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Sunrise seatrout on the flats - St. Marks, Florida

The sun coming up over the St. Marks lighthouse.
The sun coming up over the St. Marks lighthouse.
Jimmy Jacobs

The sun just peaked above the pines and palms as the kayaks slid into the shallow water of Apalachee Bay. A slight breeze was putting just the hint of a chop on the water, but conditions were still good for some seatrout fishing in the shadow of the St. Marks lighthouse.

Seatrout abound on the flats at the mouth of the St. Marks River.
Jimmy Jacobs

The village of St. Marks and the nearby lighthouse both have very long pedigrees in the Big Bend area of Florida’s west coast. The town was originally called San Marcos de Apalache when it was founded by the Spanish in the 1600s.

The lighthouse, which is downstream of the town, is located on the eastern side of the mouth of the St. Marks River. The brick structure on the site was erected in 1842, guiding ships into the port of St. Marks.

Today the area has been by-passed by progress. St. Marks is no longer a port city and the lighthouse is out of service. On the other hand, the presence of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge stretching from the town to the lighthouse makes this a fantastic area for outdoors activities.

Among those activities is fishing for seatrout on the grass flats that front the lighthouse on Apalachee Bay. A canoe and kayak launch at the lighthouse make those flats easily accessible for paddle anglers from the mouth of the St. Marks River west to Sandy Bay.

The waters are about 1 to 4 feet deep on these flats, with a roughly 18-inch tidal range. Drifting these flats, casting topwater lures, shallow running jig-and-trailer combinations or even flies can produce trout in the 15- to 20-inch range. Because of the shallow water, competition for boating anglers is minimal for paddlers.

During the hot summer months the best angling is during the first couple of hours after sunrise. That period also is a magic time to be on these pristine waters. The flats are alive with seabirds beneath a brilliantly painted sky.

Nearby T-n-T Hide-A-Way Rentals offers kayak rentals, as well as guided paddle fishing trips to the area.