Capt. Rick Davidson (firstname.lastname@example.org), Editor
May has been a great month at the Sea Hag. We’ve had several excellent tournaments, among them the Shands Reeling for Kids tournament and the Perry Optimist Club tournament. Some pics from the tournaments are seen below. The inshore fishing has been a little inconsistent at times, but with persistence and moving around a bit, some fine catches were made. Gene Breeze caught this fine trout on a trip late in the month. The redfish action was the most inconsistent, with either feast or famine for much of the month. Trout, however, were available in great numbers, although there are lots of short fish to cull. Offshore, amberjack and red grouper were the targets, but kingfish and cobia came in to the cleaning tables as well as great catches of Florida snapper.
Offshore, the biggest loss will be the closing of amberjack season, but to make up for it, red snapper season is open! Red grouper are plentiful (as are gags, which must be released for another month unless caught in state waters). Kingfish, cobia and Florida snapper are available as well in good numbers. The grouper are plentiful in waters between 50 and 70 feet, on either live pinfish, cut bait or squid. Always put out a live bait on a flat line for kingfish or cobia when bottom fishing. Inshore, most good trout catches will be made in 3 to 5 feet drifting through potholes and sand patches, or in 5 to 7 feet over mixed bottom. Particularly good areas have been west of Pepperfish Keys to the south and near the Bird Rack in front of Big Grass Island to the north. Fish jig and Gulp baits slowly near the bottom. For shallower fishing, try topwater plugs, suspending lures, or DOA shrimp jumped off the bottom near potholes. It should be a great month as everyone gets ready for the opening of scallop season on July 1. If you don’t have accommodations for the busy season, now’s your chance to sign up. The Sea Hag Marina can provide some fine accommodations, from the newly renovated Sea Hag Shacks to waterfront lodgings with hot tubs overlooking the river. Call today.
To keep everyone straight on the most recent regulations, here are the up-to-date regs. You will note that between July 1 and July 10, both red snapper and gag grouper are open. Offshore charters will be hard to come by during that time, so get in touch with one of our excellent offshore guides very soon to book a great trip. Additionally, the biggest tournament of the season will take place on June 8 and 9, the Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids Tournament to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alachua County. For more information, see the website and go ahead and sign up. It’s a great tournament for all.
GAG GROUPER: State waters open April, May and June for Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin Counties. July 1 thru October 31 Federal waters open but STATE waters will be closed to above counties. BAG LIMIT 2 per person within the 4 Grouper aggregate bag limit, minimum size 22 inches.
RED GROUPER: CLOSED FEBRUARY AND MARCH. BAG LIMIT 4 PER PERSON, MINIMUM SIZE 20 INCHES.
AMBERJACK: CLOSED JUNE AND JULY. 1 PER PERSON, MINIMUM SIZE 30 INCHES FROM THE FORK.
RED SNAPPER: JUNE 1-JULY 10, 2 PER PERSON, MINIMUM SIZE 16 INCHES.
Now some reports from our guides…the finest in the area:
Captain Randall Hewitt www.hookedonreds.com 386-208-3823 (C) 386-294-1257 (H)
May offered a very strong inshore bite as did April. We routinely enjoyed limits of reds and trout and landed a variety of other species including cobia, bluefish, Spanish macks and flounder. Whether you fished north of the Steinhatchee River or south the fish seemed to cooperate. Jigging with 1/4 to 3/8 ounce TBS jigs or running Cajun rigs with the same jigs kept things interesting. Our charter bookings have been very strong for the spring season and there has been one thing that you can say about the bite ... it has been consistently excellent. The recent rains should help cool the water temps a bit and keep the bite in the zone for a good bit longer. We enjoyed some of our best fishing in the later part of June last year and I expect this year to offer a similar result if the water temps don't head into orbit. Don't get left out on the action; we have a number of open dates in June for your fishing pleasure. A quick heads up: don't forget, scallop season is around the corner, so book early for this great family outing. If the scalloping is anything like it has been the past few seasons (and the early sightings of these tasty mollusks already makes me think that it will be) you won't want to miss out. Here are a few pics of some recent outings. Man, it just does not get much better!
Captain Steve Rassel http://www.lastcastras.com 352-359-5902
Fishing is still very good on the flats with limits of trout and a few reds. It will continue that way until the scallopers show up in the shallows and then you will have to move deeper. Still have a couple of days open in June, and even a weekend.
Capt. Scott Peters, Jr. http://www.captscottjr.com/ 352-356-7502
Bad To The Bone Charters
Capt. Tommy Thompson
It's June and summer's here. We've been tossing topwater lures along shorelines, especially on those big full and new moon mid-day high tides and having great luck with both reds and trout. If this is the kind of fishing you enjoy, now's the time to get out on the water. Longtime fishing customer Buzz Minton, from Eau Claire, WI, came down and fished with his daughter in mid-May. We had a great two-day trip, with ten nice reds and bunches of trout, all caught on topwater Lureman lures. From now on, through the summer, I'll be fishing morning half-days only. I like to get out--and back--before the sun gets too hot and the waters get too crowded!
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. All of the Big Bend fishing 4Casts are now available to to viewed on my editorial website. And starting this month, I'll be taking over the 'Sportsman's Kitchen' column in Florida Sportsman magazine. I like to fish, but cooking and eating are a close second-place!
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 Steve Hart, www.legallimitscharters.com (352) 498-0299
May was a great month, producing great catches of red Grouper and amberjacks. The red grouper bite for most of the month was much better in deeper water, in the 75' plus range, but in the last few days I have done well in the 50' range, and that really helps on the fuel bill. My bait of choice for reds is frozen herring or cut bait. Amberjacks have been doing great on most any of the wrecks or springs. Live bait is always the best choice, but a large top water popper can work well and is really exciting. Florida snapper have been more than plentiful in the 40' plus range, always fun and good eating. I am looking forward to June and the opening of red snapper. Remember that Amberjack closes June 1 and gag grouper opens July 1. I have seen some really nice red snapper and lots of good gags so hopefully we will have a great season. Stay safe and I hope to see you on the water soon.
Captain Brian Smith, www.bigbendcharters.com (352) 210-3050
If every fishing trip was as blessed as the ones I’ve had the last couple of weeks, people would be lining up to get on any boat to go offshore fishing!!! Before Beryl, the Gulf was a very large 80 degree pond. We tossed the anchor, maybe, twice during the day. The rest of the day was slow drift fishing. The conditions have been that of dreams, and even the midday temperatures haven’t been too uncomfortable. Amberjack are as playful as they can get. Fresh frisky live bait is an automatic hookup, or toss anything they can chase and it is game on. Trolling is effective as well; however take the time to remove the treble hooks and simply use a single J hook on the rear of the lure. That quick change saves the fish, because all are not keepers, and saves you time, trouble and injury. Dolphin are in the Gulf! The peanut size make random swim-bys. Have a ready pole to toss a jig to the multi-colored water performers. They are not large but still delicious. The grouper bite remains strong. More keeper red grouper are caught in deeper water, but many are being caught in 42-56 foot. Fresh cut bait and frozen threadfin are best because live bait attract the gags (you know, those fish that the government says are going extinct . It’s difficult to try and explain a goofed regulation to someone, then toss back the largest fish they have ever caught. This is especially so, though vented and handled gently, when the fish floats off dying. Stupid laws make outlaws. Likewise, the Big Bend area is experiencing the best red snapper fishing in recorded history. But the season only opens for a 40-day rally starting June 1, because the feds declared the recreational red snapper fishery is over fished and stressed! I tell you what stress is; watching a vented and well-handled 15-pound red snapper float away while six people ask what is the purpose of that? Stupid laws make outlaws.
The largest black sea bass I’ve ever seen are being caught on cut bait, over hard bottom in 70 plus feet of water. Those sea bass are large enough to hang on the board for the end of the day photo. Cobia stories abound around the marina. Most of the stories have tragic endings because the fish was hung on a lightweight combo or something went awry or the cobia just went cobia and escaped. We were fortunate to bring in a 25 pound and 40 pound cobia in over the past couple of weeks. Grunts, our Florida snapper, make people happy. The forever bite, strong fight and fish-fry delight make spending an hour or so jamming with the fishes most worthwhile.
Now is a great time to go fishing in the Gulf. Come on in and wet a line.
SEA HAG GUIDES