Blackwater and Yellow Rivers

Striped bass in these rivers were stocked by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in an effort to create a trophy fishery, and to reestablish this species in an area from which they had virtually disappeared.


Popular species:

Popular fish species

Fish graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.


TrophyCatchTrophyCatch Tracker

TrophyCatch External link is FWC's citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger.

Be the first to submit a trophy bass from the Blackwater or Yellow Rivers!


Blackwater River

Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties

Blackwater RiverThe Blackwater River is a 58-mile long river in which 49-miles are in Florida.  The river’s headwaters start in the Conecuh National Forest of Southern Alabama and enter Florida in Okaloosa County. The river flows from Okaloosa County through Santa Rosa County to Blackwater Bay, an arm of Pensacola Bay.  The Blackwater’s sandy bottom, white beaches and large sandbars contrast with the tannic water that gives the river its name.  A 31-mile section of river from Kennedy Bridge near Munson, Fl to Deaton Bridge in the Blackwater River State park is designated as the Blackwater River Canoe trail. The river is no longer navigable south of Deaton Bridge due to a log jam.

Fishing success on the upper reaches of the Blackwater River generally depends on water levels.  High water makes this area difficult to fish; thus, fishermen should always check river levels before visiting the upper river. View current river conditions throughout Florida online.External Website Anglers not fortunate enough to own vessels for fishing are reminded that numerous canoe outfitters are present in this watershed, and provide shuttling services for launching and pickup.

Access  to the lower river is provided by boat ramps in Milton (Carpenters Park north of downtown Milton, just off Highway 191, and also Russell Harbor Park, just north of Highway 90, on the east side of the river opposite downtown Milton), and in Bagdad (improved landing east of downtown Bagdad, off Highway 191).

Three access areas to the upper river are provided by public boat ramps at Blackwater River State Park (off Deaton Bridge Road), three miles west of Holt (on Bryant Bridge Road), and a recently constructed county maintained ramp north of Bryant Bridge, in the Blackwater River State Forest. The latter two offer great opportunities for anglers. The summertime is the height of canoeing season. If you aren’t able to hit the water on a weekday during this time of year, be prepared for a crowd of paddlers that aren’t necessarily concerned about spooking your fish. Generally speaking, boat traffic dissipates the farther up river you travel. Other unimproved landings, suitable for canoes or light johnboats, are scattered along the remaining length of the upper river.


Current Forecast:

Largemouth bass fishing should be good in early July, but begin to taper off into the dog-days of summer. Make a splash early in the morning with black buzzbaits and then switch to slow-moving lures such once the temperature begins to rise. Shakey head with a trick worm or compact finesse jigs will tempt bites during the warmest water temperatures of the year. Remember to spool up with new fishing line, because the Blackwater River consistently produces the biggest Largemouth Bass in our local rivers. Two beautiful specimens over 6 lbs were observed during recent FWCC electrofishing surveys in Cooper’s Basin, giving local anglers plenty of reason to get excited the local bass fishing opportunities.

Striped bass fishing can be really good this time of year. This species isn’t as tolerate of the warm water temperatures compared to our other native river species, so look for areas that have cooler water. Live bait is typically best, such as menhaden that fog into the mouth of the river this time of year, as well as finger mullet. Veteran striper anglers in NW Florida know to spend time scouting small feeder creeks that provide a thermal refuge this time of year. Stripers are a cold water species and they seek out these small streams in the summertime because the water is often several degrees cooler than the main river channel.

Farther up river, the fishing has been good, when the water levels have cooperated. Be sure to check the current water levels before heading out, because the river stage can have a huge impact on your fishing success. Current water levels throughout Florida may be found at External link. High, muddy water following a recent rain usually result in low catches of bass and bream, but can be good for catfish.

Recent electrofishing surveys in this portion of the river produced many Choctaw bass, large bluegill and very colorful longear sunfish. Anglers don’t need to travel far from the parking lot by the bridge. Any water deeper than 2 feet is holding a few catchable fish. Beetle spins and rooster tails work well for sunfish and bass. Small crankbaits and texas-rigged crawfish imitations will help catch the bigger fish. Channel cats should be biting chicken liver or cut mullet on the deep outside bends during the day, then moving on to the sandbars in the evening.

Fly-fishing this section of the Blackwater River also can be productive. If you are after bass, try to match the local forage. Baitfish patterns, such as clouser minnows and EP baitfish patterns fished with short strips on a floating line work well. Small popping bugs or foam spiders will provide plenty of topwater action from several species of sunfish. When the surface action slows, slowly twitch a dark-colored wooly bugger around stumps and logs.


Yellow River and Shoal River

Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties

Yellow RiverThe Yellow River is a 92-mile-long river of which 61 miles occur in Florida's Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. The Yellow River flows in a southwesterly direction into Blackwater Bay, an arm of Pensacola Bay.  One major tributary, the Shoal River, joins the Yellow near Crestview, Florida.  The Shoal River lies entirely within Florida with a length of 33 miles.  The Yellow River has a sandy bottom, white beaches and large sandbars.  A 56-mile section of River from SR-2 to SR-87 is designated the Yellow River Paddling Trail. View current river conditions throughout Florida. External Website

There are numerous access points to the lower Yellow River system provided by two fish camps near the mouth of the river (Brown's and Lindsey's), south of Milton, and numerous landings along the river, including Guest Lake Landing (South of Holt), Milligan (below Highway 90), Crestview (highways 85 and 90), Blackman (Highway 2), and the Highway 87 crossing southeast of Milton.


Current Forecast:

It can be hard to the leave the comfort of the air conditioning this time of year, but a trip to the Yellow River could make it all worthwhile. The trick is to fish early in the morning or late in the evening and be flexible as to the species you target. Try bringing a flyrod with a small, rubber-legged popping bug to cast under tree branches in sloughs and oxbows off the main river channel. Panfish of all species, including Largemouth Bass, will be hiding out here and will smack this floating fly with reckless abandon. After the sun gets high, move back to the main river channel and switch to a small spinnerbait or beetle spin and work it through deeper cover to target more bass and bream that have moved to cooler water. Finally, park the boat under a shade tree and fish peeled shrimp, chicken liver, or fish chunks on a bottom rig with a 4/0 hook. Hopefully you find that shade tree on a deep outside bend, near a log jam. If so, it won’t be long before Mr. Whiskers comes calling and you can retreat back to the house with a cooler fill of fresh fillets, ready for the fryer. Anglers should use caution when launching their boats due to the low-water conditions that may have made ramps inaccessible at this time.

Fishing success in the upper river depends largely upon water levels, but adventurous anglers are often rewarded with larger-than-average fish in this section of the river. Shallow water and numerous stumps keeps the fishing pressure at a minimum, which means there are bigger fish here that have seen fewer offerings from anglers. But anglers should check the river levels before leaving the house. Current water levels throughout Florida may be found on the internet at External link. Fish species commonly caught within this reach include; Largemouth and Choctaw bass, longear sunfish, warmouth, spotted sunfish, and shadow bass. The upper reaches of the Yellow/Shoal Rivers also harbors an excellent Choctaw Bass. Many specimens over 3 pounds where observed downstream of the highway 85 bridge by FWCC biologists during spring sampling.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds anglers that it is illegal to possess Alligator gar without a Scientific Collectors Permit. Alligator gar is an endemic top predator found only in the Panhandle Rivers and grows to more than 120 pounds. Due to limited numbers, harvest is restricted. Their gator like snout is distinctly different than spotted and longnose gar, the two other species of gar found it the panhandle.


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.

FWC Facts:
The secretive little pygmy sunfish is not a true sunfish and may be more related to sticklebacks and pipefishes.

Learn More at AskFWC