Capt. Rick Davidson (email@example.com), Editor
April Fishing Report
March has been a transitional month, but the sheepshead fishery has been a great boon to those wanting some fine eating and consistent action. Many pounds crossed the cleaning tables at the Sea Hag this month. Capt. Steve Hart poses with a few at the table, and Nita Chester and friends collected the board full of 'Steinhatchee stripers'. I had several fun trips as the trout and redfish re-populated the flats and nearshore areas. Later in the month, I found this nice 5.5 pound trout who wanted my topwater plug, along with a number of slightly smaller fish. Fishing with Doug Barrett, his son-in-law and Tommy Thompson, we chummed up a bunch of bluefish and Spanish mackerel. I managed to get the largest mackerel of the day on fly. A week later, Captain Tommy found this beautiful redfish on a topwater plug as well. Offshore fishing was slow this month with grouper season closed and many of our captains used this month to perform yearly maintenance and to collect some fine-eating Florida snapper and black sea bass.
Fishing Forecast for April 2011
Ahhhh. Springtime. Azaleas, dogwoods, redbuds, and lots of trout, Spanish mackerel and redfish. Kingfish and cobia will be here any day. And red grouper season begins April 1. Trout are already on the flats in great quantities in depths from 3 to 8 feet. Find areas of mixed grass and fish with jigs and soft plastic tails, Gulp shrimp under popping corks in shallower water, and topwater plugs in even shallower water around schools of mullet and whitebait. Don't be surprised if you lose a rig or two to the Spanish mackerel who are already in shallow, and if you want to target them, go to some of the nearshore bars such as 9 Mile Bank and set up a chum line or troll floreo jigs or small spoons. Redfish are making a grand entrance in their usual habitats, around oyster bars and rocky bottom, usually following schools of mullet and in potholes on the flats in slightly deeper water. Some great redfish action has already been taking place up near Fisherman's Rest to the north and Tater Island and the Pepperfish Keys and Tater Island to the south. Fish topwater plugs for the exciting strikes, but using jigs and suspending plugs like the Mirrolure Catch 2000 and Mirrodines will score as well. As floating grass will become more prevalent later this month, the traditional gold spoons will work very well. April is one of the finest months of the year for inshore and nearshore fishing, and with the opening of red grouper season and the arrival of kingfish and cobia, with the added attraction of amberjack, the offshore fishing will be fantastic as well. There are also two tournaments located at the marina this month: the Steinhatchee Community Tournament on the 16 th , and on April 30 th , the Shands Fishing for Kids Saltwater Tournament. This is the month to come see us. You can find live and dead bait, all the rods, reels, lures and terminal tackle you need, along with daily fishing reports, at the Ship's Store at Sea Hag Marina.
Finally, James Ross, of Perry, won our 2011 March Trout Madness contest with a really nice 7.5# fish. Congratulations, James!
Photo Courtesy: Woods 'n Water Magazine
And now some reports and photos from our inshore and offshore guides:
Capt. Scott Peters, Jr. http://www.captscottjr.com/ 352-356-7502
Bad To The Bone Charters
Well, March got off to a great start this year. A few warmer days in later February and early March put the yearly migration in swing a little earlier this year. The sheepshead fishing was great in late February and on through all of March; many that targeted the little convicts will tell you there were several very calm days, which was a great gift this time of year. The Spanish mackerel showed up early in March, as they invaded the Little and Nine Mile Banks. Every day has seemed to bring more bait to the flats, along with a few sand trout, bluefish, ladyfish, and I even heard of a few cobia being spotted offshore. Cobia!!! The trout and redfish bite was great (the pictures below are worth a 1000 words). The Stinchum family from Americus, Ga. fished with me one weekend; one day we boated 25 redfish and around 60 trout. I believe the two days we fished we caught 34 redfish alone! I have had the opportunity to fish From Horseshoe Beach up to Keaton Beach this month, covering a lot of water, and it has been great fishing on the whole coast! I caught some huge trout up towards Keaton beach where I was chartering and scouting for the Redfish/Trout Shootout that will take place April 2nd in Carrabelle, at C-Quarters Marina. I will be there with my fishing partner JR Mundinger; we will be filming a show with New South Outdoors at the tournament. Check out www.newsouthoutdoors.com for dates the show will air, or follow me on Facebook (Scott Allen Peters Jr) for tournament standings and pics of several charters. I will also be offering sightfishing charters this year out of my tournament boat, a 16ft Silver King flats skiff. Book your charter now with Bad To The Bone fishing Charters.
Capt. Tommy Thompson
The best thing about April is that there's better action throughout the day than in cold winter or hot summer months. With water temperatures warming towards 80-degrees, I typically start the day looking for reds and big trout along the shallow 1 to 2-foot rocky shorelines. This is a great time to fish with topwater plugs--there's nothing like having a top-of-slot redfish chase down a plug pulled across calm, glassy water. Trout, usually big ones, also cruise the shorelines early, too. As the sun starts to get overhead, I like to head to slightly deeper water to target slot-sized trout with subsurface plugs or soft jerk baits. Of course, these mid-range depths also produce good catches of Spanish mackerel and bluefish, too.
If you're interested in a 'catch-and-release hunting for big fish' trip, please give me a call or check out my Web site, www.flanaturecoast.com/capttommy And if you're interested in some more in-depth information about fishing Florida's Big Bend, take a look at my weekly Fishing4Cast on the Florida Sportsman Magazine Web site at http://www.floridasportsman.com/4cast/bb, the Florida Sportsman Big Bend Action Spotter column in each month's issue.
My award-winning fishing guidebook, The Saltwater Angler's Guide To Florida's Big Bend and Emerald Coast, might be a help to you if you spend lots of time at Steinhatchee (or anywhere from Chassahowitzka to Pensacola). It's got LOTS of secrets, tips and tricks, so don't forget to pick up a copy at the Sea Hag Ship's Store the next time you're at the marina. You can learn more about the book at www.saltwateranglersguide.com
Also, my book, The Inshore Advantage, Aerial Photos of the Shallow Waters near Steinhatchee, Florida is again available ONLY at the Sea Hag's Ships' Store. Although pricey ($75), the hardbound book with its 26 high-resolution color photos, taken at very low tide will give you a decided advantage in that you'll get a close-up look at the details of the shoreline from Pepperfish Keys to Sponge Point. The photos are also overlaid with GPS numbers and place names to help you better understand the shoreline. Also included are two articles, Steinhatchee Inshore Waters and Navigating Steinhatchee's Rocky Shoreline.
Captain Randall Hewitt www.hookedonreds.com 386-208-3823 (c) 386-294-1257 (h)
The speckled trout bite has been as strong as I have seen it this time of year. We are routinely hitting the dock with limits of these tasty fighters. Mid month, on an exceptional day we landed more than 300 fish. The population of juvenile trout is very strong and this is a very good sign that our trout fishery is healthy. Clearly the trout have moved out of 'cold storage' in the river to their normal spring feeding grounds in 4-6 ft of water. It's still tough to find them on the shallower grass flats as the grass seems to have taken a beating with the extreme cold temperatures this year and is not supporting much sea life. If you'll recall our cold temperatures and weather last March kept us on shore for much of the month so the past 2-3 weeks have been an excellent opportunity for our clients to get out and enjoy the outdoors during a month that is typically 'iffy' weather wise. More and more bait shrimp are showing up and the trout coming aboard are loaded with them. While there are reports that redfish are beginning to show, our efforts to locate them have yielded little success. Expect them to turn on as we move into mid April and the shallow grass flats begin to show more life. We have been trying to do a better job of keeping our fishing reports fresh at www.hookedonreds.com so please visit our site for the latest updates on all the action and available dates . Plan to join us in Steinhatchee as April, May and June are typically one of the best seasons here on the Nature Coast for a variety of species--if the rest of the season goes the way it has started, you're sure to have a great time.
Captain Steve Rassel http://www.lastcastrass.com 352-359-5902
April looks to be as good as it gets. Conditions are more stable and the water temperature hits the right numbers. Trout have been very active all of March and will continue for the next few months. The winds are starting to calm more now as April moves in and the trout are starting to move into shallow water. Red fish are still roaming the flats in shallow water holding close to shore. Plenty of Spanish are around the sand bars and also a few big flounder are being taken. Not many days left open in April and May so call quick if you are looking for a guide to put you on the fish.
Captain Brian Smith, www.bigbendcharters.com (352) 210-3050
For the here and now, sheepshead have been hot and heavy on all the known and little known spawning structures. It has been shooting fish in a barrel. Though it is brainless catching, I'll never keep a limit of fifteen fish per person. Why not? Because the sheepshead are spawning, making more for our collective future. We keep enough to make a goodly mess, release the big females and small jakes and just have fun. We use light tackle to enhance the fishing. Afterwards, a Florida snapper and sea bass flurry rounds out a fine box of fish fry. Light tackle coupled with an insane uninterrupted bite is THE fun ticket for kids of all ages. Sheepshead, sea bass and Florida snapper are all excellent table fare, with sea bass being the best of all. We've been bringing back a fine mess of sea bass each trip, along with the others.
April has always been a 'jump on it' month! Pods of baitfish historically show off our coast in April. The baitfish are the key that unlocks fish jaws. Pelagic fish such as Spanish mackerel, kingfish, followed by cobia, travel behind the food pods. Grouper also get an appetite. Fishing becomes a free for all as the bait arrives. Consider the baitfish as the smell of bacon in the morning. My boat and tackle are prepared for April fishing. You should get yours in the same way. Oh, by the way, May only gets 'gooder'. Fishing is always a good thing, regardless. Set your mind to enjoy time on the water. Take a child, make a memory and enjoy life's little moments! Fins up.
Captain Steve Hart, www.legallimitscharters.com (352) 498-0299
SEA HAG GUIDES