St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States. Established in 1931 as a wintering ground for migratory birds, it encompasses 68,000 acres (280 km2) and is located in Florida’s panhandle just south of Tallahassee.
In the middle of a business trip that took me to Tallahassee, I spent a day exploring and fishing in the wildlife refuge in late October with an old friend, business associate and former Marine.
A Day on the Water
Best way to see this wildlife preserve is from a boat, drifting or slowing moving through the numerous oyster beds that make up this unique estuary ecosystem.
Fishing the Saint Marks
The Saint Marks river runs to the Gulf of Mexico and we spent the day fishing along the numerous oyster bars in the hunt for redfish and sheepshead, using live shrimp of jigs or DOAs at the edge of the oyster bars.
While fishing the shores of the refuge, we saw plenty of wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys, wild boar and plenty of dolphins as well as great blue heron and snowy egrets.
While the dolphins are beautiful and fun to watch, they do shut down the fishing because they are ferocious predators and scare all the fish away.
At the mouth of the Saint Marks river and the Gulf of Mexico sits the St. Marks lighthouse where it has stood since 1831, making it the second oldest lighthouse in Florida.
The lighthouse survived both the Seminole wars and the US Civil War as well as several hurricanes. The lighthouse was automated in 1960.