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 (850-375-0383).
While Largemouth Bass fishing can be slow this time of year on the Escambia River, in recent electrofishing samples conducted by FWC biologists in late December a several bass over 3 pounds were documented with one 7-pound fish being caught less than half a mile upstream from Jim’s fish Camp. For the best fishing anglers should look for a lower tide and target the many undercut banks of the Escambia Rivers lower marsh fingers. During the recent electrofishing samples biologists encountered large numbers of bass in areas like the “X”, the Simpson River, the East River stand, and Sullivans ditch. Anglers have been reporting a good bite using soft plastics like a trick worm or zoom lizard in dark black/blue to red/purple color patterns either thrown with no weight or Texas-rigged with a bullet weight. For anglers wishing to fish the upper river, target off channel areas like William’s Ditch or Mystic Springs and focus on current breaks, down trees, stumps, or other submerged structure. Anglers fishing these areas have reported the best luck when using soft plastic crawfish imitations rigged weedless on a jig or a square-bill crankbait to cast beyond the structure being sure to bump it on the retrieve. Be sure to pick one piece of structure apart making repeated casts from all angles before moving to the next to ensure you don’t miss that fish of your dreams. Any anglers catching Largemouth Bass on the Escambia River in the 2022 season should be on the lookout for a yellow wire tag located just below the fish’s dorsal fin. These 100-dollar reward tags are labeled with an associated tag number and a phone number. If a fish is captured with one of these tags, it is asked that the angler snip the tag off and call the number to receive their 100-dollar reward. After removal of the tag the angler can either release the fish or add it to the stringer.
Bream fishing is expected to be good in January and the action should only pick up moving closer to March as water temperatures warm on the Escambia River. During electrofishing surveys in late December, FWC biologist encountered good numbers of Bluegill and Redear Sunfish around stumps and submersed woody debris in off channel areas like William’s ditch, and Mystic springs. Anglers should use a live bait on a light wire #4-6 Aberdeen style hook weighted with a small split-shot and fished under a cork to target these areas. Anglers have also reported good crappie fishing lately. When targeting crappie anglers typically focus on the stretch of river between Quintette boat ramp and Becks Lake and search for large trees and current breaks in 5 to 10 feet of water where these fish like to congregate. Anglers report the best luck when fishing using live minnows but also have reported a good bite using 1/32 oz crappie jigs and underspin’s in white and chartreuse patterns.
The Lower Escambia River is a great place to target many popular sportfish like Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Sheepshead. Anglers have been reporting that the speckled trout bite has been awesome recently with many fish over 20” being caught and one kayak angler reported catching a 24” trout from the mouth of the Escambia River. The best places to find these Speckled Trout seem to be around deep channels and the undercut banks throughout the lower Escambia marsh. A Mirr-o-dine twitch bait or a gulp shrimp paired with a light jig head seem to be the most productive lures this time of year, however anglers have also had good reports using a silver or gold spoon and jerkbaits. The Sheepshead bite can be tricky but once mastered many anglers fill their freezer with these delicious bridge monsters during these cold winter months. When hunting for Sheepshead a live bait is a must, while a fiddler crab or live shrimp seem to be the most common choices anglers also report catching fish on everything from sandfleas to leftover blue crab bits. To best target these sheepsheads, use a small egg sinker on a short Carolina-rig or a small split-shot crimped onto your leader and fish bridges and rubble piles near the mouth of the river. Popular spots to target sheepshead are along the Highway 90 bridges across the Escambia River mouths and along the I-10 interstate bridge over the Escambia Bay.
The upper sections of the Escambia River should 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 weight 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 ramp and above for the best flathead fishing.
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 and winter are 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.
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.)
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.
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.
TrophyCatch 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 Escambia River!