Chasing the sun in Panama City Beach

Chasing the sun in Panama City Beach

It was unbelievable. If our hook stayed on the bottom for 10 or 15 seconds without a bite, we knew our bait had been stolen. But it seemed that whenever our bait was stolen, the rod tip would bounce and then bend as a fish got hooked and screamed back toward the ocean reef.

The most abundant fish that tried to eat a 4-inch cigar minnow was the gray triggerfish. However, snapper and grouper have been mixed in with the overwhelming numbers of triggerfish.

And for those who have never fished saltwater fish, the first thing you learn is that all saltwater species – even the smaller ones – will outperform almost all the freshwater ones we find in the Tennessee River. Wrestling fish after fish from 70 feet deep, using relatively light gear, can send a man down in a hurry.

In three hours of fishing, within sight of all the condominiums lining Panama City Beach, Ed McCoy and I boated red snapper, mangrove snapper, grouper, perch, triggerfish, and bonito. Our guide, Captain Jason Lake, also co-hosts the award-winning television show, Chasin’ the Sun on the Discovery Channel.

Chasin’ the Sun is one of the very few, if not the only, fishing shows that does not travel across the country or the world. It was filmed entirely in Panama City Beach, Florida.

“There is no need for us to travel,” Captain Lake shouted. “Panama City Beach offers good inshore fishing for redfish, trout, flounder and things like that. We also have good inshore fishing for tarpon and jack crevalle and of course good reef fishing like we did today. And then we have ‘blue water fishing – Mahi, tuna and blue marlin. We’ll actually see an episode next season when we catch a blue marlin and a ton of wahoo. “And all outside the same destination.”

McCoy has been a fan of Chasin’ the Sun and Captain Leake for a while. McCoy is not alone as Chasin’ the Sun, sponsored by Visit Pennsylvania City Beach, is heading into its ninth season on the air and has received a Destiny Award and a People’s Choice Award from the U.S. Travel Association. But Captain Lake laughed out loud when I asked him how long he had been famous.

“Fame is in the eye of the beholder,” he said with a smile. “We started doing Chasin’ the Sun eight years ago. I guess you could say that’s when he started getting recognized for me.”

The pressure is on

However, on his guiding boat, clients don’t care how famous Captain Lake is (or not). They are interested in fishing. This is much more stressful than hosting a nationally known television show, Captain Lake said.

“When we do TV, we reshoot and have time too,” he said. “When I’m directing, I’m limited to a certain amount of time and I have certain expectations that I want to meet. So, if we’re doing a six-hour trip and it takes five hours and I still have a lot of boxes that I haven’t checked yet, I feel a lot of pressure.

“Whereas if I had too many boxes to check while filming a TV show, we would stay out late or even come back the next day.”

Like many Panhandle guides, Capt. Lake, 41, started out as a deckhand or first mate on other fishing boats. He started his own guiding business in 2009 and quickly realized he was competing with a lot of his friends who also work as fishing guides. They all decided to team up to better enhance their marketing efforts and create Panama Beach City.

There are peaks and valleys but most species offer year-round fishing, he said. And with a brand-new 27-foot Conch boat equipped with a 425-horsepower Yamaha engine, Captain Leake can go after them all.

I’ve been on a lot of fishing vessels, but I’ve never seen one equipped with such an amazing array of electronics – all networked to be controlled by a single touch-screen computer on the console. Chasin the Sun’s title sponsors are Humminbird and Minn Kota. Captain Lake has collaborated with their engineers to create an amazing array of network integrations.

“Needless to say, they want to make sure I have the coolest, newest, best on my boat,” Captain Lake said. “I’ve already done a lot of photo shoots and shot some commercials with their new equipment. So, I have a very close relationship with them. They’re great companies.”

Besides controlling every electronic device on the boat via touchscreen computers, Captain Lake also outfitted Conch with a Seakeeper — what amounts to a giant 400-pound gyroscope on the bottom of the boat that virtually outweighs any and all high-altitude swaying and rolling . Seas. It also has a Seakeeper ride system that controls the ride through ocean waves.

“The motorized motors adjust 100 times per second to take into account every wave this boat encounters to balance the ride,” he said.

Captain Lake said that if he had not done so much of the outfitting himself, the ship would likely be worth more than $300,000.

“It amazes me to even say that,” Captain Lake said. “But when you want real craftsmanship, you have to pay for it. A lot of that came out of my pocket. But when I sat down to build this boat, I knew I had 20 years left in my career. “My goal was for this to be the last pilot boat I build.” By building it. So the cost of building this boat is an investment in my future.”

Double C charters

Captain Kalen Creel has invested in his future this year as well. Captain Creel has worked as a welder and deckhand on many fishing boats in his life. But this year, he decided to go full-time with his guide service, Double C Charters.

“I was nervous about it,” Capt. Creel said. “But so far things are going great.”

We chose an inshore fishing trip with Captain Creel. It was a good thing because the winds were so strong on the day we chose, a cruise was out of the question. We started our redfish fishing trip on Captain Creel’s protected beach on Shell Island called “Children’s Basin.”

We then moved on to face some big waves crashing ashore at Captain Creel’s sweet spot, a large jetty that protects the passage into St Andrew Bay. There we had (or had to) fight big reds and big waves.

Florida red fishing can’t compare at all to the amazing red fishing in coastal Louisiana. But strict regulation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has helped residents greatly. After years of deep cuts, regulations have eased somewhat for Florida’s highly sought-after red snapper.

Bottom line, whether you want big trophy fish for fun, or food for the table, you can find a guide in Panama City Beach to make it happen.

If you want to learn more about Captain Lick, Chasin’ the Sun, or fishing in Panama City Beach, it’s easy to find a wealth of information:

(tags for translation) Louisiana

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