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Captain John’s Reports

Pensacola – Navarre – Perdido Key 


it’s about to break!3-20-2007
Pensacola Inshore charter boat Guide Report By Captain John Rivers

Spring has arrived in full swing with temperatures in the high 60’s to middle 70’s.
Fishing has been very good. The annual sheepshead bite has started, along with the pompano run. I’m also catching the occasional slot redfish.

It’s been a bit windy the past few weeks, so it’s been a little tough getting out. We haven’t had much rain this month, so the water is very clear. In fact, I actually prefer the water to be a little murkier than it is right now; it helps when the fish can’t see your line / leader.
In the next few weeks, the trout bite should start to pick up, as the trout will start to move out of the rivers and deep holes and into the flats.

Yesterday’s trip was great! Cliff, his brother John, and John’s son-in-law, Bobby, had a great time catching sheepshead, black drum, and redfish. We had a neap tide, which made fishing, or actually catching, tough, but we managed to bring home a pretty good box of fish.

Today’s trip went great, we caught a Sheepshead, and Black Drum.

 No Redfish today, we had a couple on, but they took us up under the piling and broke us off.

Here are few pictures of yesterdays & today’s catch.

Pensacola Inshore Guide Report By Captain John Rivers

Panhandle sheepies on the move

 With spring just around the corner and the water warming up, the annual migration of Sheepshead will start. These clever bait stealers move out of the rivers and upper bays and head out to the gulf to spawn. This happens every year right around St. Patrick’s Day like clockwork, but this year the water is a bit warmer and it looks like the migration might start a week or two sooner than usual. Sheepsheads are notorious for stealing your bait before you realize it’s gone.  With their Sheep- like teeth they can pick at your bait and leave you fishing on credit, as I like to say, which is when you bring up an empty hook!

Sheepsheads eat primarily crustaceans and barnacles, and live mostly near oyster beds and along bridge pilings and old docks.  The baits of choice are live shrimp, fiddler crabs, and a little secret that not a lot of people know about:  Oysters. Stop over at a seafood market and pick up a pint of oysters and put one on a hook, and you will see that this works great when the others are not producing well.

I had a few trips this past week, and the bite was very good as long as we had some current. Make sure that when fishing for Sheepshead, you have some type of moving water. We hooked some good fish on my last trip, with a couple topping the scales over 6 lbs. Here are a couple of big sheepies.

During the Sheepshead run you will also catch Pompano, and many people agree that Pompano is one of the best-eating inshore fish along the gulf coast. Pompano also show up in mid-March when the water temperature starts to rise above 60 degrees. Many anglers catch them surf fishing off the beach or in our bays by using a variety of baits such as sand-flees, shrimp, or small jigs known as Pompano Jigs. Also, don’t forget to cruise the beach and sight-fish for Redfish and more Pompano. These fish can also be caught using jigs and live bait.

March and April are my favorite times to fish, because the weather is great!  Not too hot, and the fishing is very good. With a variety of fish to be caught like Specks, Sheepshead, Pompano, and slot Reds, it’s no wonder why many winter- bound anglers get the fishing fever the first week of March in the Panhandle.

Till next time, Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.
Capt. John


Friday  – 9th

February is here and the inshore Redfish bite is very good along the bridges and pilings. I met up with Capt. James LaVanway from S.C. and his buddy Tim to do some mid- February Red fishing along the beaches of Pensacola and in our bays and inlets. Our first stop was out off the beaches out of the pass about 7 miles. We spotted some birds working the area, and within a few casts James was hooked up, but the fish spit the hook. We moved around searching the skies for bird activity and watching the bottom machine for some glimmer of a Redfish, when I finally spotted some fish on the machine.  Once again, James was hooked up and again the hook pulled. I checked the hook to make sure it was good and sharp, and it was. We continued to look for fish in the gulf, and after a couple hours of looking, I decided to head to a few secret spots where we had been catching some nice White Trout, Specks, and a few Reds. Well, I definitely made a good call. I had James and Tim working a jig off the bottom with a Berkley Gulp, and they quickly started hooking up Trout. James was the first to hook up a nice 34” Red. James said the Red hit the jig like a ton of bricks.

Fishing so close to the bridge pilings can make it hard to land a fish, as the fish will try to head for cover in the pilings and break you off, but James, being an expert angler, played this fish like a pro. We used the trolling motor up and down the bridge for a while catching some nice White Trout, and still hoping for another Redfish bite. Next thing I knew, I heard Tim yelling out from the back of the boat, FISH ON!  

And he to was hooked up with a nice bronze beauty.  We fished the bridge hard for over 5 hrs jigging our jigs off the bottom, while trying not to get hung up on structure, and waiting for that precise feel of a strike. I had been watching them catch fish for quite some time, and James asked, “Why don’t you try to hook one up?”  The temptation was just too much to resist, and I started to fish for just a short while, and within a few casts, I was hooked up to a nice 36” Red. 

After a few more hours of catching Reds and Trout, the wind started to pick up and we were ready to call it a day. The weather could not have been better, 68 degrees and partly sunny with a light NE wind around 6 knots. The fishing was great and the company even better. James and Tim had such a great time hooking up Reds and Trout, that they booked another trip on Saturday, even knowing Friday would be hard to top. Total for Friday’s trip was 12 Reds hooked, 9 landed, and too many White Trout to count.

Saturday  – 10th

We arrived at the boat ramp around 8am, and the cold front that the local news was talking about last evening had arrived in full force. The temperature in the morning was a chilling 38 degrees, with the wind coming out of the north a solid 12 knots. I told the guys that it was going to be tough conditions, but being the diehard fishermen that we were, we decide to give it a shot.  This time, I worked the west side of the bridge, hoping that the bridge would shield us from some of the wind, which it did. We were able to fish, but it still wasn’t as good as it was on Friday. On James’ first cast, he hooked up with a Monster fish, although we never got to see it.  It headed straight for the pilings, and there was no turning it. It had to be either a big Redfish or a large Grouper. During the winter months, large Grouper come into our bays, and from time to time the bite can be pretty good. James and I were not happy about losing a fish to structure, but that’s fishing. It wasn’t long until Tim hooked a good fish, and it also took to the pilings for safety. This happened a couple of times during the day, but not to worry, James and Tim redeemed themselves. James had a bet on who would land the first Red, and both Tim and James had their chance a couple of times. Well after about 15 – 30 minutes of catching White Trout, Tim yells out FISH ON and I could tell by his voice and the rod bend it was no Trout. Tim was about to be $10 dollars richer.

The wind made it tough to hold position with the trolling motor but I managed to keep us close to the structure. We were only going to fish for 4 hrs as they had to get back to the hotel and get on their planes to had back home, Tim was from North Alabaman and James from S.C. so since we were more on a time schedule than on Friday we wanted to fish up to the last minute. James wanted to fish tight to one of the bridge pilings and I moved the boat as close to the structure as I could and it proved to work out well as James pulled out a nice 19” Speck, we took a quick pick and let it go back to be caught another day.

While James was fighting his Speckled Trout Tim was busy hooking White Trout in the 1 – 2 lb range. Well it was about 40 minutes before we had to head back and James hooked up with a his own Redfish.

This put a smile on both mine and James face, Tim’s fish was a slot Red measuring in at 25” and James fish went 26 ½ ”It wasn’t the best conditions on the water, but we managed to hook up some fish and have a great time. March is just around the corner and the Sheepshead bite should be on fire near March 10.

Take care and See Ya on the water.
Till Next Time Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.
Capt. John Rivers

Feb 1st

These cold winter days have made even the most dedicated anglers wish for warmer weather.  It has made it tough to go fishing anywhere. Just a day or two ago, on an unusually cold Florida morning here in the panhandle, I risked frostbite, (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, as it was nearly 50 degrees), to go take my new boat out to see how she handled. With the brisk north wind blowing, I couldn’t help but miss those warmer days on the water. I also couldn’t help reminiscing about what finally brought me to this fishing paradise.

 Fishing is a passion of a lot of people across the world and has been a passion of mine since I was old enough to hold a fishing pole. I can remember when I was just a kid and my dad took me bluegill fishing, and we caught big hand-sized bluegill ‘till the cooler was too full to shut the lid properly. As an adult, as soon as I was able, I bought my own little johnboat, and started to visit different lakes in the area searching out new hot spots to hook into some big Midwest large mouth bass and whatever else pulled my drag.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I found my true calling, and that was when I came down to the Gulf Coast on vacation with my in-laws, wife, and my then 18-month-old son. I had never been to the Gulf and I had never fished it either. It was late springtime, and the big Reds were still running. Now, I didn’t know this at the time, but that was ok with me, I was just happy to be near the water and to have a fishing pole in my hands. The condo we were staying at had a private pier, and as soon as we arrived and checked into the condo, I was out on the pier fishing. I felt right at home, although I wasn’t used to all the seagulls squawking above me! There was an elderly local man on the pier, and he offered up live bait to me, which I remember being small finger mullet, and showed me how to rig them.  I rigged up my first bait and tossed it out, hoping to catch whatever might be swimming by. I didn’t expect too much, because I figured maybe the man wasn’t having much luck, since he was giving his bait away and all. Well, I certainly was in for a big, and I mean BIG surprise.  Within 15 minutes, I had caught a 30lb Redfish, the biggest fish I had ever caught! This is when I became hooked on pier fishing the gulf. I got him up on the pier with the help of the local man with a pier net.  I took some pictures of this big awesome fish, and unless I was sleeping or eating, I was out on that pier. Back in Indiana, every time I looked at those photos, I felt “homesick” for the gulf.  Of course, it wasn’t too long before I decided the gulf was going to be my home for good.  We moved to Pensacola in 1999. Unless I was working, sleeping or eating, I was out fishing.

 A year or so later, when I was asked to go out on a friend’s boat to do some bottom fishing, I jumped at the opportunity.  On my very first drop, I hooked into a nice 17” Red Snapper. I was all smiles, but it wasn’t until a few hours went by that I hooked the fish that made my day. I hooked into a small ruby red-lip, and the guy who brought me along told me to toss it out and put the rod in the holder. I knew how to rig up live bait from being on the piers for the past year.  After bottom fishing for a little while, my bait had been soaking, waiting for some hungry fish to swim by and eat it up. I decided to check the bait and I started to reel it in. I noticed once my bait was close to the boat, that it was dead, but at that very moment, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very large brown shadow cruise out from under the boat. I yelled out SHARK, but my friend yelled out COBIA, and my bass fishing instincts took over. I twitched my bait like I would freshwater fishing, and with only that one twitch, the MONSTER COBIA inhaled my bait and the fight was on!  My reel was screaming like I’ve never heard before, and I had this gut-feeling that this big awesome fish was not going to come to the boat quietly. I was right about that. After a good 20 minutes on 25lb test spinning outfit, I had landed my first ever Cobia, which weighed in at a whopping 50lbs. With my heart pumping fast and sweat pouring down my face, I had only one thing in mind, get my own boat and do this again and again. On my first day in the gulf bottom fishing I caught some nice Red Snapper a few Trigger fish and my first ever Cobia. I was truly HOOKED ON SALTWATER FISHING!

So, during these long, cold winter days as you’re going through your tackle, remember why you fell in love with the wonderful sport of fishing. And remember, it won’t stay too cold too long, and I’ll see you out there soon.
Till Next Time, Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.

Capt. John Rivers

Copyright© – Mega-Bite Inshore Guide Service


Rob screamed out, “I’m on!” Alex said, “Me too!”  Then Derek and Dave shouted out they were on, too; a quad hook-up!  It was like this from the start and for most of the day today as we boated 50 REDS!

Today was by far the best Red fishing day I have had all season. We started out fishing 3 Mile Bridge a little while for some Trout and to see if we could boat a few Reds. The guys boated some nice Trout, but they really wanted to see those Pensacola Big Reds.

After a about an hour of fishing for Trout, I said let’s see what’s up in the Gulf. I fired up the motor and made my way to a few spots where I’ve been catching some good fish recently. With the fog still around at 11a.m., I carefully motored our way out into the Gulf, and about 30 minutes later, I spotted what I’ve wanted to see all winter: 200 – 500 fish crashing on top after bait fish.

It was a feeding frenzy like you only dream about! I told everyone to get ready for some great action, and that’s what we had for 4hrs non-stop. My crew had never been saltwater fishing before, and they definitely got spoiled on this trip. Rob and his buddies were down here from Purdue University finishing up on their MBA’s, and were looking for some R&R in Pensacola and to also experience our Red fishery in January. They got exactly what they were looking for as the fish gods were smiling down on us today. It was surely a day to remember for everyone on board.  I had a great time watching everyone hook up fish after fish, and then listen to their “complaints” about their arms being tired from catching 10+ reds apiece.

The frenzy lasted for well over 4hrs, but it was time to head for land. We left them biting as I motored back across the gulf.  While we were cruising along, we spotted more Reds busting the surface. We all wanted to catch more, but it was getting late and we were worn out and ready for a warm meal and a soft couch to rest our sore bodies.  

Till Next Time, Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.



Calm waters and cool temperatures are a perfect match for big Redfish. We hit the water around 10am and made our way across the west end of Pensacola Bay. The brisk cool air made for an eye-watering ride, but that was ok, as we were all fired up to hook into some big Reds. Pensacola is known for its big Redfish, and my clients were eager to see how hard these big Bulls pulled. With no birds to show me the way to our pot of gold, I had to use my trusty bottom machine to locate bait and the elusive Reds lurking below. I starting out trolling to see if I could locate them, but when I couldn’t, I packed up and headed east into the gulf, where I spotted a few birds marking bait.  After watching my bottom-machine light up some fish, I decided to put out the stretches again, and it didn’t take long before we had our first knock-down; a good 20lb Red was boat-side, ready to pose with Mark for a few quick pictures.

With one nice fish boated, we had gotten the skunk out of the boat. We were ready to hook into some more big Reds. Still trolling along the east shore off Pensacola, I spotted a few more birds working, so we made our way over, but it turned out to be nothing this time.

I decided to head back into the bay, and then I spotted a very large flock of birds working hard on a big bait pod across the island. It was a short 7-mile run back through the pass to where I wanted to fish, so we motored up and flew across the smooth waters. It was a good call, because when I arrived, it was a Red fish bonanza!  Reds were busting baits on top while pelicans were attacking the bait from the air.

 I was the only boat to see these fish, and I didn’t want to spook them, so I cut the engine, drifted into the school, and we had a triple hook-up in seconds. Now the fun really began, trying not to have three big fish tangle our lines, as I stood back and watched Derek, Anna and Charles work their fish, moving around the boat, going under and over with their rods in hand. Anna was the first to land her fish, which was also the biggest fish of the day, a whopper well over 30lbs!  Charles boated his next, and then Derek had his on board, which made the count three on and three released. Mark watched all the mayhem, and said he had one on, but it broke the leader, but I said let’s get back on them.  They were only 50 yards off to the west and we made our way quickly over, and it was only a matter of minutes until we were hooked-up again with some monster Reds. This went on for a little while longer and then the feeding frenzy shut down. My thoughts were that the Reds had gorged themselves on bait and were ready for a nap; just like us!  We had had perfect weather, sunny skies, calm waters, and great fishing. What more could you ask for?  Just one more hook-up!  Till Next Time, Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.

Capt. John

November Reds have come and gone, but December Red fishing has been just as good as last month. Other than the cool weather the past few days, I have really enjoyed this season’s Redfish run, and showing new fishermen our great Red fishery we have here in Pensacola. Watching them hook-up some of these awesome fish brings a smile to my face every time. If you have not been out catching some of these big fish, you need to try it at least once.

The White Trout bite has been very good, just the other day we caught so many that we started throwing them back. They are good eating fresh and along with catching some nice Trout we managed to catch a few slot Reds and a couple of Flounder for the ice box.

Here are some pics from some of my past trips.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Bent Rods and Screaming Drags,

Capt. John Rivers


Redfish mania is here this November. On my last few trips, we have caught so many Redfish that we have had to take breaks to eat our lunches to replenish our energy! This past weekend, November 18th, I had the pleasure to fish with Bill, Jerry, and Jeremiah. Jeremiah just got back from Iraq from an 8-month tour, and he was ready for some fun fishing.

This trip was one of my best Redfish runs ever. We boated 30 Reds in just 5 hrs and lost around 15 more on hook-pulls, with some just busting the lures or breaking line. These fish are big, strong, and just plain mean. That’s why I call them the Bronze Bullies. The Redfish bite should be good the next few months as the water cools a little more. There is still a lot of bait in the bay and just offshore, so these Reds are feeding well.

The Flounder bite has been hit or miss the past few nights. So far this fall’s Flounder gigging run has gotten off to a slow start, but hopefully it will pick up when we get a few more cold fronts. Speck fishing has been good at night under dock lights, and late afternoon in they bayous and inlets. The water temp is still around 60-62 degrees, depending upon where you are in the bay or just off our beaches.  Most of the summer fish, such as Kings, Spanish and other migratory fish have made the move to South Florida, but that’s ok, since the Big Reds have shown up and the bite is hot.
If you’re looking for some great light tackle action, give me a call and we’ll get you hooked-up on some big Reds, too.
Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.

Capt. John


With September gone and October almost over, our Fall Redfish run is just around the corner. Those big fun fighting bull Redfish should start showing up in the next few weeks.  The past two months were again great for King fishing along with a slew of other species of fish. The Trout bite inshore was great this past September, and October was another good month for big Spanish mackerel over 5lbs. The water temp has started to drop below 80 degrees, and with the next few cold fronts, the Red fishing should be on fire. Our winter Red fishing is some of the best fishing along the Panhandle of Florida during November through February. Large schools of Reds stack up off the beaches and in the pass along with some in the inlets feeding on the menhaden and minnows.

Throwing a top-water plug into these large schools is a thrill for even the advanced angler. And when you get tired of throwing a top-water plug, switch to a buck tail jig or a large soft-body jerk bait and hold on! These fish fight like no other fish in the Gulf; with their broad shoulders and their round heads, they have power like no other fish. If you’re looking for a great time catching some big Redfish well 

over 20 lbs and some topping the scales at 40 lbs, give me a shout and let’s get you 

hooked-up aboard the MEGA-BITE.

June – July – Aug.

3 Months of great fishing and still going strong.

June, July, and Aug. have been great for King fishing along the Gulf Coast. I would have to say that this has to be the best year for inshore and nearshore fishing off Pensacola in years. We did not have much rain in June or July and the bait has moved in very close. There’s more bait than I’ve seen in years. This brings in the sport fish and the bite is off the charts.

Large schools of Kings are showing up off our beaches, as well as good catches of Bonita and large Spanish Mackerel. Some of the Spanish Mackerel are topping the scales over 6 lbs. The Bluefish and Skipjack bite has been very good in the intercoastal waterway and in the bay. Casting plugs and jigs are producing some great fighting fish. This is light tackle at its best. The Trout bite inshore usually starts around 5:30am  and last till around 8am then we hit the sand flats and docks for slot size Redfish. As Aug comes to an end and Sept. steps in, the King bite should stick around along with those Big Spanish Mackerel. Sept. -Oct. are great months along the Panhandle, as all the summer fish are still around and some of the winter fish start to show up like those Big Bull Redfish which we all know are great fun on light tackle.

The offshore bite is also very good in September. Schools of Mahi-Mahi will make 
their way just offshore 15 – 20 miles holding up on weed-lines and rips in the water 
(where murky and clean water meet). Bottom bumping for Snapper and 
Grouper will start to pick up as the water cools in late Sept. and Oct.
So if you have not visited Pensacola, and you’re looking for some great fishing, 
Sept. and Oct. are great months to come experience what you’ve been missing!
Till next time, Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.

Capt. John

:Report May 20 – June 10

The last few weeks of May and the first week of June have been very good for Specks, & Reds, we are also catching some big Spanish mackerel and Kings in the pass and just off the beach’s.

The Kings bite is hot, and if you’re looking for some Nearshore action try a King Trip. Light Tackle action with big results, most of the fish are in the 12 – 18 lb range, with a few topping the scales over 25lbs. Every year we catch a few over 30lbs and nearing 40lbs. Kings are fast fish and when they hit a bait you know it, they take off 50 – 75 yards of line in seconds. This is light tackle at it’s best.

 The Trout bite inshore has also been very good, usually starting around 5:30am – 6:00am to get the morning bite a 5hr trip is what most people do once the morning bite slows down we hit the sand flats and docks for slot sized Reds. Top-water lures are what I like to start out with in the early mornings. I also alternate it with soft-body jerk baits and jigs. And don’t forget to use live bait like Pinfish or Shrimp under a popping cork. Drag pulling specks and big Bluefish are always fun for the family. June is a great month to experience fishing in Pensacola there are many different species of fish to be caught. So what are you waiting for give me a call or E-mail and well get you HOOKED – UP with that catch of a life time.

Capt. John

:Report May 1 – 20:

Sorry for the late report, but the fishing has been so good that I’ve had no time to post one.  Specks have moved onto the flats and the bite is HOT! Slot-sized Redfish are schooled up on old docks and drop-offs in the inlets.  Spanish Mackerel and Kings are starting to show up as the water temp has reached 77 degrees. We are catching a few Skipjacks along with some big Bluefish in Big lagoon and the intercoastal waterways.

The offshore bite is still very good for Red Snapper and Grouper. Triggerfish and Mingo’s are also showing up in good numbers. Cobia season is nearing its end, but you can still catch a few on some of the inshore wrecks while jigging for Red Snapper and Grouper.  If you are looking for some great rod- bending action, give me a call and we will get you hooked up.

Till Next Time, Bent Rods and Screaming Drags.


Capt. John

:Report April 9  – 30:

The past three weeks have been absolutely phenomenal. We have been catching a few more quality Specks on the flats and in deep holes. Some nice slot Redfish have been going in the fish box, too.  I have not seen or caught many Sheepshead for the past few trips, however, Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish are starting to show up in good numbers.  Red Snapper season opened up in both Federal and State waters and the bite has been great. On one of my last trips we boated some huge Red Snapper. They are still spotting some schools of Jack Crevalle along the beaches.  Cobia are still here.

If you are looking for a fishing adventure, give me a call and we’ll get you hooked up on the Mega-Bite.


Capt. John  

:Report March -26 – April 9:

The last two weeks, the fishing has turned on! Speckled Trout are being caught near the flats and in deep holes. As the water warms up more fish will be heading to the grass flats. They will be hitting top-water lures and soft plastics early in the morning, usually before 9 am.

The Sheepshead bite has slowed a bit, but you can still catch a few on the rock jetties and bridge pilings. Pompano have moved in along the beaches and sandbars and the bite is hot. I’ve been catching a lot of slot-sized reds over the past few days on live and artificial lures. In the past couple of days the Spanish Mackerel have started showing up and the bite has been aggressive. Large schools have been spotted along the beaches and in the pass and in the bays near the mouth of the pass. April is a great month for Cobia and Jack Crevalle.  Spring has arrived and the fishing is only going to get better. If you’re looking for some great light tackle action, give me a call and we’ll get you HOOKED-UP on the MEGA-BITE !

Capt. John

Mar. 2006 Report Week of 19 -26 :

This week was just great. The Sheepshead are still thick, but the real story is all the Pompano we have been catching. On a couple of my past few trips we have boated a few Pompano in the 4 – 5 lb range! Besides all the Sheepshead and Pompano, we have also caught some nice slot-sized Redfish. We had a cold front move in, but after the sun is out a while, it feels pretty good.  Of course, the fish don’t seem to mind a bit, because they keep showing up no matter what the weather brings. If you’re looking for an inshore charter for Sheepshead, Redfish or Pompano, give me a call or E-mail and I’ll get you hooked-up on some big fish.

Mar. 2006 Report Week of 12 -19 :

Well, the past few trips have been great. We have been loading up on Sheepshead, Pompano and a few slot-sized Reds. The weather has been slightly windy the past few days and has kept the gulf a little choppy, so we have not been able to get out and search out Cobia or some of the bigger Redfish. Last week we were able to get out and we got a few big Reds along with some Bluefish. If you are looking for light tackle action, give me a shout, because the fishing is very good and it’s only going to get better.

To Book a Trip to Pensacola with Capt John send me an E-mail

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