February 29, 2024

Hardcore Game Fishing

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The Complete Guide to Fishing in St. George Island

Reading Time: 10 minutes

You’ll find St. George Island hugging Apalachicola Bay on one side, with the prolific waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Just a short ride away from Eastpoint, you’ll find all the beauty Florida’s Panhandle has to offer but without the crowds. The beaches are stunning, the atmosphere is laid back, and above all, fishing at St. George Island is top-notch.

You wouldn’t expect anything less from this part of Florida, where both the riches of inshore fishing and fast and furious deep sea action are just a stone’s throw away. Let’s see how this 22-mile-long barrier island can fulfill your fishing cravings.

What fish are biting at St. George Island?

You know fishing in the Sunshine State’s waters is usually fantastic. A lot of people flock to Florida because of this, so elbowing for your fishing spot is a really a thing. Well, St. George Island has a completely different vibe – lots of fish and fewer anglers. And its fishing season? Open year-round! Here’s what you can expect on your fishing line.

Redfish & Spotted Seatrout

We’ll start off with Redfish and Spotted Seatrout – the most popular catches around the island. They come in all shapes and sizes, with Gator Trout and Bull Reds making a regular appearance. You can target them all year, but the best time is usually from April through November.

Photo taken by Captain Doug Chason

One of the many reasons Reds thrive in and around St. George Island is its great habitat. From marshes and flats to passes and the surf, Redfish are abundant in these inshore waters. The bite is productive because Reds are greedy and will gobble down anything that resembles food. Tempting them with live finger mullet, or spoons and plugs will put you on fish.

A smiling man in a cap and sporting a ginger beard holding a Spotted Seatrout close to the camera on a sunny day
Photo taken by Apalachee Bay Charters

Spotted Seatrout – aka Speckled Trout – are very much loved around the island. They make for tasty table fare and are terrific fighters that can grow to over 5 pounds. Specks congregate around the mouth of the Ochlockonee River and in grassy flats. The recipe for fishing success is using loud artificial lures to get their attention – popping corks are best. And don’t forget a fluorocarbon leader to avoid Trout cutting through the line with their sharp teeth.

Tarpon

Maybe you’re thinking big and feel ready to get into the fishing battle of your life. If that’s the case, then going Tarpon fishing at St. George Island is the experience for you. From May to September, “Silver Kings” migrate through the shallow waters of the Forgotten Coast, and that’s the time for a Tarpon hunt.

Two smiling fishermen standing in water up to their waist, holding a Tarpon, half-submerged in water
Photo taken by Port St. Joe Charters

These glorious fish hardly need any introduction – they’re the hardest-fighting inshore species you’ll find in the Gulf. They can be over 100 pounds, and their aerial displays of prowess make them a challenge to reel in. They’re strictly catch-and-release, so once you do get one, snap a few quick pics and let it go.

The most exciting, albeit the most challenging, way to fish for Tarpon is fly fishing in the flats. You can stumble into these silvery beauties in only a few feet of water, and handling their aerial displays on the fly requires skills and patience. Bear in mind that Tarpon sometimes travel in schools, but not always. Be prepared to move around before you get one to bite.

If you’d prefer to keep things simple, sight fishing with spinning gear is a good way to go. You’ll want to keep your offering close to the bottom and use live finger mullet, crab, pinfish, or large jigs to get your Tarpon to bite. When it does, the battle can begin!

Tripletail

Here we have a fish that usually isn’t considered a top catch but, around St. George Island, they’re iconic. Tripletail are the most commonly caught species in these waters, and they’re probably the tastiest as well. The high season lasts from May through October when you’ll find charter trips specialized for targeting them.

A group of smiling fishermen standing on a charter fishing boat, each holding one or two Tripletail fish
Photo taken by Williamson Outfitters

Tripletail are unlike any other fish you’ll find in Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf. Their unique coloring allows them to keep their low profile while hunting in seagrass and around crab trap buoys. They live at different depths, so you can spot them in skinny waters as well as nearshore.

The strangest thing about Tripletail, however, is that they often float close to the surface. Not swim, but actually float – this helps them stay warm and tricks their prey who won’t notice them while swimming along. If you don’t know what you’re looking for in the water, even you might easily miss them! 

Tripletail fishing in St. George Island is done by using shrimp, be it live (which works best) or artificial imitations. You can also go for crab or pinfish and be successful. Make sure you present the offering further away from your Tripletail and let the food float to it. Once the fish is on, you’ll get to see a lazy floating fish turn into an acrobat!

Snapper & Grouper

Since the Gulf of Mexico is right at your doorstep, why not go offshore and enjoy the premier Grouper and Snapper bite? You don’t even have to travel too far! If the water is more than 50 feet deep, you’re probably on top of good fish. Summer is the perfect time to explore the local reefs, and get yourself a delicacy on the line.

Four fishermen standing on a charter fishing boat, each holding a Snapper and/or Grouper, with blue skies and open waters in the background
Photo taken by Williams Fishing Adventures

Mangrove, Red, and Vermillion Snapper are in the cards in these waters. Reds are the most sought after, but they’re strictly regulated, and you can only target them in June and July. Mangrove Snapper are more readily available and make for a fine Red substitute. Get cut bait or live cigar minnows close to the bottom, and be prepared for a battle with stubborn and strong Snapper.

There’s no shortage of Grouper off the coast of St. George Island either. Gag Grouper are the most popular choice, closely followed by Black, Red, and even an occasional Goliath. You could also get your hands on fellas like Copper Belly or Scamp Grouper. Similar to Snapper, these chunky fish congregate around reefs, so bottom fishing is the way to go. Use pinfish for the best results and be ready to reel, reel, reel to get your Grouper into the boat.

King Mackerel

Speaking of bragworthy catches, King Mackerel is another game fish you’ll want to chase in the Gulf. They’re fast, feisty, and taste great – what’s not to like? You can find Kingfish in the area pretty much all year, but the most productive season is spring.

A smiling young man holding a big King Mackerel, at the back of a boat, with open waters in the background
Photo taken by Adventures aboard the C-Scout

If you’re fishing Apalachicola Reef, Yamaha Reef, Empire Mica, or Fathom Rock, you could get a combo of King Mackerel, Snapper, and Grouper on the same trip! Smoker Kings can weigh upwards of 30 pounds, and they’ll give you a run for your money, literally. If you hear the line peeling away and screaming, chances are you’ve got a King on it.

There are a number of ways to get King Mackerel to bite, but slow trolling is probably your safest bet. They’ll attack a variety of lures, especially hard-tail ones that emulate the movement of bait fish, their main food source. If you prefer live bait, Kingfish respond well to manhaden and cigar minnows. Kings have very sharp teeth, so a strong wire leader is an absolute must. Also, be extremely careful when handling your fish, they’re not afraid of biting into fingers, even when on the boat.

Freshwater Fishing around St. George Island

Yes, saltwater fishing is fantastic off of St. George Island, but we have to give a shoutout to freshwater opportunities too. Just across the bay, you’ll find the mouths of the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee Rivers, each brimming with good fish.

The Lower Apalachicola River and its tributaries that flow into the bay sport good Striped Bass, which you can find under bridges. The Ochlockonee River is home to a variety of species that live in freshwater and brackish waters, like Catfish, Perch, and Bass. Wherever you choose to fish, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

How to fish at St. George Island?

From everything you’ve read by now, it’s easy to understand there are different ways to go fishing at St. George Island. Let’s see what are some of the best methods to hook into something good.

Surf Fishing at St. George Island

Three anglers standing in the surf at St. George Island, holding a big Shark on the ground as the waves crash in behind them
Photo taken by Xtreme Off The Beach Charters

When you’ve got a 22-mile barrier island at your disposal, you know surf fishing is off the hook. At St. George Island, not only do you have miles upon miles of pristine sand beaches, but also piers that offer you easy access to strong action.

The best time to hit the beach usually starts in spring and continues until late fall. This is when you’ll see a lot of anglers in the surf, casting their lines, and reeling in all kinds of good catches. We’re talking Spanish Mackerel, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, Flounder, and Ladyfish, to name a few. You can find similar species from fishing from piers as well if you’d like better access to deeper waters.

Surf fishing around St. George Island is a good option if you prefer discovering new spots on your own. It’s the most affordable way to get a taste of local fishery and enjoy the peace and beauty of the island.

Kayak Fishing at St. George Island

A lone fishing kayak without a fisherman moored in the shallow surf on the beach at St. George Island

Adventurous anglers will have a lot of fun on the island. Kayak fishing is one of the favorite pastimes here, simply because there’s so much to explore. You can hit the water with your kayak any time of the year and there will be something for you to target.

We already mentioned that shallow grassy flats are the top inshore fishing spots in the area, and they’re great for kayak fishing as well. Add to that sandbars and oyster bars (for which these waters are famous), and you’ve got diversity no passionate ‘yakker can refuse.

When it comes to fish, variety is also the name of the game. Kayak fishing around the cuts, passes, and in Apalachicola Bay gets you close and personal with Redfish, Flounder, Black Drum, Trout, and Sheepshead. During the warmest parts of the year, Mackerel, Tripletail, Tarpon, and Pompano join the fray.

Charter Fishing at St. George Island

Two kids standing on a fishing boat, each holding a small fish they caught on their fishing lines, with brown waters behind them
Photo taken by Apalachicola’s Legacy Charters

If what you want the most is to explore the offshore realm, or go fly fishing on the best inshore fishing grounds, then you should hire a local charter guide. There are captains here who make it their mission to put you on fantastic fish, so why not make the most of it?

Local fishing crews have years of experience in these waters and they use it well. If you’re coming with your family and want to have a memorable outing and get some delicious fish for dinner, you’ve got inshore guides who will lead the way. Let your captain know what you’d like to target, and they’ll let you know what’s the best way to do it.

Charter trips are usually sorted into inshore, offshore, and bluewater categories, depending on what you’d like. Some captains run specialized trips, in case you’d like to chase a particular fish. For St. George Island newcomers, booking a charter is the easiest way to get to know the fishery and enjoy all its potential.

Where to fish at St. George Island?

A view across the water of the St. George Island Pier at sunset, with the pier as a silhouette against the orange-red sky

It would take a lot of time to list all the productive fishing spots on and around the island, so we’ve tried to narrow it down to the best of the best. Here are just a few of them.

  • St. George Island State Park: This is probably the favorite place for surf angling. Wherever you are in the park, you can cast your line into Apalachicola Bay and reel in Pompano, Spanish Mackerel, Redfish, Flounder, Trout, and much more.
  • Indian Pass: If you don’t mind a short ride to the boat ramp at the Indian Pass, the trip will pay off. There’s excellent Redfishing in these deep waters, and the Speckled Trout bite is just as good.
  • St. George Fishing Pier: Pier anglers will enjoy this fishing spot because it gives them the chance to reach deeper waters without a boat. From here, you can cast your line and look forward to Mackerel, Tripletail, Pompano, Ladyfish, and more.
  • St. Vincent Bar: You’ll find this shallow sandbar right next to St. Vincent Island and Apalachicola Bay. This spot might be tricky to get to because it’s only three feet deep, but there are some Gator Trout living there.
  • Apalachicola Reef: This artificial reef is a gathering place of so many game fish we love. There’s some great Snapper and Grouper always swimming around, as well as King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, and many more.

St. George Island Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the state flag of Florida, a vector of a boat, and text that says "St. George Island Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background

Florida fishing regulations can be tricky to navigate, especially if you’re fishing solo. Before you go fishing at St. George Island, make sure to know the daily bag limits and which fish are in season.

If you’re only surf fishing on the island and are a Florida resident, a free shoreline saltwater fishing license will cover you. Not a resident? You’ll need to buy the standard non-resident saltwater fishing license. When you’re going out with a charter, you don’t have to worry about any of it – the license is included in the price of the trip.

Fishing at St. George Island – A Narrow Slice of Angling Paradise

An aerial view of St. George Island, with the beach behind it on a clear day

A vacation on St. George Island allows you to take a step back from the constant hustle of everyday life. You get to relax, enjoy nature and beautiful weather, and get into some great fishing action. Whether you come here for the stunning sunsets, island vibes, fishing, peace and quiet, or all of it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how easy life at St. George Island can be.

Have you ever been fishing at St. George Island? What are your experiences? Is there something we missed? Write to us in the comments.

The post Fishing at St. George Island: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Andriana
Title: Fishing at St. George Island: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/fishing-at-st-george-island/
Published Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2023 10:01:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://www.hardcoregamefishing.com/why-the-galapagos-islands-are-great-for-blue-marlin-fishing-or-any-pacific-marlin/

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