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Econfina River (West of Tallahassee)

by The General (on the FRF Message Board)

     The Econfina River (pronounced EE-con-Fine-a) is a river spring fed flow starting just below I-10 in the Florida Panhandle just north of Panama City.  With very little development until reaching Deer Pointe Lake, the Econfina is a real gem for any river enthusiast looking to get away from it all.  This river should not be confused with the other Econfina River (pronounced EE-con-Feen-a) that is located east of Tallahassee near Perry, FL.

The view from the Hwy 20 launch

    Having a tea-colored stained, this stream starts off very small and full of limestone rock, high sandy banks, and numerous sand bars.  The river is fed by numerous small springs throughout the flow and races along at over 3 miles an hour making it clear out very fast after a big rain. 

    Canoeists begin paddling at the first real put-in on the Econfina at Scott Rd.  Scott’s Rd down to the Wasingham Bridge is for those seeking a real adventure.  The Florida DNR says that it is a “strenuous” paddle for those whose skill level is “technical” and should never be down at high water.

    For those of us seeking to do some fishing, our trip most likely will begin at the Wasingham Bridge Park put-in.  Here the river (averaging 25 yards across) swiftly moves south with numerous turns and bends.  Fishermen can expect some blow downs in this section, especially when the water is low during of the year.  Most of this section sits on the WMD land so you will see very little development along the float.  Florida River Fishing believes to have only seen three houses all the way down to the Econfina River Canoe Livery.  (6 miles)

    The Canoe Livery is one of the highlights of this pristine water way.  They are open year round, reservations only in the winter months, and offer a variety of services.  For around $40 a canoe (seats two people), beginners and experienced fishermen alike can rent Old Town Canoes for a good day on the water.  They also have kayaks including several new ones specifically made for fishing.  Don’t let not having a watercraft slow you down when considering the Econfina River.

    The Econfina River Canoe Livery  (850-722-9032), operated by Clifford and Debbie, have offered all those from Florida River Fishing a five dollar discounts on their services (excluding weekends and holidays).  They have run the outfitter for nearly 30 years and know the river very well.

    From the canoe outfitters down, is where the best fishing will most likely be.  The river widens a lot, in some places to nearly 100 yards and much more suited to beginners, thanks to the numerous springs that come into the river.  Willford Springs, Pitts Springs, and especially Gainer Springs offer river fishermen a burst of 68 degree water year round.  Gainer Springs opens up into a big lake area off to the west side of the river just downstream of the Hwy 20 put-in.  Here the water appears to come right out of the rocks.

    The river begins to slow down from its’ rapid pace as it passes Hwy 388 and backs up into Deer Pointe. 

    Fishing on the Econfina River is excellent, especially on the lower sections.  Largemouth bass can be caught off the numerous blow downs, outside bends, and off the limestone rocks using crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and plastic worms.  Redbreast and Shell cracker fishing is second to none and can be found using the usual assortment of bettlespins, rooster tails, and worms.  As aggressive as these panfish are in the Econfina, several have been caught on lures targeting bass.

    Reports are that catfishing is good too.  Many bull and channel cats make their way up from the lake.  Just throw those chicken livers or handfuls of worms on your hook and toss them into one of the outside bends.  Fishermen will also see schools of huge red horse suckers throughout the year.

    According to many of the travel websites, the Econfina is one of the best vacation spots in the panhandle and a real hidden treasure.  Fishermen will see other paddlers on the water but this doesn’t slow the fishing down at all and has allowed for a lot of protection along this secluded waterway.  If you are planning on coming to the beaches and have had enough of the crowds, make your way over to the Econfina, there ain’t much fina!