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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).

Largemouth bass fishing should reach its peak on the Escambia River this spring and early summer as bass move to staging areas and feed heavily before heading shallow to spawn. During recent electrofishing surveys conducted by FWC biologist in early spring, a number of bass over 3 pounds were documented, with one 7-pound fish being caught less than half a mile upstream from Jim’s fish Camp. If this is a sign as to what is to come this spring and summer, it could be one of the best largemouth bass fishing years the Escambia River has seen in years! For the best fishing on the lower tidally influenced section of the river, anglers should look for an outgoing tide and target the many undercut banks and creek mouths that lead to small marsh pockets found throughout the marsh fingers of the lower river. Common areas for anglers to find good numbers of largemouth are around the “X”, the Simpson River string, and Sullivans Ditch. Anglers should start with “search” baits like a Berkely Chapo, a Chatterbait, or a crankbait to make long casts to grass points and along undercut banks. Once an area with a concentration of fish is located anglers should slow down and use slower techniques to ensure they don’t miss any bites or bedding fish. Some common finesse techniques that produce good numbers of fish are a lightly weighted creature bait, and trick worm on a shaky head, or a structure jig with a craw trailer. Anglers wishing to fish the upper river should focus on the stretch of river from Williams ditch down to the Molino boat ramp and look for laydowns or shallow flats out of the main current where these bass could be feeding. When fishing these areas anglers 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. 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 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 reward. After removal of the tag the angler can either release the fish or add it to the stringer.

 

Bream fishing on the Escambia River this spring and early summer should only pick up with the temperatures as water temps rise the bream will move shallow to spawn and continue into the summer. During recent electrofishing surveys near the mouth of the river, FWC biologist encountered surprising numbers of large redear sunfish and bluegills that appeared to be feasting on grass shrimp near the matted grass edges that line the marsh fingers just south of highway 90. To target these fish anglers should use a live bait on a light wire #4-6 Aberdeen style hook weighted with a small split-shot and either fished under a cork or tightlined on hi-vis line and fished near these grass mats and undercut banks that line the marsh fingers off the main river mouth. When dealing with heavy vegetation some anglers have found it useful to switch to a small dropshot pencil weight and move your live bait hook up your line to the desired depth. While crickets and worms are tried and true, a small grass shrimp would also make an excellent live bait. Anglers have also reported good black crappie fishing lately. While these fish do not seem to be on bed yet, they are headed that way staging up near their shallow spawning areas in large numbers and fattening up. When targeting crappie anglers typically focus on the stretch of river between William’s Lake boat ramp and the Molino boat ramp 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 in white/chartreuse and dark green/light pink patterns.

The lower Escambia River section and its numerous marsh fingers are also a great place to target other sportfish like redfish, and speckled trout. 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 and redfish are around deep channels and undercut banks found throughout the Escambia’s marsh fingers. Popular spots for anglers to target would be around the spoil island just to the west of the main river mouth, around the highway 90 bridges, and the cut from the main river mouth to Saultsman Cove. While a live shrimp or croaker under a popping cork or a lightly weighted Carolina rig will almost always find the fish, anglers have also reported great success when using a mirrodine twitch bait, or gulp shrimp on a light jig head, or a gold or silver spoon, with that 24” fish being caught by a kayak angler using a voodoo shrimp.

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 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 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 spring and summer are seasonally when the Escambia River is at its most unpredictable 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.

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

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