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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have a new bay boat on order and we are planning our first saltwater trip for late October..somewhere around the 20th-27th. I'm from Athens, GA. I'd like to find somewhere that has good, open water where I don't risk screwing a new boat up in too skinny of water. I'd love to find the best fishing I can find that time of year.....flounder, redfish, trout, whatever I can find inshore. But, I would love to bring home some reds and flounder! It'll be my wife, myself and our 3 kids, and I'm really looking forward to that first trip with our kids. I'll be getting used to the boat in North Georgia lakes near home until then. I'm looking at Port St. Joe, Chocktawatchee Bay in Destin and the bay around Orange Beach/Gulf Shores, in addition to Pensacola Bay. For those familiar, where is typically the best inshore fishing in mid-late October? Or, are they all basically the same?

I've done a lot of saltwater fishing via charters, but you never learn anything. That's why I bought the boat. I want to go more often and I want to know what I'm doing without relying on someone to just take me to the fish. I'll eventually get into some very skinny water in Georgia's intercostals and around Hilton Head, SC, as well as in the river systems and flats around Apalachicola. But, I want to learn on something a little more open to begin with, and hopefully catch some good fish while I'm at it. I'd like to steer clear of those places that have huge tidal swings and you risk getting caught on oyster bars if you aren't careful. I want to have a good time, and not have to worry about tearing a new boat all to pieces. As I learn, I'll venture into skinner water. Thanks for any recommendations and advice.
 

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You picked a good time to go. The end of Oct. & the 1st part of Nov. is the best time of yr for redfish & trout in my opinion.

I usually fish out of Apalach, Eastpoint area. You shouldn't have any trouble getting on the fish that time of yr.
 

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You are getting a new bay boat so skinny water should be no problem. Most bay boats draft shallow 12 inches or less. Is it going to have a troller? You can look for grass beds, drop offs, and you can also fish dock lights at night. You suggested a wide selection of waters (Orange Beach to Choctaw) so that would be alot of water. October is a good time, weather is nice and I hope you and the family have a great time...


Post some pics of your new sled too!!! Welcome aboard!
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Here is a picture. She should be here in a few weeks. Can't wait. I looked at boats for a few years and just couldn't find the blend of family/fishing that I wanted. With 3 small kids, I felt like I was looking for a unicorn. Then I ran across a Carolina Skiff 24 Ultra Elite. I never even looked at Carolina Skiff because I thought they just made the old school skiffs. Then, I found this and it was exactly what I've been looking for. I considered Pathfinders, Boston Whalers, and numerous others, that were really good boats. But, the forward seating was always at gunnel height, and there never seemed to be enough room for family days and playing. This boat has a ton of room for its size (23'9"), and I powered it with a Suzuki 250, so it should have plenty of power. Really happy with the layout, and the finish of the boat seemed higher quality than some others we looked at.

 

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Discussion Starter #5
So, would any of those places yield a better trip, or better fishing, in October? I've read it's one of the best times of the year to fish down there, so I planned a trip, since I'm getting the boat in a few weeks and will have a few months on it before taking the trip. Can't wait, but just can't decide where to go. I'm most familiar with Destin (Chocktawatchee Bay), as I've taken a few inshore charters there with my sons during beach trips. But, I am not tied to any one place. I just want to find fish and make the trip enjoyable for the kids.
 

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All waters you mentioned "should" be good that time of year. Believe your biggest concern is where that new ride is going to be parked at night.
 

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Any where you mentioned you will be able to find reds and trout. Even Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder could find them that time of year!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
All waters you mentioned "should" be good that time of year. Believe your biggest concern is where that new ride is going to be parked at night.

I am hoping to rent a house or condo with dockspace on the water. If I can't find that, I'll rent slip space daily rental at one of the marinas wherever I am. I have no interest in trailering the boat in and out of the water each day while I'm down there. Is this reasonable, or is there a reason I shouldn't do this?

Sorry for the newbie questions. I'm new to this and just learning as I go.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Searching this afternoon, I've found plenty of suitable places in Pensacola and Port St. Joe, and 2 houses that will work with dock space in Destin. Obviously, Destin has more to do other than fishing, and Port St. Joe is the cheapest with less to do other than fishing. So, the question remains....is one of these better fishing than the others in late October? I'll go to all eventually....just want this first trip to be a success for the family.
 

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Searching this afternoon, I've found plenty of suitable places in Pensacola and Port St. Joe, and 2 houses that will work with dock space in Destin. Obviously, Destin has more to do other than fishing, and Port St. Joe is the cheapest with less to do other than fishing. So, the question remains....is one of these better fishing than the others in late October? I'll go to all eventually....just want this first trip to be a success for the family.

That's a lot of water! Not sure how many folk are familiar with it ALL to answer that question properly? Knowing your local waters is pretty key. Pensacola folk will likely do better in Pensacola, Destin folk in Destin, etc. If you want to slay a bunch of fish, I highly suggest hiring a guide, even if for a half day (many will work on YOUR boat for a reduced fee). There are some great guides around who know the fishery from top to bottom, inshore to offshore. Note: on a decent day, your boat can easily handle some nearshore action. Don't know about the other areas, but Pensacola has a BUNCH of artificial reefs pretty close to the pass. Lastly, a good GPS and bottom machine are WELL worth the investment. For much of the inshore fishing, a trolling motor is also!
 

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That's a nice sled... Like it alot. I pick up my new sled Friday and am chomping at the bit too... Like Flounderpounder said, you picked a large stretch of water...so it's hard to direct anything...
 
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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
That's a lot of water! Not sure how many folk are familiar with it ALL to answer that question properly? Knowing your local waters is pretty key. Pensacola folk will likely do better in Pensacola, Destin folk in Destin, etc. If you want to slay a bunch of fish, I highly suggest hiring a guide, even if for a half day (many will work on YOUR boat for a reduced fee). There are some great guides around who know the fishery from top to bottom, inshore to offshore. Note: on a decent day, your boat can easily handle some nearshore action. Don't know about the other areas, but Pensacola has a BUNCH of artificial reefs pretty close to the pass. Lastly, a good GPS and bottom machine are WELL worth the investment. For much of the inshore fishing, a trolling motor is also!
Thanks! I have the boat outfitted with a Lowrance HDS 12 Gen 3 with Totalscan and a Minn Koto trolling motor with iPilot gps lock. I figure do it once and do it right, instead of trying to scrimp and save and not enjoy the boat the way I want to.

I hope to be able to get out into some open water on calm days, but will definitely wait until I have some experience first. I've been on plenty of boats, but I've never run a boat in saltwater alone, without someone guiding me on what to do and where to go. So, I'll take it slow and keep my family (and yours) safe. :) I had planned to try this out of Destin, but it seems the pass is much rougher in Destin than in other places. So, considering the nearshore reefs, I might have to consider Pensacola for that first trip offshore, as the pass looks much more open and should be a little calmer.

I have a guide that I've used and know pretty well out of Destin that is willing to jump on my boat and help me around for a day, showing me some tips and tricks, as well as trying to put me on some fish. That's why I'm leaning toward Destin for this first trip. However, people keep steering me toward Port St. Joe, saying it's wide open, has some of the best fishing in the state and is almost never crowded. Others are saying how deep and wonderful Pensacola Bay is. I'll hit all of them in the next year, as I'm sure they all have something unique to offer. Coming from North GA, they are all about the same distance for me. I'd just like this first trip to be fun, and special for the family. We bought the boat to use together and I just don't want a dud of a trip for our shakedown trip. I've waited forever for these boys to get old enough to do this, and I just want them to enjoy it and have a good time. I also want to catch as many fish as I can myself.
 

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Pensacola pass is wide open but also gets rough... I've been through both in bow crushing waves. Sounds like you did right by your sled. I have always had "cheaper/older" boats so when I found my new (2016) one set up like I've always wanted fer a good price I jumped on her. When you get down here, just holler and I'm sure a member or 2 might be able to meet up with ya and possibly help ya out a bit more...
 

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If you pick Port Saint Joe, you can launch and moor your boat at Presnell's for a daily fee.
You might consider a guide from there first day, then solo for the following days.
 

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It's going to be tough to beat St. Joe Bay for pure fun. Fishing in an aquarium! Castnet some whitebait (pilchards) or small pinfish and anchor up near Black's Island. Put a bobber on the kids' poles. They won't have to wait long for a bite.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Spoke with a friend today who moved to central Florida and fishes a lot all along the Gulf coast. He gave me some good advice. He said that, while Destin has really good inshore fishing, Port St. Joe is an estuary unlike any other. That being said, he advised on the first shakedown trip, Destin would be a better destination. He said that there are some sandbars and shallow areas in Port St. Joe's that can sneak up on you until you are better with navigation, and Destin is more clearly marked and has deeper waters. He also said the fact that there are multiple other things do to in Destin (restaurants on the bay, plenty of things to see while cruising, Baytowne Wharf, etc), it might be a better first trip with the family. Sounded reasonable and that might be the direction I go. He said to ease into the fishing and mix it in with family time to keep kids happy, and that makes sense. They have limits and forcing too much on them is a way to push them away from things instead of keeping them interested. The fact that I know a captain down there to help me for a day or two makes it that much more appealing. So, given all that as positives, is anyone familiar with the fishing in Choctawhatchee Bay in late October? How does it compare with Reds, Trout and Flounder?
 

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I think your logic is pretty sound. I don't know that area, but that time of year, look for flats with grass that have some sort of deeper water nearby, look for lots of mullet jumping, and just go to work. Troll a very shallow running minnow imitator along while you cast the area with topwater early and late, jigs with paddle tails like matrix shad, gold spoons for reds reeled slowly along so they wobble as they swim, or DOA shrimp 18" under a popping cork. Live bait, shrimp is always good but pinfish will clean you a lot; finger mullet or bull minnows on a Carolina-rig type bottom setup worked slowly along are good as well. Flounder are on the move in October as they migrate out of the bays to the Gulf, so bouncing a jig or minnow along where current creates eddies on hard structure like rock or pilings can work. Best description of a flounder bite on a jig that I have heard was from Capt Josh Lim - feels like you snagged a wet plastic bag on the bottom. Once he helped me get tuned into that feeling, I realized I had probably had flounder bites I just let go because I thought I was fouled up on something and didn't set the hook.


Keep a rod ready to go that can handle a bull redfish with a swimbait or spoon on it - they school in the Fall and when you see a redfish school come up if you can reach them without spooking them its' a guaranteed hookup. Also keep another rod with a topwater spook-type bait ready to cast, and use it if you see boils or fish feeding on the surface. Trout and reds will both hit a walking bait like that and it's a lot of fun sight casting to the boils.


Sounds like you're on the right track!
 
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The whole month of October is the annual Destin fishing rodeo...best time of year here. Take your family down to the harbor in the evenings and watch the boats come in to weigh their potential prize winners...weigh station is set up with bleachers behind AJs and the catch has to be weighed in by 7 PM...get down there around 5, yall will love it. Warning: kids will want to go out to try and catch some big uns too
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The whole month of October is the annual Destin fishing rodeo...best time of year here. Take your family down to the harbor in the evenings and watch the boats come in to weigh their potential prize winners...weigh station is set up with bleachers behind AJs and the catch has to be weighed in by 7 PM...get down there around 5, yall will love it. Warning: kids will want to go out to try and catch some big uns too
Thanks! The kids will love that. The boys are already getting jacked up about finally getting the boat and taking it fishing. Can't wait to get down there. I hope I can locate fish in the bay. Is there a way to locate gps spots somewhere online, or is it only find them on your own?
 
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