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).
Largemouth bass fishing is expected to be good during July through September on the Escambia River. The river levels have been going up and down due to recent rains, and anglers should take note of the current conditions before heading out to the river. When the river is high, good fish were being caught in oxbows and sloughs, such as Williams Lake. Black and blue jigs, soft-plastic lizards, and shallow running crankbaits have caught fish up to 3 pounds. When the river starts to fall, head back out into the main river and fish spinner baits or soft-plastics under overhanging limbs and root wads. Another tactic that has been working is to fish the marsh area early in the morning with a bubblegum colored floating worm and working back to the boat with fast twitches.
Good fishing for bream, such as bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker) and spotted sunfish (stumpknocker), is expected on the Escambia River during the next several months. Try crickets and wigglers either below a bobber or fished on the bottom. The summer season is also a great time to use a fly rod to flip jigs tipped with worms or flies up under overhanging branches along the main Escambia River. Big sunfish hang out n the shade waiting for insects to get blown into the river, and well-placed roll cast is a great way to make them bite.
Big blue and flathead catfish should be at the top of angler’s list this summer. These large catfish are not native to our state, although both are native to the Mobile drainage. Historically both the state record for blue catfish (61.5 pounds, from Little Escambia Creek), and former state record for flathead catfish (43.5 pounds) were caught from the Escambia River. The best bait for flatheads is sunfish, but anglers are reminded to familiarize themselves with current regulations. Live sunfish can only be used for bait, if collected and fished using hook and line. Sunfish cannot be used as bait on any other fishing gear (e.g., bush hooks or trot lines). Fresh-dead menhaden also work well for these monster cats. Look for older log jams that have vegetation growing on them. This means they have been in the river for awhile, and should hold some giant catfish. Use 6/0-8/0 live bait or circle hooks and stay mobile. Large baits will quickly draw the attention of a hungry flathead or blue cat in the area. If an area does not produce any bites after 30 minutes, move to another spot. Anglers are also reminded that the flathead catfish is an invasive species to Florida, and keeping all fish caught is highly encouraged, since this species may negatively impact native sport fish populations (e.g., sunfish and catfish). If anglers are simply interested in catching some eating-sized fish, use shrimp or live shiners to target the abundant population of small channel and blue cats roaming the banks of Escambia River.
Striped bass fishing will likely be slow during the summer months. Fishing a live shrimp under a bobber or free-lined near the Hwy 90 bridge is a successful tactic that local fisherman employ during this time of year. Later in the summer, schools of hybrids can be seeing busting bait on the surface near the Gulf Power Plant. Use topwater baits or bucktail jigs to imitate the baitfish they are feeding on. Striped bass are available in the Escambia River as a result of long-term stocking by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Fishing on the Simpson River pier, a popular public fishing pier along Hwy 90, has been slow in recent months. Anglers were catching a few croaker, speckled trout, and hardhead catfish on shrimp and squid. Expect the bite to stay slow during the summer, but pick up in the fall when schools of menhaden arrive. Try to fish during a falling tide for the most success.
Anglers should be aware of potential obstacles, such as downed trees and other debris in the river and exercise caution while navigating the Escambia River. Passages into some backwaters and sloughs that were formerly open may now be blocked. Downed trees and log jams can provide prime habitat and shelter for largemouth bass and bream, and anglers may want to try their luck in areas where these occur. A recent log-jam diversion was discovered on the Escambia River, north of Parker Island. Anglers will not be able to navigate through this diversion at this time.
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).