Plan ahead: Fall redfish, speckled trout outings at St. Marks

Fall redfish and speckled trout action inside the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Welcome to “the refuge.” The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is the gem of the Big Bend. More than 80,000 acres of land habitat, full of alligators, whitetail deer, bobcats, bald eagles and panthers. It is the wildest acreage left in Florida, and it all borders 30 miles of saltwater marsh. 

It is part refuge and part big Bend Aquatic Preserve. The 30 miles of coastline are filled with spring-fed creeks and rivers that feed Apalachee Bay. The bay is home to the largest expanse of grass flats left in the western hemisphere.

Did I mention the redfish and trout? Fall is hungry time, so begin to plan ahead for Florida State football weekends. What will you want to do before or after games? The fish will be hungry in the fall when the hot weather has passed. A boat trip into the refuge is a step back in time to a Florida that once existed. No construction, no houses, no traffic, just saltwater and marsh grass. Take a trip mid-week and you will have the whole place to yourself. It’s possibly the perfect escape with a heavy dose of redfish and trout action.

Top-water redfish action is the best and our favorite. Big explosions, lots of drag and awesome bronze redfish. Speckled trout fishing in the Big Bend is world class. Big fish willing to smash a top-water on every cast! If top-water fishing isn’t in your skill set, no worries. Your guide will coach you into a top-water gamer in no time. Once you have mastered your new skill, you will own it for a lifetime. 

The launch point for your adventure is the city of St. Marks, which is located just 20 miles south of the FSU campus. A short drive to your guide boat that is fully equipped with guide, license and gear. This is a come-as-you-are, laid back, take a deep breathe kind of trip. So relax, no screaming guides, just saltwater, sunshine and fish.

Some adventure seekers who like to trailer their boat to the refuge may want to have a guide for their first trip before branching out on their own. Apalachee Bay is riddled with rocks and oyster bars. It takes a heavy dose of local knowledge to avoid trouble. There are some great local guides that do not mind helping you navigate safely.

The invitation stands. If you are visiting FSU this fall for a game or just need a reason to escape, the redfish will be waiting. Now is the time to book a trip for fall. Don’t miss the redfish in the refuge. Make it a perfect weekend of busting redfish and enjoying a Florida State win!

Captain Mike McNamara has been guiding the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge for over two decades. As the owner and operator of St. Marks Outfitters, LLC. Captain Mike is also the co-publisher of Coastal Angler Magazine-Big Bend Edition. He is a USCG-licensed captain, ACA kayak instructor, avid mountain biker, waterfowl hunter and outdoor photographer. 

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