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TRIP UPDATE!Where are the HOT fishing spots near my 400 mile Florida Gulf Coast trip?

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TRIP UPDATE!Where are the HOT fishing spots near my 400 mile Florida Gulf Coast trip?

Old 08-09-2018, 08:35 AM
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Default TRIP UPDATE!Where are the HOT fishing spots near my 400 mile Florida Gulf Coast trip?

TRIP UPDATE BELOW

Hey THT, need some advice. I am closing on an older 40' express sportfish boat with tower and plan on transporting it home in the next 2 weeks. The boat is in SW Florida and I plan on driving it back up to my home here in Panama City FL. The direct route is about 400 miles. Seeing as how I am driving up and around the entire gulf coast of FL, I am VERY interested in hitting up the hottest fishing spots along the way. I am OK with going out of my way to an extent, burning some extra fuel, and spending an extra day on the way making this an awesome adventure.
  • Below is the track I plan to take up the west coast then over to Panama City
  • I currently plan on stopping in the Clearwater area to top off the tanks before running the 260 or so miles across the gulf over to Panama City.
  • The boat carries 400 gal of fuel and should have a range of 300-350 miles at a 20-22 knot cruise
  • Looks like I can deviate off course quite a bit on my way up to Clearwater and have enough fuel to get there
  • Not a lot of wiggle room making the run across the gulf over to Panama City, but I could swing into Apalachicola to fuel up sooner. That could buy me another 30-40 miles of range.
  • I prefer to not try to run the tanks nearly dry - Old boat, new owner, no flow-scans, don't know exactly how much fuel it will burn. Previous owner made 200 mile overnight trips and had plenty of leftover fuel so never paid much attention to calculating total range.
  • I will be taking a competent fishing/boating buddy with me.
The entire journey will be in waters that are foreign to me. Understanding that this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to do a FL Gulf Coast fishing tour, can you provide me with insight on some hottest and most productive fishing spots I can hit on my journey?

Thanks in advance for helping me make this one of my most adventurous, exciting, and memorable trips ever!




Last edited by Diesel Dawg; 09-10-2018 at 11:54 AM.
Old 08-09-2018, 10:30 AM
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You should definitely pass close enough to the Middle Grounds to give them a shot.
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Old 08-09-2018, 11:48 AM
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If it were me... Take extension on vacation
1. Buy largest ATL fuel locker I can afford and fill it
2. Liferaft, EPIRB, etc
3. Head to Northern area of Pulley ridge and spend several days trolling and bottom fishing north until Christmas Ridge.
4. Head to Clearwater replenish fuel, water, beer and bait
5. Head to 127 steps and spend several days trolling during the day and sword fishing at night
6. Head back to Clearwater and replenish
7. Head home but follow the submerged Natural Gas Pipe as long as you can, trolling the entire way.
8. Try to hit the 2 submerged peaks on the escarpment before going in to PCB

Probably can't swing the time but that would be an awesome couple weeks of fishing your new rig
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Old 08-09-2018, 12:05 PM
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Going to be an awesome trip!
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Old 08-09-2018, 01:13 PM
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That's one hell of a trip for a maiden voyage! I've been hearing grouper fishing is good at the 40 fathom break west of the middle grounds. It looks like you will be close.
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Old 08-09-2018, 06:18 PM
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I'd run the inside up to boca grande and pop out there. I'm much more familiar with Johns pass than Clearwater, dons dock (fuel) and gators (food/bar) right inside the pass. Might could make arrangements to overnight at one of them. The track you have will take you across shallow water with not much more than out of season ARS. I'd maybe set a course for the 40 break west of the grounds. Bottom fish some as you go through the grounds. Troll at 10knots or so up the 40 break towards the box. Mauraders / nomads on your corners, lures on your riggers and a cedar plug out shotgun. Watch your sounder and stop and fish good shows. Be careful if you run into apalach, the east side of the channel coming in had shoaled real bad and I'm not sure if it's been dredged since. There is a spot that you will pile that boat up bad in the middle of the channel. The ride from apalach to pc in the ditch is nice but I'd recommend popping out at the PSJ canal as the stretch from there to east bay has a lot of dead heads.
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Old 08-10-2018, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by sea hoss View Post
You should definitely pass close enough to the Middle Grounds to give them a shot.
Excellent information. I did some research and I will be driving right over the middle grounds! I will certainly stop to spend some time here. I am super excited now. Thank you

Originally Posted by Bluewater352 View Post
If it were me... Take extension on vacation
1. Buy largest ATL fuel locker I can afford and fill it
2. Liferaft, EPIRB, etc
3. Head to Northern area of Pulley ridge and spend several days trolling and bottom fishing north until Christmas Ridge.
4. Head to Clearwater replenish fuel, water, beer and bait
5. Head to 127 steps and spend several days trolling during the day and sword fishing at night
6. Head back to Clearwater and replenish
7. Head home but follow the submerged Natural Gas Pipe as long as you can, trolling the entire way.
8. Try to hit the 2 submerged peaks on the escarpment before going in to PCB

Probably can't swing the time but that would be an awesome couple weeks of fishing your new rig
Bluewater, that certainly does sound like a dream fishing trip! My wife is already giving me laser eyes every time I bring up that I need to go spend 3-4 days to bring this boat home. Something about leaving her home with the 1 yr old and 3 yr old while I am on a "fishing vacation". I keep assuring her that it is going to be boring, tedious, and not very relaxing. Pretty sure she would have my head if I told her it was going to take 2 weeks and cost 5x as much. I DO like how you think though! Thanks for the tip on the pipeline. I will try to troll that on my way out to the middle grounds!

Originally Posted by tangledline View Post
Going to be an awesome trip!
Yes it will!

Originally Posted by jeremyj View Post
That's one hell of a trip for a maiden voyage! I've been hearing grouper fishing is good at the 40 fathom break west of the middle grounds. It looks like you will be close.
It does make me a bit nervous doing this right off the boat in an older boat with unknown fuel burn and hoping everything stays together. No risk, no reward though right? I will be bringing my mustang full life jacket, epirb, and stocked ditch bag just in case. Thanks for the tip on the 40 fathom break. I'll definitely give it a shot! Where is the 40 fathom break?

Originally Posted by Southern Hooker View Post
I'd run the inside up to boca grande and pop out there. I'm much more familiar with Johns pass than Clearwater, dons dock (fuel) and gators (food/bar) right inside the pass. Might could make arrangements to overnight at one of them. The track you have will take you across shallow water with not much more than out of season ARS. I'd maybe set a course for the 40 break west of the grounds. Bottom fish some as you go through the grounds. Troll at 10knots or so up the 40 break towards the box. Mauraders / nomads on your corners, lures on your riggers and a cedar plug out shotgun. Watch your sounder and stop and fish good shows. Be careful if you run into apalach, the east side of the channel coming in had shoaled real bad and I'm not sure if it's been dredged since. There is a spot that you will pile that boat up bad in the middle of the channel. The ride from apalach to pc in the ditch is nice but I'd recommend popping out at the PSJ canal as the stretch from there to east bay has a lot of dead heads.
S. Hooker, you hit the nail on the head. I will be topping off at Johns pass. Thanks for the tips on the fuel and food. Where exactly is this "40 break"? "The box"? I'll make sure to try a spread as you describe while trolling. Excellent information on Apalach water ways. I would have never known. I am thinking that I will have to stop there to top off on fuel since I would like to spend a full day and night at the middle grounds and 40 break. If the weather isnt complete crap, I will top off in Apalach and then come back out and around to PC, hitting a few reefs along the way.

Thanks for the excellent information guys. In just 1 day, you have helped me turn a boring drive with aimless fishing into a long range fishing trip trolling the pipelines, trolling and bottom fishing the middle grounds, the 40 break, both day and night. All of this is right on my way. I am extremely excited now!!


If you all would be so kind as to offer a bit more advice, we can make this trip epic. I have been boating my whole life and half ass fishing sporadically for the past 20 yrs, but I honestly have not been offshore fishing enough to be proficient in knowing what baits, rigs, lures, etc produce the most fish or even what fish to target on these spots. Given the spots and fishing that I will be doing, what baits/rigs/lures/leaders/spreads will I need to catch the most fish? What fish should I be targeting in these areas? I would consider my offshore fishing expertise as "Novice", especially compared to most on this board, so please help me understand. YOU GUYS ROCK!
  1. Trolling the pipelines
  2. Trolling the middle grounds
  3. Bottom fishing the middle grounds
  4. Bottom fishing the 40 break
  5. Night fishing?

Last edited by Diesel Dawg; 08-10-2018 at 08:37 AM.
Old 08-10-2018, 10:32 AM
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Swing out a little deeper and troll the 600 line up and through the elbow and through the Middle grounds on your way north.
Old 08-10-2018, 02:48 PM
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Bottom fishing at night on the middle grounds can be very productive. Lots of mangrove snapper on cut bait as well as amberjack when they show up. Gag grouper are plentiful as well but in my experience out there they prefer live bait as opposed to dead bait. I never get around to trying a jig when I'm out there but it might work on those gags. I've fished the middle grounds a few times but I'm sure there are some on this forum a lot closer than me that have fished it much more and can offer better info. Either way good luck on your trip and be safe.
Old 08-10-2018, 03:23 PM
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The pipeline runs in a NW direction somewhat parallel with the 40 break, from about 5-20 miles S/SW of it. Strikelines charts has a good map of the pipeline. It's mostly deep dropping on exposed parts... check valves, rock supports, etc. You could troll up it and just watch your sounder.

The 40 break is the 40 fathom edge in 240'. In some places it's a fairly subtle 5' roll down and some places it's a near 100' wall. As with most ledge type bottom, lots of rocks and current pushing up bait. Mixed bottom fish, good wahoo fishing. Possible shots at billfish.

CMOR/Stikelines have good middlegrounds charts. IMO the grounds have been hammered to death over the years. Still some good fish hanging around though as it's basically the Ritz to a fish. That is where I would overnight... mangos, beeliners, coneys, few gags at night. All of those plus RG and scamp during the day. Not the best trolling for pelagics but typically blackfins hanging around and every now and then some nice wahoo and dolphin pop up.

The "box" is the Madison/Swanson closed area. Good trolling, no bottom fishing.

Take as much live bait as you can. Trolling wise... yo-Zuri bonita, nomad dtx200 on the corners. Small feathers (R&R, no alibi, rattle jet, etc) and small lures (Bart's micro and light tackle series), cedar plug / tuna feather on your shotgun.
Old 08-14-2018, 03:09 PM
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After some great suggestions here and some more investigation on my end, here is what the trip is starting to look like:

Day 1: Ft Myers to Johns Pass. Fuel up, check fuel consumption numbers, get some good eats, drinks and rest. Anyone have any good spots to hit near this route?
Day 2: Troll/work the pipeline out to the middle grounds. Troll/work the middle grounds. Find a good spot to anchor up for the night and see what the night bite looks like.
Day 3: Work the middle grounds some more then work our way over to the 40 break for a while. Might be tight on fuel so we might not be able to double back much. Make our way over to Apalachicola. Fuel up, check fuel consumption numbers, hot shower, good eats, drinks, and sleep.
Day 4: Run back out and troll "The box", then over to "Wings", then "Squiggles" then in to Panama City. Tie up at new slip and give the boat a bath.
Day 5: Back to work. Argh!

Old 08-14-2018, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Diesel Dawg View Post
After some great suggestions here and some more investigation on my end, here is what the trip is starting to look like:

Day 1: Ft Myers to Johns Pass. Fuel up, check fuel consumption numbers, get some good eats, drinks and rest. Anyone have any good spots to hit near this route?
Day 2: Troll/work the pipeline out to the middle grounds. Troll/work the middle grounds. Find a good spot to anchor up for the night and see what the night bite looks like.
Day 3: Work the middle grounds some more then work our way over to the 40 break for a while. Might be tight on fuel so we might not be able to double back much. Make our way over to Apalachicola. Fuel up, check fuel consumption numbers, hot shower, good eats, drinks, and sleep.
Day 4: Run back out and troll "The box", then over to "Wings", then "Squiggles" then in to Panama City. Tie up at new slip and give the boat a bath.
Day 5: Back to work. Argh!

Looks fun!
Old 08-14-2018, 03:51 PM
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Best of luck on the trip and post up some pictures!
Old 08-14-2018, 06:45 PM
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Post 3, could be absolutely epic. I'd take the beating from the wife and go for it. Oh have a 1 and a 3 yo, you aren't going to be using that boat alot
Old 08-14-2018, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by WPBTH View Post
Post 3, could be absolutely epic. I'd take the beating from the wife and go for it. Oh have a 1 and a 3 yo, you aren't going to be using that boat alot
I agree, it would be epic! Wish I could swing it. We’ll be using the heck out of this boat, but in a less fishy and more family manner most of the time. Both my kids have been out on the boat every weekend when the weather is decent since they were 1 month old. It is going to be so much better for everyone to have a generator, AC, head, place for kids to shower, nap and go to bed, while momma and I get some alone time on the boat. Can’t wait. Then when I get the itch, I can load up some buds and go catch some yellowtail out at the rigs or find some other sea monsters out there. Should be a great do everything, except flats fish, boat.
Old 08-15-2018, 05:32 AM
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What do you think average cruise speed will be?

Last edited by Bluewater352; 08-15-2018 at 06:13 AM.
Old 08-15-2018, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Bluewater352 View Post
What do you think average cruise speed will be?
The boat cruises at 23 knots. I may back off during certain stretches where I have some extra time. Does anyone rent a flowscan? It would be awesome to map the fuel efficiency of the boat, then decide where to cruise based on time, fuel burn, and range.
Old 08-15-2018, 08:47 AM
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That speed is perfect to do HST for wahoo during your trip up the pipe. You just need the heaviest trolling weight possible. Maybe link 2 in tandem and spray paint them white.

Personally, I would skip the middle grounds. They are boring when compared to the pipe or the 40 break. I would either anchor on a valve junction box, mitigation reef, or on a nice break. But that's just me. I think the opportunity for pelagics will be higher if you follow the pipe as far as possible. Every valve box you hit further from Tampa will have less and less pressure from shore. Middle grounds is fun too though.
Old 08-15-2018, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Bluewater352 View Post
That speed is perfect to do HST for wahoo during your trip up the pipe. You just need the heaviest trolling weight possible. Maybe link 2 in tandem and spray paint them white.

Personally, I would skip the middle grounds. They are boring when compared to the pipe or the 40 break. I would either anchor on a valve junction box, mitigation reef, or on a nice break. But that's just me. I think the opportunity for pelagics will be higher if you follow the pipe as far as possible. Every valve box you hit further from Tampa will have less and less pressure from shore. Middle grounds is fun too though.
Bluewater, thanks for the tips. How do I know where these valve boxes are?
Old 08-15-2018, 11:21 AM
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Most modern MFDs and advanced mapping programs have the coordinates built in.

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