Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine VOL 40 No 2 SPRING 2016 - Page 11

by Vernon Summerlin Gulf Coast Closeup ANGLING FOR ADVENTURES D in awn slides gently over Apalachicola’s share of the Gulf Coast as anglers navigate the waters with oystermen and shrimpers. Among those leaving port is Captain Charles Wilson. He’s headed to his springtime hot spots – Mud Island, West Pass and Dry Bar – to catch early spring arrivals of whiting, redfish, black drum, sheepshead and mackerel. He has been casting the waters around Apalachicola since 1970 and specializes in saltwater angling in the bay and among the barrier islands surrounding the bay, including St. Vincent, St. George and eastward to Marsh and Dog Island. Cap’ asserts, “Apalachicola fishing is among the finest angling anywhere in the country. I also do charter fishing trips offshore from Apalachicola into the Gulf. I am the fourth generation fisherman in my family.” He has also been a crabber, shrimper and an oysterman. Now, he guides for gamefish species indigenous to the area, or for those just passing through, such as cobia and tarpon. The day I joined Cap’ Charles, it was an incredible sunny ride through the streams lined with Spanish moss laden trees, alligators sunning on the banks, and an osprey nibbling on a resent catch high in a tree. There was a fusion of silence and bird chatter. Amazingly, I was lost before wetting a hook. I only got my bearing once we entered the bay. I recommend you have an experienced guide to take you through these convoluted waters. The streams and cutoffs are so numerous that a first-timer would be turned around almost immediately. This tangle of streams – Jackson, Apalachicola, Brothers, Little St. Marks, St. Marks, and East Rivers – twist and curl their way into East Bay just north of Apalachicola APALACH Bay before mingling in the Gulf of Mexico vortex. There are many miles of beaches and bay shores to fish from, giving you a wide variety of places to try your luck. The Seasons of an Apalach Angler Cap’ Charles says, “The best fishing begins in March and runs through Christmas. That’s not to say fish can’t be caught in the off-months, they can, but they aren’t in big schools. “The fish go out in the Gulf during winter and start coming back in March. Their first stop is the outside of the barrier islands and they hang around the passes until the waters in the bay warm up.” Mackerel and pompano hit the outside of the islands in late March and April. Cap’ says, “Pompano show up when the sand fleas show up, that’s their main diet. They’re like we are, we show up at the table when there’s food on it. We catch quite a few fish. Pompano stay on the Gulf-side beaches on into May and June.” Tarpon trips consist of casting with artificial lures as well as live, or formerly live bait. Tarpon season normally starts mid May or early June, and runs until early September. Some fish hang around until mid October, depending on the weather. April is when redfish, large sail catfish, ladyfish, flounder and bluefish move around the sandy edges of the bars and the “catching” picks up. In May, h