John Rivers

Year-end in review.

2012 was a pretty good year for fishing, a little more rain than I liked in the summer, but a good year for sure.

January and February were much warmer than usual, which made for some great upper bay fishing. Fish I targeted was Specks and Reds, with even some Flounder mixed in. As March neared, I stayed up north in the bays still catching some quality trout and reds up until March 18th. Then the spring breakers arrived in Pensacola Beach and it was back to the pass with the pack pulling on bucked-toothed sheepshead, with redfish, black drum, grouper and red snapper mixed in. I prefer fishing using artificials, and the sheepshead fishing can be a nice change, but when I've got clients that want all artificials I head back to the upper bay areas tossing hard and soft plastics till our arms wear out. This March and April were very good sheepshead fishing and our biggest sheepie to hit the deck in 2012 was 24 inches and roughly 9 lbs.

I continued to fish the pass for sheepshead till around April 20th, and then off and on in April I would venture out in the gulf in search of Cobia when the seas allowed it. Not only were we looking for ling, but also the awesome powerful Jack Crevalle. The Jack bite has typically a short window in Pensacola, only lasting about 6-7 weeks, with April and early May being the best opportunities. Last year was pretty good for the big jacks on the beach, and season after season, I always get a kick out of watching my clients moan and groan when battling these tough-fighting Jacks.

As April ended and May started, I made my way back to Escambia and Blackwater Bay hooking up on trout and reds and the occasional flounder. Every once in a while, I'd fish down in the sound or back in the pass, but most all of May and some of June I was up in the upper bay areas. Last May was one of the best on record for quality trout and lots of them.

The biggest trout landed last year on artificials from the boat was a whopper 28" trout.

As July came in, so did a lot of rain and hot days, and the storms made it hard to get out and fish some days, but we managed to get a few breaks in the weather and do some fishing. Fish targeted in July, August, and September were trout, reds, bluefish, ladyfish, and shark. The bite during these three months was again very good for most species. During the dog days of summer, the inshore bite can be quite excellent, but to avoid missing the bite, you just have to go early and come off the water around 10am. Take a little catnap, and then go back 3 4 hours before sunset, that is if you got all your honey dos done!

As fall crept in and it started to cool off outside, I got pretty fired up because the fishing in Escambia Bay, Blackwater Bay and the lower sound were primed and ready for targeting redfish on the docks. This year did not disappoint; it was a very good fall in 2012 with lots of reds on the docks, big trout on the flats, and some nice flounder catches as well.

Just when I thought the fishing could not possibly get any better, this past November was a November to remember! It had to be one of the best Novembers for bull redfish that I have ever seen. I was out with both clients and on fun trips with friends and family, and on each trip we landed all we wanted and then some. I never get tired of seeing the bay bubble over with those bronze beauties. If you haven't been bull red fishing here in the autumn or early winter, you are truly missing out. December started off warm, but snuck in some cooler temps and high winds, but that was ok, we had to move trips around and lost a few due to some 26 degree mornings where the client didn't want to freeze to death, but when we managed to work around the weather, the redfish bite in the bay was still pretty good and so was the upper bay trout and red bite. On a few of my inshore upper bay trips in December we had some 50+ trout days.

I've mentioned the upper bay areas a lot because over the past 7 years I've tried to concentrate on this area to offer the client an alternate fishing experience. I've been guiding for nearly 10 years now and for the first 3 years all I did stay near Pensacola Beach, but I wanted to learn all our waters and so back in 2005, I took my wife out to Blackwater on a fun trip to do some scouting and we both really enjoyed it, because it reminded us of the old style freswater fishing we used to do back home in Indiana. I figured a lot of my clients that did a lot of bass fishing would enjoy this home style fishing, and on windy days when it is too rough in the Pensacola Bay or Pass, I can offer some backcountry style fishing to my guests. These areas can be tough some days, but that's fishing. If it were too easy it wouldn't be as fun.

I hope everyone has a chance to get out on the water next year, and I would love to show you some of our fishery on a professionally guided trip.

For info on my regular inshore charter see link

Till the next adventure, here's wishing you tight lines, and great 2013.


Fish Species: Everything in 2012
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Big Snapper can be caught in Pensacola Bay in June
Big Snapper can be caught in Pensacola Bay in June

November and December are the months for big reds!
November and December are the months for big reds!

John Rivers

About The Author: Captain John Rivers

Company: Rivers to Bay Fishing Charters

Area Reporting: Tampa Bay, Clearwater, St Peterburg

Bio: I have a lifetime of fishing knowledge and over 8yrs of experience fishing the northern gulf coast and our local water ways. I have enjoyed fishing all my life. While living in the Midwest, I fished Kentucky & Barkley Lake for years along with the Ohio River and many local water ways. My first passion was bass fishing, but when I came to Florida, I found my new love Salt Water Fishing !

Click Here For Past Fishing Reports by Captain John Rivers