Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 41 No 3 - Page 11

by John N. Felsher Gulf Coast Closeup PORT ST. JOE Gives Visitors a Taste of “OLD FLORIDA” A stiff breeze chopped the pass, making spotting the small floating object difficult, but it also concealed our approach. “Let’s see who’s home today,” the captain quipped, shifting the outboard into neutral upwind of the object. “Don’t throw right on top of it. That might spook a big fish. Cast upwind of it and let the current carry the cork toward the floater. If he’s there, he’ll find the bait.” A popping cork rig holding a live shrimp landed about 10 feet from the floater. The angler slowly released line so the cork drifted close to the target. Then, it disappeared as a large fish somewhat resembling a giant crappie on bad steroids took the bait. Milliseconds later, the big tripletail began ripping line from the screeching reel. Port St. Joe sits on St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County about 36 miles from Panama City, and 23 miles from Apalachicola. Founded in 1835, Port St. Joe almost became the Florida state capital. People call it the “Constitution City” because delegates signed the first Florida State Constitution here in 1838. Today, about 3,500 people live in this seaside community, but welcome any visitors who want to experience the “Old Florida.” “We’ve been called “Old Florida” and the “Forgotten Coast,” but once people come to Gulf County, they will never forget it,” commented Jennifer Adams, Gulf County Tourism Development Council executive director. “Visitors come to Gulf County for our waterways. We have fresh and salt water where people can find adventure. They come for the beaches, the fishing, the scalloping and just connecting with the water. We want people to come here and relax.” In this still largely undeveloped section of the Florida Panhandle, “Spring Break” would more likely find families fishing the bay than college students engaging in raucous partying. Nightlife typically includes couples enjoying a delicious fresh seafood dinner while watching the sun set behind Cape San Blas, followed by perusing the quaint shops in town, and capped by a moonlight stroll on the beach. During the day, many people observe birds and wildlife in an unspoiled natural Panhandle paradise, paddle scenic waterways, or dive the clear waters. Others come for the beaches, but for many people, Port St. Joe means fishing. “St. Joe Bay has pretty good fishing for speckled trout, redfish, flounder and Spanish mackerel,” said Roger Thomas with Southern Tide Charters, who grew up roaming these waters. “In late summer, we see a lot of tarpon. The area also has good shark fishing. In early to mid-March, sheepshead head out from th