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Santa Rosa and Escambia counties

Escambia

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 (850-375-0383).

With water temperatures cooling more with each cold front and no rain in the forecast the river is low and that means the bass are on the move! Largemouth bass are leaving their main channel summer homes and moving shallow into backwater creeks and basins where they find thermal refuge this time of year. Anglers should take advantage of this movement by using fast moving spinnerbaits, buzz-baits, or chatter-baits to locate schools of hungry bass this time of year. While these fast-moving presentations will work almost anywhere, anglers should also try using shallow diving crankbaits in white/shad to red/crawfish colors to target off-channel creeks and basins along the marsh section of the river and should try using red to purple colored soft plastic flukes, swimbaits or worms Texas-rigged when fishing farther upriver near Quintette boat ramp. As temperatures continue to drop and the water clarity improves, the largemouth bass fishing should only become better. Some of the best bass fishing generally take place in locations like Williams Ditch and Becks Lake around December. Largemouth bass anglers on the Escambia River should be on the lookout during the 2022 season. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is currently conducting a bass tagging study, which means anglers could find a bass tagged with a reward. By simply calling the number on a tagged fish and reporting the catch, anglers will receive a $100 monetary reward.

Bream fishing this fall on the Escambia River is also expected to get much better as the water clarity improves and temperatures lower. The most productive spots seem to be on the lower section of the river around the marsh fingers and basins, as well as around the Gulf Power plant. Anglers also find great bream fishing around the Quintette stretch of river along Williams Ditch and on upriver to other backwater areas like Cotton Lake later in the fall. For the most effective fishing, use a small spinnerbait like a 1/32oz beetle-spin, or a skirted tube, to fish around the bank points and visible submerged cover to locate fish. Then, slow down and use a live cricket or worm under a cork for the best chances of filling the cooler for a fish fry. Anglers also do well using fly tackle and wooly buggers or white and chartreuse poppers when the fish are being skittish or heavily pressured.

When fishing the upper reaches of the Escambia River late in the fall, some anglers have reported finding good numbers of black crappie. For the best chances at these delicious yet elusive beasts, use live minnows or jigs to target established logjams, weed beds, or other cover in or in close relation to deep water. Later in the fall these slabs can be found moving to shallow water preparing to spawn. Many anglers find this subtle transition to be the most productive fishing period. Some common locations to target these Black Crappie are Cotton Lake, Big Escambia creek, and around the Chumuckla springs ramp.

The upper sections of the Escambia River should also have good flathead catfishing this time of year. While the Escambia River does not boast the state record flatheads like the neighboring Yellow River, it makes up for it in overall flathead numbers, with some anglers reporting catching more that 2:1 fish in the Escambia River over the Yellow. For the most effective fishing anglers should fish a live bait on a large (6/0-10/0) khale or circle hook with enough wait to hold it securely to bottom. Common live baits include blacktail redhorse and spotted suckers, with the best choice being a live bream, but anglers are reminded to check their local regulations. Live bream can only be used as bait if collected and fished by means of hook and line. It is against the law to use a bream as bait for bush hooks, trot lines, jug lines, or by any other fishing gear. Common areas for anglers to target flathead catfish this time of year are deep holes, backwater basins or creeks, current breaks, or established logjams along the upper section of the river. Anglers should focus on the section of river near Chumuckla Springs boat ramps and above for the best flathead fishing.

The lower marsh section of the Escambia River is expected to have excellent inshore fishing this fall. As seasonal low water levels bring saline water from the bay into the marsh and lower river the schools of menhaden, mullet, and other bait follow. This seasonal bait movement brings redfish, flounder, speckled trout, and striped bass into the lower river to feed and is a great time for anglers to capitalize. For the most productive fishing use a Mirrodine twitch bait, jerk-bait, or a soft plastic gulp shrimp on a light jig head to fish around deep holes, docks, seawalls, or bridges along highway 90. Some anglers do well later in the fall fishing around the Gulf Power spillway or targeting several dock lights scattered throughout the marsh. When targeting specifically striped bass, some anglers prefer to fish at dusk/dawn or at night. These anglers generally use a large live bait like mullet or menhaden and target areas where congregations of bait can be found.

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, 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. Other boat landings along the upper river include Molino, Webb Lake, McDavid, Cotton Lake, Bluff Springs, Kyser Landing, Sandy Landing, Fisher landing (Century) and Oil Plant (North of Jay.)

When navigating the upper Escambia river, anglers are reminded that after two active hurricane seasons and countless high water events, the river is scattered with debris and down trees. The fall is seasonally when the Escambia river is at its lowest stage height so anglers should check current water levels before heading to the ramp. Current water levels and flow metrics can be found at www.usgs.gov. Anglers are urged to use caution when navigating the Escambia river be on the lookout for potential obstructions that could quickly ruin a day on the water.

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 a 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.

Popular Species

Popular Sport Fish Species

Fish graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.

More species information is available for:

Largemouth bass, Spotted bassBluegill, Redear sunfishStriped bassSunshine bass

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