned the days catch and iced it down for his happy, worn-out clients before sending them on their way with a mess of clean fish and a load of unanswered questions about what to do with it once they get it home.

One evening, soon after Shipyard Grill opened, he noticed his clients walking with their bags of fresh catch right past the front door and patio of the restaurant, and the idea appeared to him as clear as a channel marker on St. Andrews Bay: why not offer clients the opportunity to have the restaurant professionally and expertly cook the fish they worked so hard (and spent their hard-earned dollars) to catch?

“There are many advantages to this ‘Hook and Cook’ approach,” says Captain Todd of his idea. First, he notes that somebody who rarely cooks the wide variety of edible Gulf fish they’re most likely to land avoids the stress of preparing it incorrectly.  Secondly, there’s no mess to clean up afterwards. Thirdly, fishermen often travel with spouses, other family members or friends who don’t join the expedition but still want to share the bounty, which Hook and Cook allows. Finally, fresh frozen fish is better than store-bought fish, but never-frozen swimming-this-morning dock-to-dish fish is in a stratosphere of its own.

Now, instead of lugging your fish home to Atlanta or Birmingham – or even Ohio – in a cooler strapped to the hitch-all of your Suburban, you walk 20 (more or less) steps from the boat to the dock-side restaurant, present your bag of fish and choose one of three preparations for your catch (fried, blackened or grilled – which the restaurant charges an average $13 to $15 to cook) along with two sides. (Although not quite as convenient, in addition to Shipyard Grill, Captain Todd can also deliver you with your fish to Captain’s Table Fish House Restaurant in Historic St. Andrews or to Treasure Island Seafood Market to be cleaned and delivered to J. Michael’s in Downtown Panama City.) Then you head back to your lodging to wash up and fetch your family and friends, and return with them to the Shipyard Grill to proudly treat them to an unforgettable meal that you caught four hours earlier, as you regale them with your fish tales. One of those people will certainly buy you a drink and toast your virtues as a fisherman and a host.

Be sure to check out Captain Todd’s episode on Hook and Cook on Emerald Tales airing in January on the Pursuit Channel (check local listings).  To book a charter with Captain Todd, please call 850-819-5829

Panama City, Florida Offers World-class Sailing, Boating and Fishing

Panama City’s strategic location on St. Andrews Bay has played an important role in the destination’s history as an anglers paradise. Similarly, the ideal wind conditions have established Panama City as a world-class sailing destination, with travelers from around the globe envying the constant breezes and calm waters of St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf. Sprawling more than 68,000 acres behind the protection of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, St. Andrews Bay is home to abundant aquatic life.

PanamaCityFL16-7270The bay spans more than 20 miles and includes a wealth of saltwater flats and seagrass beds that offer a rich bounty. Redfish, Speckled Trout, Black Drum, Cobia, Sheepshead and Flounder are just a few of the species that populate these channels.

The clear waters of this extensive ecosystem are ideal for both novice and expert anglers. Numerous charters and guides offer year-round off-shore fishing opportunities for various seasonal species. Bottom fishing yields grouper, snapper, mahi-mahi, mackerel and amberjack. Trolling is an ideal method for hooking both Spanish and king mackerel, cobia and jack crevalles. Sport fishing for sailfish and marlin provides heart-thumping excitement during a true test of endurance and skill.

Offering near perfect winds that many coastal communities envy, visitors to Panama City have the opportunity to sail in the deepest and largest protected bay in the area. Long revered as a sailing destination, Panama City is home to numerous regattas throughout the year such as the A-Class Catamaran North American Championships.

Boaters love Panama City with more marinas per capita than many similarly sized coastal destinations and charters providing ready access for water based excursions. Shelling expeditions to unpopulated barrier islands, such as Shell Island are readily available to any guests wishing to explore the bay area by water. Download a free Visitors Guide to learn about the crystal blue waters of Destination Panama City.

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