Escambia river can easily be found just to the east of Pensacola, Fl. It traverses all the way across the panhandle of Florida running north into the southern portion of Alabama. Being born in Milton, Florida and taking residence in Jay, Florida for over 40 years, I was fortunate to cut my teeth fishing from a john boat in every hole on Escambia River from Hwy 4 in Century south to Hwy 90 in Pensacola.
This river can actually be divided into two sections, North of Quintette, and South of Quintette as this highway crosses the river nearly half way between 4 and 90. Unfortunately, you cannot travel the entire length of the river by boat as there is a massive log jam that covers the entire river bed just to the north of Quintette Hwy. There are several places to launch from along this 30 miles of river, many only fitted for smaller river boats in the 14 to 16 foot range, but there are a few that can accommodate the larger bass boats.
Here are a few that I use on a regular basis and can be found on Google Earth, working south from Hwy 4. Bluff Springs is the first on the list and only suitable for smaller boats as there is no launch pad, only a hard bottom that has been used for many years. If you have a small john boat or river boat that is easily loaded and you don’t mind taking your time running a somewhat narrow at times waterway, then this is the place for you. Not much traffic on the upper end, but once you find your way around you will discover many hidden lakes and canals that can lead to some great bream, crappy, and even bass fishing. Most of the lakes on that end are off of the river, meaning you may walk several yards or so through the woods to these incredible treasures.
Mystic Springs, another small ramp, but has been updated to a concrete pad, and I have launched my 21 ft Triton there with no problems. The launch is very steep, so you will want good brakes before backing off in there. This is one of the better sites for larger boats as the river in this section is deeper. During the summer, many drag boats can be found racing on this straight away, so take caution if you see a very large rooster tail behind a very small boat coming your way. Keep in mind, there are several other launches up and down the river that I have not mentioned, merely because I don’t use them; therefore, I don’t know how safe they may or may not be. Both of these launches are on the west side of the river and are found along Hwy 29.
From the east side, there is Sandy Landing, a very nice ramp found just south of the mouth of Mineral Springs, a beautiful lake filled with cypress trees that are several hundred years old. You can follow the stream back in the woods until the water turns crystal clear and very cold. This lake is usually full of wood ducks, early in the morning, and mallards the rest of the day. Bring any size bass boat or river boat to Sandy Landing and be ready to enjoy some great fishing. Just a little north of there, you will find Big Williams Lake, a decent boat ramp with spots for camping, but the access road consist of several miles of dirt roads and can be reached just as easy from Sandy Landing.
Now let’s get serious and head south to the mouth of Escambia River and hit the Swamp House. A landing that can be found on the north side of Hwy 90. There is ample parking with bait and tackle available. There are two ramps with nice docks. Just be aware of the end of the concrete on low tide, you may find your trailer hung up, if you back in too far. Keep in mind that the concrete goes to the edge of the docks, and you will be fine. Once you have your rig in the water, the only problem you have now is “where to go” because as you face your boat to the north, you now have many options.
Stay with your bow between the buoys and travel up the river past the Gulf Power Crisp Steam Plant and be amazed at the path the tug boats take to get up to Monsanto. You can follow this all the way past Quintet Hwy some 12 miles upstream, or stop off at Governors Bayou, Beck’s Lake, or Quintet Lake just to name a few of the hundreds of great fishing spots along the way, or take a right at the steam plant and hit White River.
Stay in the throttle until you reach Blue Lake, or slow down and cast a line in the many coves, small lakes, or the miles of gas line canals that will lead you all over the basin. There are several awesome sand bars to enjoy a family picnic, or just pull up to the bank on any of the hard wood covered islands and sit in the shade and take in the scenery.
Fishing the tidal waters of Escambia River can be challenging at times, but that’s why it’s called fishing. …not catching.