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            The Saltwater Magazine for Gulf Coast Fishing!

             

             

             Apalachicola
            in Florida's Franklin County

            by Herb Allen
            Spring 2000

             

            Visitors to picturesque and historic Apalachicola in Franklin County experience a sense of timeliness in this north Florida Panhandle community abutting the Gulf of Mexico.

            Protected by four nearby barrier islands, Apalach is bordered by primitive state and national forests, along with state and national wildlife refuges, plus a national estuarine reserve. It reminds old timers of a bygone Florida of the early 1900s.

            Getting its name from an Indian word meaning "land beyond" or "those people residing on the other side," Apalachicola probably got its start when a Customs House was moved to the site in 1823, several years following the conclusion of the Indians War.

            By 1837, the community boasted of two banking facilities and, by 1840, its population had grown to 1,020 residents.

            Perhaps Dr. John Gorrie can lay claim to being Apalachicola's most prominent citizen. While conducting research on a cure for yellow fever, Dr. Gorrie, tried to invent some kind of air conditioning system to bring down the fever of his patients and, by accident, came up with an ice machine, a replica of which can be seen in the town's John Gorrie Museum.

            Another Apalach-based physician, Dr. Alvan W. Chapman, studied the tropical growth of the Apalachicola River and, in 1860, published "The Flora of the Southern United States," a book considered for many years to be "the last word" on this subject. Incidentally, Chapman's home still stands.

            Today, although hunting season is over until next fall, anglers are cashing in on some of the best saltwater and freshwater fishing to be enjoyed anywhere in the country during these spring and early-summer months as piscatorial prizes come awake in a near-pristine aqua environment.

            Right now, cobia - known here-abouts as "ling" - roam near Franklin County's more than 200 miles of relatively undeveloped shoreline and beach areas, scrappy trout are scattered about seemingly endless miles of shallow, lush grass flats, and ready-to-pounce redfish are schooled up in passes, around oyster bars and throughout backcountry haunts.

            Nor will it be long before tarpon invade St. George Sound, East Bay, various bayous and numerous rivers and feeder creeks flowing into Apalachicola Bay and St. Vincent Sound.

            Frankly, I've always found it puzzling that silver kings haven't received more attention from locals. In the mid-70's, Capt. Harlan Franklin (who has since relocated to Key West) organized two well-attended tarpon tournaments in an effort to spotlight these glorious gamesters, but it took Tampa Bay area anglers to win both years. I particularly recall the victors in 1977 because your writer, partnered with angling guru Roger Cavallo, were crowned after three hard days of tournament activity.

            Not long following a sumptuous Easter banquet, hoards of king mackerel will move into deeper areas out from the barrier islands of St. George, Dog, Cape St. George and St. Vincent after wintering in the sub-tropical waters off Key West.

            Mixed with kings will be flashy Spanish mackerel, bruiser bonito and opportunistic barracuda which'll present real Waltonion challenges for slow-trollers and drifters who employ tackle in light to medium-sized ranges. Drop live baits or jigs onto numerous natural or man-made reefs to 200-foot depths and hang on tight because red snapper, gag grouper and amberjack are ready and willing adversaries spoiling for a fight.

            It's truly mind-boggling what can be found further out around the comparatively unexplored "blue water" reefs, ridges and drop-offs which frequently plummet to 1600-1800 fathom depths when venturing south from such Panhandle ports as Apalach, on west to Panama City, Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama.

            Lawdy, lawdy! With my own baby blues, I've seen pods of blowing whales, gigantic blue marlin to 700 pounds, huge schools of powerful bluefin tuna, bull dolphin, leaping white marlin and skyrocketing sailfish. Action sometimes got so hectic that I was almost afraid to drop a line in the water.

            Those looking for a change of pace can explore literally hundreds of freshwater hotspots within spittin' distance of Apalachicola for largemouth bass, striped bass, bream, crappie and various species of catfish including the flathead which grows to nearly 100 pounds and the bulky channel breed that often tips the Toledos at 40 to 50 pounds.

            In addition to seeing nearly 200 historically significant homes and commercial structures around town, visitants can explore the interesting Apalachicola Maritime Museum or the aforementioned John Gorrie State Museum. Landlubbers can also relish several of Apalachicola's unique restaurants, galleries, stores and antique shops, or take a brief cruise aboard the "Governor Stone," an 1877 63-foot fully-restored Gulf coast schooner.

            A short hop to St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge should be on everybody's agenda where they're still apt to see a wild sandbar deer which was imported from the Orient at the turn of the century. Before the Feds acquired St. Vincent Island in the 1970's and screwed things up by relocating much of its wildlife, the (then) privately-owned island was populated with zebra and eland herds from Africa, plus exotic animals from throughout the world. Of course, whitetail deer, hogs, gators and numerous species of animal and birdlife native to the Sunshine State thrive in abundance.

            Other area must-sees include the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve which covers nearly 200,000 acres and is one of the nation's largest. The Cape St. George State Reserve, a 28-mile-long barrier island separating Apalachicola Bay from the Gulf of Mexico, affords us an opportunity to explore a remnant of Florida's natural landscape and see the 72-feet-high Cape St. George Lighthouse built in 1852. The expansive Apalachicola National Forest and Tate's Hell State Forest are places where folks can hike, hunt or fish amid thousands of acres of primitive forests.

            Listen up, folks and trust me on this. Anytime yawl have an opportunity to visit Apalachicola and fish its waters or hunt its nearby woods, jump on it quick.

            You'll not be disappointed - guaranteed.

            UPCOMING EVENTS
            Call Chamber of Commerce at (850) 653-9419 for details
            April 1. Antique Car Club Race - Panama City to Apalachicola.
            April 29-20. Historic Antique & Classic Boat Show.
            May 6. 7th Annual Spring Tour of Historic Homes.
            June 3. Annual Blue Parrot Mullet Toss.
            Oct. 7. St. George Island Music Festival & Art Show.
            Nov. 3-5. 37th Annual Florida Seafood Festival.
            Nov. 25. Merchant's Association Christmas Celebration.
             
            RESTAURANTS
            Apalachicola Seafood Grill & Steakhouse. Call (850) 653-9510.
            Boss Oyster Restaurant. Call (850) 653-9364.
            Caroline's Dining On The River. Call (850) 653-8139.
            Gibson Inn. Call (850) 653-2191.
            Magnolia Grill. Call (850) 653-8000.
            The Old Fashioned Soda Fountain. Call (850) 653-2806.
            Tamara's Cafe Floridita. Call (850 653-4111.
             
            ACCOMMODATIONS
            Best Western Apalach Inn. Call (850) 653-9131.
            Brigette's Romantic Retreat. Call (850) 653-3270.
            Coombs House Inn. Call (850) 653-9199.
            The Consulate Riverfront Apts. Call (850) 653-4099.
            Gibson Inn. Call (850) 653-2191.
            Rainbow Inn & Marina. Call (850) 653-8139.
            Witherspoon Inn. Call (850) 653-9186.
            Sportsman's Lodge. Call (850) 670-8423.
            Rancho Inn. Call (850) 653-9435.
            The Cypress. Call (850) 653-9749.
            The Cedars. Call (850) 653-9749.
            Apalachicola River Inn. Call (850) 653-8139.
             
            FISHING GUIDES
            Capt. Hull Dickenson. Call (850) 927-3839.
            Capt. Tony Thompson. Call (850) 653-3560.
            Capt. Charles Wilson. Call (850) 653-9008.
            Capt. Ron Walters. Call (904) 670-8371.
            Capt. Tommy Robinson. Call (850) 653-8896.

             

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