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Author Topic:   Report From The Forgotten Coast (Apalachicola)
kingfish posted 04-09-2004 03:41 PM ET (US)   Profile for kingfish   Send Email to kingfish  

My daughter Jess, my Outrage 22 Outre´ and I returned from Apalachicola FL this past Sunday evening, and I am reporting in about the boating and fishing and friendly people we experienced.

I made arrangements for a two-week stay at Bay City Lodge, a fishing camp located about two miles upriver from the mouth of the Apalachicola River that I had spent a long week at last spring with my son Chris, thanks to Clark Roberts who encouraged me to try it out. I drove down in two days from Battle Creek (1050 miles +/-) and spent the first week on my own; due to conflicting vacation schedules my wife Katie couldn’t make it at all (she and her two sisters left for four days in Vegas while we were on the road home), and my daughter’s spring break was only the second of the two weeks I was there. I had to be back in the office by Monday, April 5.

Let me tell you about Bay City Lodge. It is owned by Jimmy Mosconis, who is always in evidence running around doing something of a clean-up, fix-up nature, and who with his new (28’, I think) Grady White, is a consummate fisherman in his own right. Managed by Buddy Renfro and Hal Dolan (who is married to Jimmy’s sister who in turn runs the restaurant); the friendliest and most helpful bunch of people you’d ever hope to meet, and all in one place. It is a full service fishing lodge directly on the banks of the Apalachicola River, with single bungalows that sleep up to five (each in their own beds) in two bedrooms with two queen beds in each and a roll out couch in the living area plus bath and full kitchen, “motel” type duplexes and triplexes with similar arrangements to the bungalows up to a six bedroom unit with a dining area that is like a “lodge” all on it’s own. All the accommodations are reasonably priced, in my opinion; I rented a two-bedroom bungalow for the duration of my stay for $90.00 a day. Bay City has a full service restaurant that specializes in fresh that day seafood, they excel in preparation, and will cook your own fresh caught fish any way you like it for about half the cost of a standard entrée. (My favorite is my own fresh caught grouper broiled and stuffed with crabmeat.)

They have fresh and frozen inshore and offshore bait, a full tackle shop with snacks and drinks and pretty fair stock of boating and trailering supplies, as well as gasoline, an ice shed where they make their own ice, dockage, dry boat storage, boat ramp and fish cleaning stations, “do-it-yourself” or “do-it-for-you”. I know I’m leaving something out; suffice it to say, you can separate yourself very effectively from the rest of the world there for about as long as you like. Oh, there are no phones in the rooms and no keys for the doors. While you’re at Bay City Lodge, you are in a different world, with friendly people who are all there because they love to fish primarily, and to boat, and to share their experiences doing both. Bay City has six or eight guides, fishing or sightseeing, inshore or offshore. Brownie Parkman is the pick of the litter, in my opinion, and just a fun guy to get to know as well as having huge knowledge of both inshore and offshore ambience.

Bay City Lodge property extends right to the river’s edge, but the docks and buildings are sheltered even from the river, much less Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf, accessed via a small creek maybe 150 yards long. Fresh water in the river and the creek, so there’s no need to flush the saltwater out of your engine at the end of the day; it happens automatically. It’s about two miles down to the mouth of the river and the town of Apalachicola, about ten miles across Apalachicola Bay to Government Cut between St George and Little St. George Islands, which when you pass through, presents you with the Gulf of Mexico. The ICW comes in from the East end of the bay (Apalachicola Bay is about 30 miles long), up the river 3 or 4 miles and then heads west inland to Panama City, with a canal cut down to Port St. Joe Bay and Port St. Joe. There is also a network of rivers (East River, St, Mark River, Little St. Mark River, etc.) accessible from the Apalachicola via creeks and cut-offs. When it’s too windy to boat or fish on the Bay or the Gulf, there is the opportunity to do both in smooth water all over the rivers and the ICW. There is apparently quite a largemouth bass fishery in the fresh water areas, redfish, black drum, spotted trout, sheephead and whiting in the Bay, and all the typical grouper, snapper, amberjack, blackfin tuna and other Gulf fish offshore.

It was a little windier than I would have liked a lot of the time I was down there, but there were enough good days that I got a lot of fishing in, and there wasn’t a day that I didn’t put 50 miles behind us doing something. The biggest day for both fishing and boating was a 120-mile day that took us, in the company of Wayne and Lucretia Parker and their 25’ World Cat (and Brownie taking a busman’s holiday, just fishing for fun on a day off from guiding), grouper fishing in 145’ of water, 40 or 45 miles out from Government Cut. The Parkers freely shared the locations of their favorite holes with us, we all caught nice grouper, a bunch of way big red snapper that were out of season and had to go back, and Lucretia pulled in about a 20# blackfin tuna. Jess and I both caught snapper and grouper, and I hooked and “landed” about a 5’ blacktip shark I’d guess went 80# or 90#. Thankfully he hooked up on one of my 4/0 Penns with 50# test line and 80# test leader rather than the lighter stuff; he was scrappy and took better than ½ hour to get boatside. He was completely whacked when I finally got him to the boat, so Jess got some good pictures of him and was able to feel his skin while I supported him at the surface by the leader. He was just hooked in the corner of his mouth by the 10/0 hook I had on the grouper rig, so after the photo session, I was able to just pull the hook free with pliers and let him sink. About 10 feet down he turned over and took off. Anyway, more about the biggest day… We took off just before daylight, about 6:15, and pulled back in our slip almost dead on 12 hours later. NOAA reports in the morning predicted 2 foot waves with 6 second periods, so we knew it would be easy sailing, but the gulf was so flat that we were able to run the entire 55 miles back at just about 40 mph, and we beat the World cat in, which is what a Whaler should do!

My daughter Jess typically caught more and bigger fish than I did, and that was a thrill for both of us. She was on spring break from college in Chicago, and while she has spent time fishing with me around our place in the North Channel of Lake Huron, I’ve not been convinced that fishing was her favorite thing to do, especially on a short week break from college. Turned out she had a riot, and I had another one watching her and being with her. Our opportunities to spend time together like this are going to only get fewer and farther apart, so I really cherished the week we had together down there.

Outre´ ran like she was brand new for the entire trip. I’d had some mechanical problems last year starting with bearings on the power steering and high speed misfires on the Apalachicola trip a year ago, that culminated before the season was over with replacement of the rectifier, stator, spark plug wires and spark plugs, volt gauge, thermostats, oil reservoir, fuel lines, water pump kit and lower unit chimney seal, and surgical removal of all the oem OMC power steering parts inside and outside the cowling, and replacement with a simple Teleflex center mount hydraulic steering unit. (It seems like there was even more, but I can’t think of what it could have been.) I treated Outre´’s motor with anti carbon when I de-winterized at home before the trip, and added OMC carbon guard whenever I added fuel. I really don’t thing the motor has run this well since I bought the rig with 180 hours on her five years ago. I am not getting black deposits on the transom any more (LHG swears that both he and Steve Farnsworth had to clean *my* carbon from *their* transoms at a rendezvous last year), just the typical “bug-bomb” effect of a two-stroke when I first start her up.

She seems to have a sweet spot between 4000 and 4500 rpm where it really sounded like we’d hit a harmonic synchronization and the motor would just sing. Made me think of how Enzo Ferrari would talk about the song of twelve cylinders (except I’ve only got six). Top end when I first purchased Outre´, before I raised the console, added an arch and installed the Mills canvas was 53 mph GPS at just over 5500 rpm; on this trip, with the raised console, the arch and my Mills suntop flying, I got 49.8 mph GPS at 5700 rpm. I seriously wonder if I pulled all that stuff off and did an apples to apples comparison to how Outre´ was outfitted when I first got her, if I wouldn’t hit 55 mph! She’s running like a top, and I’m a happy camper.

It was a great vacation; we fished successfully about 13 miles out from Government Cut on the Apalachicola Reef (rubble from the old Apalachicola bridge) twice, the second time with the advantage of live bait. The Parkers showed us how and where to fish for squirrel fish (“grouper love to eat them”), which was a hoot all in itself – these things are bigger than the perch we catch and eat in the North Channel – and it is unsettling to bring your hook back up after a strike, with nothing left but the head! There are some big and hungry critters down there… I got up the Apalachicola about 45 miles on one windy but clear and sunny day; I’d like to go further some time. Traveled all over the network of rivers (tributaries?) at the lower end of the Apalachicola River, where the only evidence of civilization is an occasional floating shack tied off to the cypress trees. There were lots of alligators sunning themselves on the banks and on floating logs; very little boat traffic, sometimes none at all. We fished the Bay a few times and got a couple of legal reds for dinner along with a black drum, but typically the best spots would be troubled by winds when the bite would normally be on, a little one way or the other from high tide.

Oh, and we ate “downtown” a few times, both at Boss Oyster and at Papa Joe’s Oyster bar; our preference turned out to be Boss Oyster. The oysters seemed to typically be bigger, and the service and quality of food seemed just a little better. I think we had oysters of some sort every day. Big fresh Apalachicola Bay oysters raw on the half shell are about as good as they get in my book, with full apologies to Felix’s and Acme in New Orleans who have some damn fine Mississippi delta oysters, too.

All in all it was really a perfect trip; we got to play just as hard as we wanted to, nobody got hurt, everything worked as it was supposed to, nothing of consequence broke (short of the terminal tackle and leaders of various sizes, by the big ones that got away), we caught fish, had some fresh for dinner, and Jess and I spent some quality time together.

It don’t get no better than that.

(Finally, thanks again to Clark Roberts who recommended the Apalachicola area in general and Bay City Lodge specifically.)

Moe posted 04-09-2004 08:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Thanks for that trip report, John. Brought back memories. I sure miss the Panhandle.


Knot at Work posted 04-10-2004 09:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     
great story!

Awesome boating

kingfish posted 04-10-2004 12:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     

You're welcome - I wish that area would remain "the forgotten coast" to all but my and a couple hundred of my close friends forever, but I think it's probably too late; there were at least 50 homes being built around Apalachicola this spring, according to the locals. It is still a wonderful, sleepy little area, though. Closest WalMart is in Panama City.


Thanks - we couldn't have had a better time. One sight I forgot to mention that still knocks me out, was while we were on our way back to camp on our big fishing day. We were still 30 or so miles out from Government Cut and besides Wayne's World Cat 3 or 4 miles behind us, there was nothing but water to see in all directions, save the occasional seagull floating around out in the middle of nowhere. As we approached one seagull, he seemed to be sitting higher in the water than others we had seen; getting closer still, it became apparent he was standing on something. Now having had my eyes pretty well open while we were out there, I had not seen anything like a log or anything else floating anywhere, so I was wondering if the gull was standing the carcass of a good sized dead fish. When we got close enough to see what it really was, too late to get my camera out to catch it on film, we saw it was a seagull standing on the back of a sea turtle! Our proximity caused the turtle to dive, and the gull flew away, but the visual remains with me, and I hope it will for a long time.

prxmid posted 04-12-2004 08:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for prxmid  Send Email to prxmid     
Good Story, we need more trip reports in this section
Eagleman posted 04-12-2004 11:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for Eagleman  Send Email to Eagleman     
I think I put on 10# just thinking about the crab meat stuffed Grouper and all the Oyster's. Glad the trip turned out so well, it's truly a special event when everthing falls into place on a vacation. I'll assume Katie covered your fishing trip with the winnings from Vegas, now that really would be a perfect vacation!
Best regards,
Russ & Paula
prj posted 04-12-2004 12:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Thanks so much for the vicarious vacation John,
I love a good fishing trip narrative.

Your apologies to the Acme Oyster Bar in New Orleans
brought back a fine recollection of my own.

October of '89 or so,
I spent a fabulous afternoon inside the Acme
while briefly vacationing in the city.
It was the most immediate location that had an early season
Packers / Bears game on television.
Not a bad place to spend the game I must say...

kingfish posted 04-12-2004 03:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     

Ha, Ha! The fact of the matter was that I had to underwrite Katie's trip in order to keep peace in the family, but if anybody won anything, I didn't see it!

It did all work out fine, though my preference would have been to spend some quality time with the better half of this union somewhere...


The only thing I can think of in the crescent city that would come close to that would have been across the street at Felix's (my favorite - and I *think* they have a TV). I have fond memories of sidling up to the bar at Felix's and giving the shucker a five spot, so my oysters would all the big ones. (And I mean *big*- they grow 'em biggger in the Mississippi delta.)

kingfish posted 04-12-2004 03:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
bigger, too...
Florida15 posted 04-13-2004 05:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for Florida15  Send Email to Florida15     
I've spent time around Appalach, St.Joe,Mexico Beach and Wewa for over 40 years now and it sickens me to see the changes going on.
I can remember back in the early 60s going down there with my grandfather, staying in a boarding house and eating at
"The Grill" when his work took him down there.
Since St.Joe Company has become a development company instead of a paper company, they are developing their millions of acres of woodlands in the panhandle. I understand that the scenic drive right along the gulf in Mexico Beach is about to be no more. They somehow got permission to move U.S. HIGHWAY 98 north a half mile and they are planning to build high rises on that land. How they got permission to do that is beyond me.
Anyway, that is a great area. It's still less spoiled than any other that I am aware of. Just enjoy it now because it won't be that way much longer.
kingfish posted 04-13-2004 07:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Wow, that's a jarring thought to consider the highway moving a half mile inland at Mexico Beach. That is such a quaint stretch just as it is. I've been sitting here trying to visualize what it would be like after the move, and I just can't get a picture that I like as well as the current one. Bummer.
Florida15 posted 04-14-2004 10:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for Florida15  Send Email to Florida15     
It is a jarring thought but then my favorite hunting spot now has a golf course on it and I never in my wildest dreams thought that would happen. Courtesy of the St.Joe company. But then, it's their land and they can do what they want with it.
I guess that area would have been developed a lot sooner if they hadn't owned so much of the woodlands.
I'm sure one of my favorite hangouts when I'm down there, The Wonder Bar, will not be there much longer. That's an expensive piece of land that little bar is sitting on.
Did you happen to eat at Julia Mae's when you were in Appalach ?
kingfish posted 04-14-2004 10:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
No, we didn't - we saw a couple of restaurants downtown but only had first hand recommendations for Papa Joes and Boss Oyster. Did we miss a bet? If so, it could go on the list of reasons to go back...
Florida15 posted 04-14-2004 12:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for Florida15  Send Email to Florida15     
I first ate at Julia Mae's back in the mid-70s when it was in Carabelle sitting on the docks over the water. You could see the water between the floorboards. They didn't have a liquor license but you could bring your own beer so we brought in a cooler and sat it beside the table.
We would ride down there from FSU about every Sunday. A seafood platter that you could hardly finish was $3.50.
They have since moved closer to Appalachicola into a little nicer digs. I've only eaten there once since they moved but it was still great.
They are on Hwy 98 just east of Appalach.
kingfish posted 04-15-2004 10:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Thanks for that-
Swellmonster posted 04-17-2004 01:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for Swellmonster  Send Email to Swellmonster     
Hope you were wearing the Bullfrog! :)

Great posting!

JimG posted 04-17-2004 12:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for JimG  Send Email to JimG     

Sarah and I enjoyed your report of the Apalachicola area.
Her home in Sea Grove Beach is about 65 miles West of Apalachicola, when there we go to Boss Oyster for lunch as often as we can.

I plan to have my boat down at her home next winter, I'll
have to get a little more fishing information for the area
when we get together this summer. Hope to see some pictures
of Jess and yourself fishing and boating.

See you soon,
Jim & Sarah

kingfish posted 04-21-2004 04:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     

Bullfrog? Don't embarass me too badly here, but what is up with the bullfrog?


I think I remember you saying something about Sarah's home being in the vicinity of Apalachicola last summer. I am getting some photos of the trip together and ready to post or e-mail; I'll see to it that they get to you one way or another. Look forward to seeing you guys this summer and when we get together I'll tell you everything I know (about fishing around Apalachicola - that'll take a few minutes - everything I know about everything will take two minutes more...).

David Jenkins posted 04-21-2004 10:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Jenkins  Send Email to David Jenkins     
Thanks for the great trip report, Kingfish. I think that Swell was saying that he hoped you were wearing sun screen.
kingfish posted 04-21-2004 10:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
I knew it was going to be something obvious like that...

Yupper, I had on the 60 grade all the time, and had either the suntop or weather set up all the time, as well as UV protective long sleeve shirt and full leg wind pants and my Whaler hat. Doctor started me on a diuretic shortly before the trip, and said I had to be particularly careful about the sun because of it, and I was. Doesn't mean I can't go outside though, and I got a little color, but I didn't peel when I stopped with the after sun stuff, and that has never happened after a spring trip south. Must be doing something right...

jimh posted 04-23-2004 12:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
John--A very excellent report on what sounds like an excellent vacation trip.

It is good to hear that OUTRÉ is in excellent condition, although it is hard to believe you had any room for improvements--she is just about the finest OUTRAGE 22 anyone has ever seen.

kingfish posted 04-23-2004 09:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Jeez, Jim - thank you for the compliment on Outre´; that's very generous and I truly appreciate it.

(Can't seem to get that acute sign exactly in the right place except when in HTML)

David Jenkins posted 04-23-2004 10:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Jenkins  Send Email to David Jenkins     
What does Outré mean?
Knot at Work posted 04-23-2004 10:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     
kingfish posted 04-24-2004 08:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
More like, "outrageous", or, "over the top". Knot's right, it is intentionally a play on the word, "outrage".
kingfish posted 04-24-2004 08:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
And how did you get that acute in the right place?
David Jenkins posted 04-24-2004 08:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Jenkins  Send Email to David Jenkins     
On the Macintosh, you hold down the option key and type and e then let go of the option key and type another e (or an o or an i or any other letter).
David Jenkins posted 04-24-2004 08:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Jenkins  Send Email to David Jenkins     
I meant to say, type an e, not type and e.
andygere posted 04-28-2004 02:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Great post and it sounds like a great trip. I am looking forward to the time when my kids get a bit older so I can take them on trips in Namequoit like the one you described. It sounds like you found a really terrific place for boating and fishing, thanks for sharing the details.
Landlocked posted 04-28-2004 02:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for Landlocked  Send Email to Landlocked     
Sounds like a great place! tried to find some info on the internet but no go. Do you have a phone number where I could request a brochure?


kingfish posted 04-28-2004 08:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Thanks, but I've got a Windows machine...

You're welcome; and believe me, your kids will be grown up and out of the house in the blink of an eye - enjoy every minute!

You've gor email - I sent you a scan of Buddy Renfro's business card (manager), but here is a phone number and website: (850)653-9294


(Unfroze and cooked some of the grouper we brought home just the other day - marinated in a jerk sauce and broiled it. Died and went to heaven - just about went out and hooked the boat and trailer up and headed back south!)

Moe posted 04-28-2004 08:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
On a Windows machine, hold down the Alt key and type 0233 on the keypad. Outré

There's an application in the Start->Programs->Accessories menus called Character Map. You can select characters and copy and paste them from there into something, and you can look up the Alt code for those characters.

kingfish posted 04-28-2004 10:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Thanks Moe-
I've been using the character map, but I'm fairly new to it and I "stopped reading" when I got to a stand-alone character that looked like an acute, with the key stroke Alt0180 (Outre´). Now I can do it just like the Macs (Outré)!
where2 posted 05-04-2004 12:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
The reference to wearing "the Bullfrog", is a reference to a particular brand of sunscreen commonly used by surfers, and beach goers. It has a particular tenacity for sticking to you no matter how much you sweat or play in the water. When dealing with the sun in Florida, it is commonly recommended by those who play in the water as "locals". I don't go out in the boat without the Bullfrog. If I do, I usually return looking like a freshly cooked Maine Lobster.
kingfish posted 05-04-2004 02:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Ah, the mystery solved! Thanks where2 - if those ads are on TV up north here, I've missed them; sounds like the kind of stuff I need...

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