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).
The Escambia River offers anglers a ton of options this time of year. Largemouth Bass should load 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 stripers 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 stripers 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!
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).