With week after week of torrential rains, high winds and high rivers, it was time to take a road trip. Kristi and I decided it was time to pack up a few rods and bag full of Matrix Shads and Golden Eye jig heads and get away from all the dirty and stained water in Lake Pontchatrain to seek out crystal clear water. We headed east and ended up at Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin, Florida and what a good choice it was. After a four hour drive towing our 18′ Panga skiff and passing multiple bays, lakes and river and after crossing several bridges that looked appealing we were very eager to launch the Panga and make our first cast. I felt like it was my first time ever fishing. There is something about being in a foreign area and exploring a new territory with all the new scenery. Questions of what types of fish live here? What is the water depth? Are we going to catch 12 inch fish or 20 pound fish or any fish at all? Excitement is all I could feel!
Our first day started out launching at Destin Marina right next to the Destin bridge near “Crab Island”. After getting a few tips from the store manager off me and Kristi went. Well needless to say we made it about 100 yards out of the Marina and the trolling motor was already down and our Matrix Shads were being slung into the water. A combination of excitement and small diving birds and I couldn’t take it any more, I had to get a Matrix Shad in the water. After a few cast and several popped lines I noticed we were on a school of Spanish Mackerel. Finally Kristi landed a few without there razor sharp teeth penetrating our 14lb test. After landing several mackerel we decide to make a run to Joe’s bayou. Joe’s bayou is a cove with several docks on the shorelines that tend to hold several species of fish. When we arrived it reminded me of fishing the old piers on the eastern shoreline of Lake Pontchatrain. Back home in the lake we spend countless hours jigging the old run down wharfs on the eastern shoreline of Lake Ponchatrain. Some piers are better than others so covering a lot of water is key so thats just how we approached our strategy in Joe’s Bayou in the Choctawhatchee Bay. After hitting 3 or 4 different docks we finally found one with some promise. A solid concrete pier with countless legs or pilings setting in 10′ of water. This dock was pay dirt. Kristi and I began flipping specks in the boat. 4 in a row then she caught a small Jack fish and then followed it up with a nice flounder. After pulling several fish off this pier off we went, covering more and more water trying to get a feel for the new area that I was beginning to get very intrigued by. After catching a few more fish on several other docks, the wind was beginning to build, so we decided to run around and simply see the area to get a feel for what else we were going to fish the next day. After running all the way to Fort Walton 6 miles to the west we found a bridge that reminded me of SeaBrook back home just without the super hard current. This bridge is called “The Brooks Bridge”. It was setting about 22′ deep in the middle of the channel and thats where we fished. Down went the trolling motor again after 5 min, “zing zing, I got one” is all I herd out the back of the boat from Kristi and her spinning reel. The last thing I though I would see is just what I did see, a solid 3 pound trout. Now my blood was really pumping. 3 cast after that another good one about 3.5 lbs. Then five minutes later she’s yelling for me to get the net, a solid five to six pound trout easy 25-26 inch stud. The only problem, we left the net back at DockSide so we tried to improvise by grabbing the fish at the boat but needless to say that one will have to be caught another day. We ended that day on that note and eager to get back out there the next morning.
Day two went from a daylight trip to an evening trip due to McGuire’s Irish Pub the evening before. We set sail around 4pm with one place in mind, the “Mid Bay Bridge”. I eye balled this bridge on google earth the entire day and had to see what type of water depth it was going to hold. I knew if it had 10-25′ it was going to be a sweet spot. As we were pulling up to it the depth finder was showing 23 feet. A little deep I was thinking, so I switched to a 1/2 oz Golden Eye jig head and began to pitch Matrix Shads along the bridge poles. It was very similar to the twin span but slightly deeper. On the third cast and on just the second set of pilings Bam, fish on. After a short fight up came a two pound flounder. How pumped I was. After a slow few minutes I had covered at least 7 or 8 sets of pilling without a bite and I was just about pick up the trolling motor and try a new section when I saw something awesome. A forty inch red racing from the deep to eat a Matrix Shad right at the boat. He turned at the last second and swam away. It was so awesome it nearly startled me. The water is so clear in Destin you can literally see a fish 10 foot down especially a 20 plus pound redfish. After witnessing such an awesome sight I now knew there were reds on the bridge too so I stayed persistent with chunking Matrix Shads at the bridge. After a few missed strikes and 3 or 4 pilings later bam a huge strike. I set the hook and nothing but solid weight on the other end. A redfish it had to be it thought. After a 5 min fight up came a 7 or 8 lb. drum. Pretty cool it was but a red would have been better. By now the sun was approaching the horizon and being in a foreign area we only had a few moments before we needed to make our 15 minute ride home. Kristi made the decision and pointed to a pilling about 4 sets ahead and said “when we get to that one lets go”. So with just a few cast left I had to make them count and wouldn’t you know it on our last cast another huge strike, followed up by a solid hook set and the sound of a screaming drag. This time I knew it was a big red. After a 6 or 7 minute fight up came a 28 inch 10 pound redfish with an “Ultra Violet” Matrix Shad hanging out of his mouth. What a perfect end to an awesome couple of days of fishing.
For those looking to drag their boat to a new area with a great atmosphere and some really nice fish look no further than the Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin, Florida. It was a spectacular experience and I absolutely can’t wait to do it again. You can watch this story on DockSIde TV “Destined for Destin” as we made a nice 8 minute video showing all of this great action. The video can be viewed atwww.DockSIdeLA.com or on Marsh and Bayou’s FaceBook Page.
Until Next Time