Details: Possible honey hole
The Cedar Keys area is in the Big Bend region of Florida, about half way between Tampa and Tallahassee. Situated in the Gulf of Mexico they are made ...
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Fishing is a big draw in the region and anglers can enjoy targeting a number of species. The mix of freshwater, salt marshes and tidal flats attract thousands of shorebirds and serve as a nursery for fish, shrimp and shellfish. In freshwater, largemouth...
There have been reports that most of the gulf coast shallows have darkened with the fresh, tannin-stained water from a very rainy late winter and early spring. Doug ...more Stringfellow and I had to see for ourselves. Tuesday morning we headed over to the coast to check out Waccasassa Bay. Out on the rows of bars known as the Waccasassa Reefs, water was, indeedindeed, darker than usual. We agreed, though, that it was not as bad as we had feared. While the bottom wasn’t quite visible, we could see our jigs and jerkbaits down to about two feet. And the trout didn’t seem to have much trouble locating them. We boated a couple dozen trout, including eight of nice size.
But the biggest trout are coming from gulf shallows to the north, mostly between Horseshoe Beach and Keaton Beach. Poor weather kept the weekend fishing down, but good catches resumed by Monday. Fishing that day out of Steinhatchee with husband, Jeff, Debbie Evans caught one of the biggest trout seen over recent days at Sea Hag Marina. The big ‘speck’ weighed just over 6-pounds.
The big sheepshead that are spawning a little way offshore, though, are still the biggest deal here for anglers. Wednesday, Richard McDavid of Sea Hag and Randall Dasher, John Pfanzelt, and Clyde Sperring of McAlpin, Fl anchored on a spot with live, natural bottom in water 25-feet deep. For the next hour, the fish-catching was nonstop. They used live fiddler crabs for bait, and, Richard said, “No bait that made it to the bottom lasted for long”. The four men filled a combined 60-fish sheepshead limit in that one hour. With plenty of fishing time left, they decided to try their luck in the shallows; and there, their great luck continued with trout up to 23.5-inches and a 22-inch redfish.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary’s Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim
Right around this time of year, the first big wave of speckled trout seeking to escape the chilling shallow flats, floods into gulf coast tidal creeks. Some have ...more learned to predict pretty accurately this influx of hungry fish — and among this group are Gainesville anglers, Keith Chapman and Don House. Chapman and House were in a creek near the mouth of the Suwannee River’s East Pass Saturday morning, and it didn’t take long for the men to see that their timing was right. They twitched Bomber 14A jerkbaits over sandy spots in the current to catch and release “around 100 trout”… unable to give a precise count, having lost track by mid-morning.
A couple of large flounder, a 15-inch snook, and three big redfish rounded out the stellar fishing day.
Ed Burgess, too, enjoyed the outstanding Suwannee fishing. Monday morning, the Middleburg resident fished the backwater creeks and canals between West Pass and Salt Creek. Live shrimp had been unavailable that day, so Burgess cut strips from small yellowtail he was able to catch. Fished on the bottom in a deeper hole, the cut bait drew bites from redfish measuring 27 and 24 inches — and trout of 19 and 27-inches. Fishing out of Suwannee last Thursday, Lynn Baxley of Hawthorne whipped twin 26-inch reds on back-to-back casts. The fine brace of reds took large live shrimp fished on the bottom in Bumblebee Creek.
While visiting friends at Suwannee Sunday, Mike Streicher of Gainesville was treated to a great day of fishing. After netting mud minnows for bait, he cast them into rocky-bottomed areas in a deeper creek. The lively baits produced several nice trout and reds, topped by a 26.5-inch beauty. The fall mackerel run in our nearest gulf waters has to be nearly finished by now, but Robert and Jennifer Hart of Alachua proved that the razor-toothed speedsters were still around off Steinhatchee Saturday. Trolling Drone Spoons in 70-degree water 12-feet deep, they caught six Spanish in forty minutes. The largest two macks were each better than 5 pounds.
And the Harts’ luck with Spanish mackerel wasn’t an isolated happening. Great near-shore catches were common at Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach last weekend, with trout and mackerel the primary species seen. Richard McDavid of Sea Hag Marina was catching Spanish in waist-deep water Sunday when he saw another fish chasing bait at the surface.
The feeding fish was within casting range, so McDavid cranked in his jig fast to make the cast. As he pulled his lure from the water, he saw another mack chasing it — but this was a fish more than three feet long … apparently a kingfish feeding in the clear shallows along with its smaller cousins. Last weekend was one for great trout catches at Steinhatchee. Both speckled and sand trout were caught in the river near channel marker 18 by anglers casting and trolling jigs and slow-sinking Mirrolures.
And Carl Wheeler of Gray, Georgia took a giant 30-inch trout Monday near Keaton Beach. McDavid summed last weekend’s fast Steinhatchee action up by declaring, “The inshore action was just ridiculous”.
October is a notoriously-good month for redfish action on the gulf. And the red-catching is as good as it should be — with the added bonus of an unusually-large ...more number of very large fish. Capt. Jim Keith and his parties can testify to this, having recently battled sizable spot-tails pretty regularly.
Through last week, fishing cut mullet in his top Cedar Key spots, anglers in Capt.
Jim's boat hauled in and released over-slot reds measuring (in the order they were caught): 27 ¾, 29, 29 ¾, 27 ½, 36, 39, and 39 ½ inches.
The longtime salty guide added that the speckled trout fishing is very good on the grass flats. His top trout producers are Saltwater Assassin jigs under Cajun Thunder rattling floats.
The Cedar Key mackerel frenzy on Seahorse Reef also remains strong.
Big catches of hefty Spanish are still standard fare on the large offshore hump; and occasional kings — some pushing 40-pounds — also remain a possibility for trollers.
Large schools of baitfish are still in place on the reef; and as long as that is the case, the macks should stay put, as well.
The speckled trout bite is likewise strong a few miles up the Big Bend Coast. Fishing out of Steinhatchee Saturday, Joey Conn, James Lovvorn, and Rick Pena enjoyed a great trout-catching day.
The Gainesville trio drifted the grass flats north of the river, casting Stickminnows by Unfair Lures and Paul Brown Originals to fill a large, fifteen-fish triple limit that included three fish over 20 inches.
Pena said that locals had advised them that the afternoon bite would be better … and, sure enough, the trout started feeding fast at 11:30 a.m.
Last Friday, Don House launched at Suwannee before daylight. The Gainesville fisherman was anxious to see whether speckled trout had arrived yet in his favorite ...more creeks. He ran out the river's East Pass and into Barnett Creek, but soon surmised that water temperatures are, apparently, still warm to push trout inside. Even so, he fooled ten undersize Barnett redfish with a gold spoon. Still determined to find trout, House ran out to Lone Cabbage Reef. And the trout were there, along with mackerel and ladyfish. With the tide high and falling, he cast Bomber Long A lures and Saltwater Assassin grubs to almost steadily catch and release fish … including twenty trout. He deemed them all too small to keep. Along the reef, House spotted a large number of tarpon rolling … and occasionally, taking a baitfish at the surface. A Spittin' Image surface plug drew a big explosion, but the small trebles did not hook up.
When he returned to the ramp at Suwannee Town, Don House had nary a fish to show, but he had certainly kept his line tight all morning.
Also out of Suwannee, John Koburger of Macclenny fished Saturday and Sunday with Tom Massey, Brian Massey, and Jimmy Wilson visiting from Albany, Ga. The anglers cast Gulp! baits and Saltwater Assassins on the still-darkened flats, and boated 20-fish limits of top-of-the-slot trout each day. On Sunday, their 20th fish came aboard at 8:40 a.m.
Last Friday, Ren Gallon and Bruce Smith launched at Steinhatchee's Rocky Creek. Once out in open gulf, the Gainesville men headed south toward Pepperfish Keys. During the early part of the falling tide, they cast jigs and Rapala Skitter Walk lures in the shallows to take a couple of nice trout and three redfish. At 27.5 inches, one of the reds was barely too big to keep.
The next morning, Gallon returned with Andy Hadsock. After gathering from his experience the day before that the better trout were more plentiful out on the deeper grass flats, Ren suggested they start in water more than five-feet deep. And when the first fifteen minutes of casting yielded five nice trout, they knew they had made the proper adjustment. Before long, they had a 10-fish double limit of speckled trout up to 19 inches.
Asked about the most productive baits, Ren said, “There was a lot of floating grass, so it was hard to use topwater lures. We did best with jigs under popping corks — any grub with a chartreuse tail — Gulp! Shrimps or Saltwater Assassins in the 'Chicken on a Chain' color.”
Offshore fishing is picking up, as well. Sunday, Capt. Donnie Smith's four-man party enjoyed a great fishing day out of Cedar Key.
Anchored over rocky spots ranging in depth from 35- to 50-feet, they fished cut bait to haul in scores of red and gag grouper. Most were barely too short to keep, but they filled limits of legal red and gag grouper, just the same. Everyone aboard was more than a little surprised to also catch a nice, five-pound red snapper in water only 50-feet deep. Starting Oct. 1, there will be considerable angling effort for these — the most prized of the snappers. But, out of season until then, the five fishers had to watch this one swim away.
Inshore gulf action remains better than in most late Augusts. Redfish reports are good from Waccasassa, south to Crystal River and good numbers of trout are still ...more being found on the darker-than-normal flats from Yankeetown, all the way north to Keaton Beach.
At least one Steinhatchee angler, Dave Duckworth, has found a way to turn the dark water to his advantage. Duckworth says he rides the flats until he finds a pocket of clearer water. These spots, he says, can be found both north and south of the Steinhatchee River mouth. Once Duckworth locates such a clear patch, he stops and fishes the color change, certain that the trout are using the dark water as cover, and ambushing baitfish in the clearer zone.
Steinhatchee fishers also have found considerable success out on Nine Mile Bank, where large sand trout are taking shrimp and Gulp! lures fished on jigheads. And where the high sand bar drops into deeper water, lots of bluefish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel are also being hooked.
Given the negatives, Roy Pumphrey, Darren Jones and Mervyn Jones had no big fish-catching expectations. They were out on a day with an unusually high, lingering tide and little water movement, on flats that were darkly tannin-stained. Unable to find live shrimp for sale, they had only frozen bait. Still, they were all in need of a day on the water, so they headed out onto the flats from Suwannee last Sunday. Sometimes the best fishing trips come out of nowhere. The three men enjoyed a great day, catching a nice mix of trout, flounder, black drum and small redfish.
It is usually much farther along by late August, but it might not yet be time for fans of shrimping on the St. Johns River to give up on the annual migration. While they haven’t made it far from the Atlantic Ocean, cast netters in downtown Jacksonville made some pretty good hauls of big-enough-to-keep crustaceans this week. Most Gainesville-area shrimpers prefer to search for the river-run shrimp in the long stretch from Green Cove Springs to Lake George. And it’s still possible that we could have a run this far south.
Other longtime watchers remain certain that this year’s migration will be a bust, but I wouldn’t give up on the shrimp … yet.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.
Saltwater fishing often toughens considerably in August, but this has been a fine year for speckled trout action, and the trout fishing is still pretty good. Nice ...more catches remain standard fare on the deep grass flats from Crystal River to Cedar Key, and even the considerably darker flats north of Cedar Key also continue to produce.
Capt. Brad Riddle’s Saturday party enjoyed a good number of trout bites on the grass flats near Steinhatchee. Alex, Olivia, and Savannah Harris and their dad, Greg bounced jigs with Gulp! shrimp over the bottom to nail around 40 trout. They took the nine best fish back home to Jacksonville.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary’s Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.
It could be tiny, enormous or somewhere in between. But it’s always a strong possibility that, during a saltwater fishing trip, an unexpected fish of some kind will ...more turn up.
Last Saturday off Cedar Key, Butch and Robbie Baker and Steve LeBlanc enjoyed such a surprise. They had been after grouper a good distance offshore, but had boated only one nice keeper, and were on their way back toward shore when they spotted a long bamboo pole floating 27 miles from port. The thick stalk was almost totally encrusted with mussels.
“It had been floating around out there for a long time,” Butch said. Knowing that offshore floating debris is always worth a look, they stopped.
Robbie made the first cast to the strange piece of structure with a Chug Bug lure. The surface popper was immediately taken by a small dolphin. While the beautiful, brightly colored fish commonly congregate under flotsam off the South Florida coast, they’re not so common in our nearest gulf waters. But they were under this mussel-covered pole. Not prepared for game requiring light tackle, the men had to figure a way to go small with big rods and reels. They tied on bare hooks. Onto these, they threaded New Penny-colored Gulp! shrimp and drifted them out close to the well-traveled stick. The resourceful rigging worked well enough for the anglers to bag 35 fish.
That’s a great thing about saltwater fishing. You really never do know what’s coming next.
The No. 1 topic among anglers here at the onset of Dog Days continues to center around the effects of the ultra-wet summer season on area fishing. Predictably, ...more most are very happy with the big rains. Others aren’t. Like all things, persistent rain is a mixed blessing — leaning heavily to the good side.
At the same time, conventional wisdom holds that fishing in the saltwater shallows often declines with excessive new water. Saltwater species such as trout and mackerel do, naturally, prefer fairly saline haunts. That’s why anglers last weekend might have been disappointed upon arriving on a far-less-than-clear Seahorse Reef, off Cedar Key. They found the water there tannin-stained brown, usually a negative for saltwater fishing.
But, surprisingly, the famed reef was entirely alive with fish. Jim DuBois described finding a “bluefish frenzy.” And when Sam Drake of Gainesville and John Adams of Keystone Heights pulled up on Seahorse last Saturday, they saw “acres of baitfish getting destroyed.” The friends cast and trolled spoons and Bomber jigs to catch loads of bluefish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel. They also took two speckled trout over 20 inches and put these on ice, along with a dozen of the larger macks up to 28 inches. On top of this, they saw a couple of kingfish sky and Sam caught and released a slightly-short cobia that took his Live Target Pinfish. Only when the sun rose high in the sky could they see the bottom a bit, several feet below — the slight color contrast of dark grass beds against sand.
Actually, the rainy season has darkened coastal waters surprisingly far out into the gulf. One weekend fisherman who ran offshore from Suwannee last Saturday said, for all of 21 miles off the coastline, the water appeared as darkly “red” as the water within the river’s banks.
Fishing out of Cedar Key, the Shintock party from Gainesville came upon an abrupt change in water color, brownish red meeting ultra-clear blue, as if separated by an invisible partition. They found the unusual tide rip 10 miles west of Seahorse Reef.
Steinhatchee anglers and shellfishers are also dealing with darkened water. Scallopers have welcomed the sunnier days of late, collecting limits from shallow flats near Pepperfish Keys. Frequent shellfish seekers have learned that the water tends to clear up a bit during the outgoing tide … and the scallops are easy to see in knee-deep water with the sun out and the tide falling.
Trout fishing usually falls off dramatically in late summer, but this season action on the Steinhatchee grass flats has remained good. Fishing cut bait set under Cajun Thunder floats on the flats 6-to-8 feet deep, young fishing buddies Chase Norwood and Elliott McDavid continue to find whopping specks. Last Friday, trout up to 24-inches long fell for the cut pinfish. The fish-catching duo has also located a number of big redfish south of the Steinhatchee River mouth, between Rocky Creek to Tater Island.