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 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. Quintette Landing, off Highway184, north of Pace, is good point from which to reach choice fishing spots of both the upper and lower river, including backwater areas. The boat launch at Beck’s lake, off highway 29, offers anglers another option when accessing fishing areas between Quintette landing and ramps located farther downstream. The ramp is located in Beck’s Lake, and offers angler’s the choice to fish in still water, as well as providing access to nearby Escambia River. Other boat landings along the upper river include Molino, Sandy Landing (Closed Jan 1st to Feb 15th), Webb Lake, McDavid, Cotton Lake, Bluff Springs, Kyser Landing, Fisher landing (Century) and Oil Plant (north of Jay). Due to low-water conditions, anglers should use precaution when launching their boat as concrete ramps may be out of the water. Particular problem areas include Bluff Springs, Oil Plant, Sandy Landing, and Mystic Springs.
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).
The Escambia River offers anglers a ton of options this time of year. Largemouth Bass should loaded up in sloughs and oxbows off the main river. Recent FWC electrofishing surveys in a slough upstream from the Quintette boat ramp produced dozens of Largemouth Bass over 14”, including the fish in the picture. Try medium diving crankbaits or soft-plastic creature baits in 3-10 feet of water. If the weather has been warm for a few days, Largemouth Bass sometimes move up in the shallows around stumps and laydowns. A small spinnerbait casted near this structure will also work this time of year. A lot of anglers have also been excited about the amount of redfish they have been catching while bass fishing in the marsh section of the Escambia River. Most of these reds are small, but they put up a great fight on a baitcasting or spinning outfit.
Stripers and Hybrid Striped Bass will continue to get more active as winter wears on. Anglers have lots of success on live shrimp fished around the Hwy 90 bridge. Bigger Striped Bass will hang out at the mouth of the thermal canal and there have already been reports of small hybrid stripers near the back of the canal, against the sea wall. Again, live shrimp seems to be the most popular bait, but live mullet or menhaden will work too.
Bream and Crappie are still being caught, although this bite may slow down as the weather continues to cool. Bluegill and Crappie will be in the deeper sloughs and oxbows, while the best action for Redear Sunfish will be in the marsh section of the river. Best baits for bream include small nightcrawlers or life crickets, either fished on the bottom or under a small float. The best bait for crappie recently has been live minnows or on 1/32 oz tube jigs fished over the top of old trees off of the bank.
And for our whiskered friends, Blue Catfish get the nod this time of year. It seems like they are being caught everywhere in the Escambia River right now. Upriver, downriver, inside bends or runs; they seem to be biting all over the place. Get out there and find some fillets for your next Holiday fish fry.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds anglers that it is illegal to possess Alligator gar, or even target them. That means you are breaking the law even if you intend to release the fish. Alligator gar are an native fish to Panhandle Rivers and can grow to more than 150 pounds. Their gator like snout is distinctly different than spotted and longnose gar, the two other species of gar found it the panhandle. Researchers are in the process of estimating the population size and will possibly remove the harvest restriction of this prehistoric fish. However, until then harvest is restricted.