Out of State Destinations: St. Marks, Florida

Undeveloped coastal area a mecca for peace, quiet beauty… and fishing

The town of St. Marks, Florida, sits at the confluence of the Wakulla River and the St. Marks River and it is five miles upriver from the Apalachee Bay on the northern Gulf of Mexico coast.

The town, which is 20 miles south of Tallahassee, is a quiet seaport of historical significance woven into the forest and rivers around it. The St. Marks ambiance is extended beyond the town by the 83,000 acres of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, plus state wildlife management areas and state parks. If you like small coastal towns and accessible natural environments, you should take a look at what the St. Marks area has to offer.

The St. Marks area is on the western edge of the Florida Nature Coast, which is a 200 mile long stretch of largely undeveloped coastline. Most of this coastline is sitting on a shallow shelf of the Gulf of Mexico, which means that grass flats and salt marshes developed instead of the iconic Florida beaches.

Coastline preserved

State and federal agencies had the forethought to preserve this beautiful coastline and now visitors can experience a truly unique landscape teaming with marine and terrestrial wildlife and hardly a dock or a structure to break the miles of natural coastline.

The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a popular destination for birdwatchers and anglers, and its well preserved lighthouse is guaranteed to appear in every visitor’s photo album. The eastern section of the refuge provides many opportunities for birdwatching along a 5 mile stretch of paved road that provides access to the lighthouse, a public launching ramp, and marsh beaches of the Apalachee Bay. There are also many miles of public trails through the refuge and primitive campsites accessible by boat for the hardcore adventurers.

Excellent saltwater fishing opportunities abound in the St. Marks area, as well as a popular season for harvesting bay scallops. For those anglers who focus on inshore fishing, the area is supercharged by an abundance of oyster bars, miles of shallow flats covered with seagrass, marsh creeks, and the brackish water of the St. Marks river. This habitat is perfectly suited for speckled trout, redfish, flounder, black sea bass and Spanish mackerel. Trophy speckled trout over 25 inches in length are caught here and you may find yourself hooked up with an unexpected trophy such as a large cobia.

I consider the seagrass flats around St. Marks to be one of the most beautiful environments I have ever fished. Floating on crystal clear water over miles of seemingly manicured seagrass is a mesmerizing experience, but expect that the tranquility will be shattered by a gator trout smashing your Mirrodine.

Specks move in

In the wintertime, the speckled trout move into the St. Marks River and the many creeks that flow out of the salt marshes. During this time, proficient anglers can find secluded trout up to 30 inches in length or pursue the schools of legal sized trout that stack up in the river. I experienced the river bite in 2022, when over several hours we landed more than 100 trout that averaged 16 inches in length and a few that were over 20 inches. Trout seemed to be everywhere we cast and they wore us out with their aggressive attacks on our jerkbaits. There are several experienced guides in the area who can put you on a trophy speckled trout, including Asa Martin, who runs Angry Fish Inshore Charters.

The St. Marks area is also uniquely suited for year-round inshore kayak fishing. There is easy access for kayakers to excellent fishing on grass flats, oyster bars, in creeks, and the St. Marks River. Many kayakers launch by the St. Marks lighthouse and are catching fish after only a quarter mile paddle.

The town of St. Marks is an excellent place to lodge when exploring the area or chasing those big trout. You can stay at the Sweet Magnolia Inn for a eloquent experience or stay on the water at the Shell Island Fish Camp. I have stayed at the fish camp many times and appreciate their low cost daily boat slip rentals, bait store, and a wide choice of lodging, including motel rooms, several sizes of cabins, and RV spots. While you are in St. Marks town, make sure to eat at the Riverside Cafe, which is accessible by road or water and offers a great menu of seafood and burgers.

If you want to take a day off from fishing or birding, follow the Wakulla River up to the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park where you can bathe in the 70 degree spring water while watching fish swim far below the surface. While you are there, take in the grandeur of the historical 1937 hotel, The Lodge at Wakulla Springs, which still provides luxurious lodging, a fine restaurant, and houses the world’s longest marble bar, which is 70 ft. long.

If you cannot go to Florida without having some beach time, take a day excursion to St. George Island where beautiful beaches abound. St. George Island is 70 miles southwest of St. Marks and while you are there, stop for dinner in the restored historical seaport town of Apalachicola, which is famous for its oysters.

The post “Out of State Destinations: St. Marks, Florida” first appeared on LouisianaSportsman.com.

About Jon Miller 9 Articles
Jon Miller is an engineer, lifetime fisherman, and host of the YouTube channel Jon Miller Fishing.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply