On The Fly Saltwater
Fly Casting a Florida Vacation Paradise
Featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs
By John Kumiski
When you turn onto the St. George Island Bridge from US 98, you’ll have a six-mile trip on that bridge before you reach St. George Island. The bridge marks the “boundary”, rather arbitrarily, between Apalachicola Bay and St. George Sound. Regardless of how you slice it, there’s lots and lots of clean, fish-filled water!
My own experience fishing St. George Sound is limited to the north side of St. George Island, in Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park. Launch a kayak at the Boy Scout Camp (marked as the Youth Camp on some maps) ramp, and you are immediately surrounded by fish-filled oyster reefs. I’ve caught redfish, seatrout, flounder, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and a variety of smaller species while blindcasting around these reefs with nothing more elaborate than a 6-weight with a floating line, a 10-foot leader with a 20-pound tippet, and a Clouser Minnow. This area around the camp, including Goose Island, easily offers a couple days of exploring and fishing.
A redfish from the flats on the north side of St. George Island. Photo courtesy of John Kumiski
You’ll find a huge eagle’s nest on Goose Island. The park protects the birds from human disturbance by prohibiting landing on the island. You can and will see the birds if you fish here, though.
It’s also possible to sight fish around these bars on lower tide phases. The firm, shell bottom is delightful for wading. If you’re there during the cooler months, waders are entirely appropriate, especially if you’re a Floridian!
The author with a fish on at an oyster bar near the Boy Scout Camp. Photo courtesy of John Kumiski
I’ve fished St. George Sound during the autumn and spring. Both seasons offer great fishing. Winter can be tough because of prevailing north winds, although if you hit the weather right it can be spectacular. Summer in Florida is summer in Florida – high temperatures, high humidity, lightning storms, and bugs make summer fishing almost an ordeal.
When I visit here I stay in my tent. The state park campground has 60 drive-in sites. It’s hard to get one – this park is very popular! On the north side of the island, right on the edge of the sound, are two primitive campsites accessible only by boat. This is where I like to stay. You can literally catch fish right behind your campsite. Generally, you have the place to yourself.
The author’s campsite on St. George Island. Photo by John Kumiski
Keep in mind that during spring break time this entire region fills up with tourists. It’s worse in Panama City, Destin, and Pensacola, but it gets busier here, too. Call the park to get an idea of how busy they will be if you want to visit at this time.
Miles of shallow grass flats pockmarked with white sand potholes line the north shore of St. George Island, east of the Boy Scout Camp, providing the paddling fly fisher with a taste for adventure another couple days’ worth of exploring. Again, the water is clear and the bottom is great for wading.
A seatrout that hit a Clouser Minnow in the clear water near Goose Island. Photo by John Kumiski
Blindcasting minnow patterns into the potholes yields plenty of seatrout. Sightfishing near the shoreline provides shots at redfish. Flounder and other species will surprise you now and again.
What if camping is not your idea of a good time? St. George Island is pretty “resorty.” The St. George Inn is on the island. You can find local Air B&Bs, too. And nearby Apalachicola has a ton of places to stay. Any of these places will set you back way more than the $21 it cost me last time I camped four nights at the state park’s primitive campsite, though.
If you don’t have a kayak, or don’t wish to transport it, both the state park ranger station and Island Outfitters on St. George Island offer rentals.
Click here for details on ording a signed copy of John Kumiski’s latest book Fishing Florida by Paddle.