Santa Rosa and Escambia counties
The Escambia River is a 92-mile river of which 54 miles are found in Florida. The river has its headwaters in southern Alabama and is called the Conecuh in that state, changing names as it comes into Florida as it drains into Pensacola Bay. The Escambia is the fourth largest river in Florida and harbors the richest assemblage of native North American freshwater fish of any Florida river with 85 native freshwater species.
The river is easily reached by anglers. A set of maps is available from Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center, 8384 Fish hatchery Rd., Holt, FL, 32564; (850)-957-6175. The major landings are listed below:
Jim's Fish Camp - U. S. Highway 90, Pace, FL 32571; 850-994-7500. Located just off Highway 90, at the mouth of the river in the tidal delta. (Commercial fish camp, with facilities.) Swamp House Marina and Landing - 10421 N. Davis Highway, Pensacola, FL 32514; 850-478-9906. Located just off Highway 90, at the mouth of the river on the main channel in the tidal delta. (Commercial fish camp with facilities.)
Floridatown landing - Located on the eastern shore of Escambia Bay, near the mouth of the river in Pace, Florida. (Public landing, no facilities. Condition: Good.)
Quintette landing - Located on east side of the river, south of Highway 184, Santa Rosa County. (Public landing, no facilities. Condition: Good.) Molino landing - Located on the west side of the river, near Molino, in Escambia County. (Public landing, no facilities. Condition: Good.)
Cotton Lake landing - Located on west side of the river, at end of Cotton Lake Road, off U. S. Highway 29, Escambia County. (Public landing, no facilities. Condition: Good.)
McDavid Boat Ramp (Mystic Springs Landing) - Located on west side of river, near McDavid, Florida, off U. S. Highway 29, Escambia County, Florida. (Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission boat ramp, no facilities. Condition: Good.)
Bluff Springs Landing - Located on west side of river, near Bluff Springs, Florida, off U. S. Highway 29, Escambia County, Florida. (Department of Environmental Protection boat ramp, no facilities. Condition: Poor.)
Lake Stone - Located 1.5 miles west of Century, Escambia County, Florida, off Highway 4. (Lake managed by FFWCC; camping and picnic areas managed by Escambia County. Condition: Good.)
- Becks Fish Camp: Off Hwy. 29; (850-375-0383). (Located in Beck's Lake, and provides access to Escambia River.)
Anglers should note that high water and flooding can sometimes make the upper stretches of the river difficult to fish, and should check the current water stage online.
Numerous access points are available along the Escambia River. Three fish camps are located along Highway 90 between Pensacola and Pace. From these, the lower river and delta marshes may be accessed directly. A boat ramp is also located just below the mouth of the river on the northeast shore of Escambia Bay, just south of Pace. In addition, a popular public fishing pier has been built along Highway 90 (Simpson River) just west of Pace. Quintette Landing, north of Pace off Highway184, is good point from which to reach choice fishing spots of both the upper and lower river, including backwater areas. Other boat landings along the upper river include Molino, Webb Lake, McDavid, Cotton Lake, Bluff Springs, Kyser Landing, Sandy Landing (Closed Jan 1st to Feb 15th), Fisher landing (Century) and Oil Plant (North of Jay).
Anglers needing advice regarding fishing spots or information on river conditions can call Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center near Holt (850-957-6175), or Ted Brown at Becks Lake Fish Camp, LLC (850-375-0383).
Anglers should be aware of potential obstacles, such as downed trees and other debris in the river and exercise caution while navigating the Escambia River. Passages into some backwaters and sloughs that were formerly open may now be blocked. Downed trees and log jams can provide prime habitat and shelter for largemouth bass and bream, and anglers may want to try their luck in areas where these occur. A log-jam north of Parker Island (near Cotton Lake) currently impedes boat traffic and anglers will not be able to navigate through this diversion at this time.
High water and reduced water clarity has hampered fishing efforts this spring and early summer. Anglers have been venturing out when the river is falling and have been rewarded with nice catches, however these times when the river is fishable have been few and far between. Bream and catfish anglers have fared the best recently, and catches should continue to improve as the rainy-season concludes and the river begins to stabilize. Bream fisherman have been doing well in the numerous sloughs and oxbows, using night crawlers under a bobber. Catfish anglers have been targeting older log jams using live minnows fished on the bottom. Anglers are reminded that limb lines (a.k.a. bush hooks) need to be labeled with the owners name and contact information. Law enforcement officers began a new initiative to clean the river and are removing un-labeled bush hooks and trot lines. Old and discarded bush hooks are a danger to other fisherman and wildlife, so please remember to do your part.
Largemouth bass fishing in the Escambia River has been slow this spring and early summer, due to high water, but the bite is expected to get better as water conditions improve. Tributaries and smaller creeks that spill into the river are some of the first areas to clear up. The mouths of Big Escambia Creek and Little Escambia Creek, north of State Route 4, have been producing decent largemouth and Choctaw bass. Anglers should use Texas-rigged plastic worms in dark colors, such as black or purple. Once the water temperatures reach their summer peak, largemouth bass will be seeking cooler water and will head for outside bends on the main river. Try casting spinnerbaits to structure near the bank, or pitch lightly-weighted soft plastics to eddies created by logs sticking out of the water. Let the bait fall on a semi-slack line and set the hook when you see the line jump or feel light tap.
It is illegal to take or possess alligator gar without a valid scientific collectors permit. Consequently, even attempting to take alligator gar that you intend to release is breaking the law. Alligator gar are native to Panhandle Rivers and can grow to more than 150 pounds. Their gator-like snout is distinctly different than the snout’s of spotted or longnose gar, the two other gar species found in the panhandle. Researchers are evaluating the population size and other biological considerations that will help inform possible future regulation changes (See: MyFWC.com/research, and then click freshwater, and alligator-gar).