Capt. Rick Davidson (email@example.com), Editor
This November has been a great month for both inshore and offshore fishing when the weather allowed us out. Until the gag grouper closure on the 15th, our offshore captains captured some legendary good eating as you can see from their reports and pictures. Amberjack have been large and in charge, with plenty of screaming drags as a result. Inshore, the more moderate temperatures provided some of the best fishing of the year in terms of bull redfish, slot sized trout, Spanish mackerel and flounder. Fall and spring are great times to fish in our area because of the tremendous variability of species. On a recent trip we caught bull redfish to over 20 pounds, bluefish, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, and eating-size flounder and trout…and all on a single lure, an artificial shrimp.
Additionally this month, there were some momentous decisions made by Fish and Wildlife. As of this February 1, the limit of redfish per angler will increase from one to two fish. The slot size of 18 to 27 inches will remain the same. Additionally, speckled trout fishing will remain open year round, as opposed to the February closure we have had for several years. Winter trout fishing is excellent, but is quite different from fishing the rest of the year. We’ll be providing some wintertime hints over the next few reports as the temperatures cool.
As usual through the winter months, the fishing is very weather-dependent. While red grouper and amberjack will provide some great offshore fishing, along with fine black seabass and Florida snapper fishing, inshore fishing will depend greatly on water temperatures. With water temperatures below 55 degrees or so, look for the trout to be moving to deeper water and off the flats, and the deepest water close to the Steinhatchee grass flats is in the river. We’ve already caught some slot-sized trout in the river on cold days, but sustained cold fronts will bring crowds to the river, of both fish and boats. These fish can be caught trolling 52M Mirrolures, but most fisherman locate schools moving in and out of the river, then anchoring near the channel and casting live shrimp, jigs or sinking lures into the deeper water. As the water temps warm in the afternoons, fish can be found moving onto shallower flats inside the river. You can always get an update on trout fishing in the river by checking with the marina’s Ship’s Store, and you will also be able to find live shrimp, and all the tackle you’ll need, along with hints about how to get some great winter trout filets. We’ll be providing more tips over the next few months.
Here are some reports from our excellent guides:
Captain Steve Rassel http://www.lastcastras.com 352-359-5902
Trout are starting to move towards the deeper spots around creeks and the river with the water temp falling by the day now. The sand trout are all but gone, but there are still a few Spanish and sharks out there. Sea bass are plentiful around deeper structure, with a few over 16 inches. Redfish are still plentiful on the flats, with the bigger ones in deeper water. We’ve been catching quite a few flounder around sandy areas, and even caught a 9 pounder last week. Trout are hitting on plastics being fished slowly in deeper water. As the sun gets overhead they are still active in the shallows. In shallow water try a green or yellow Bass Assassin fished under a cork. Live shrimp are also starting to work now as the pinfish move to their winter spots. Mirrolures are catching some nice trout also. I recommend the slow sinking varieties, with the best colors being either black with some silver or the ones with pink in them. Good fishing and happy holidays to all!
Capt. Scott Peters, Jr. http://www.captscottjr.com/ 352-356-7502
Bad To The Bone Charters
Capt. Tommy Thompson
As the weather has finally turned the water colder, my fishing tactics have changed. If the sun's shining, I'm out in the mornings, but not at daybreak. I like to give the trout and reds time to wake up and warm up. And if it's overcast and cold, I'll retreat to the deeper holes in creek mouths or in the river itself. The deep spots near marker #26 and just downriver from The Sea Hag are starting to show signs of seatrout infestation. If you fish shallow, use slow-moving baits like D.O.A. shrimp (I like the 3-incher in 'watermelon' or 'holographic glitter' colors) or Paul Brown Corkys. Topwater lures will work, but need to be worked slowly, as wintertime trout and reds are sluggish and slow to attack. You can see from the photos that some nice fish are being caught, but that you need to bring along your 'woolies' and a Thermos of hot coffee!
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.
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)
Cooler temperatures in November have helped Steinhatchee gain back its reputation as the place to be when it comes to fishing the flats of the Nature Coast. With few exceptions we have enjoyed mostly excellent days on the water. I would venture to say that on November 15 my clients and I enjoyed one of my best days on the water ever ! We landed (5) redfish measuring 35" to 43", a 20 lb King mackerel, 7 Spanish mackerel and 70 lbs of mixed spotted and sand trout…all in just 6 hours. In addition we had some runouts that took our breaths away, most likely cobia and more kings. If I told you that we repeated a half-mile drift all day to catch this assortment, you probably would not believe me. All in all, the bite is strong and should stay that way as temperatures have been mild most of the month, which should set us up for an excellent month of fishing as December approaches. Take a look at the photos from our recent trip. We have learned that television show that we filmed in early summer with Don Dingman and the Hook the Future team has begun to air, so keep an eye out for the show as it airs on various networks across the Southeast. The show showcases Steinhatchee, the Sea Hag and several young folks from the local area enjoying spotted trout fishing in our local waters guided by yours truly. Come join the fun .
Captain Brian Smith, www.bigbendcharters.com (352) 210-3050
This November has been windy! Cold fronts have moved through with tight regularity dragging strong winds and making big seas behind them. On the bluebird days between the fronts, the fishing has been fine. Amberjack fishing warms up anglers the first part of the day; there is nothing like an amberjack event to push away the chill in the air. Seeing ‘reef donkeys’ swarm under the boat is exhilarating. One gets lost in the moment like Christmas morning. Live pinfish or any live bait is the best bet for arm throbbing action. Try basting the amberjack fillets with a pepper jelly then grilling it for a special treat.
Grouper (red only) fishing is very good in the 50-65’ areas. Limit for red grouper has been increased to 4 per person, making the ride offshore worth a winter find. Frozen bait is fine, live bait is a good option, but chunks of lizardfish can’t be beat. Lizardfish are bycatch while Florida snapper and sea bass fishing. Most folks toss the irascible lizardfish back. I do the same after cutting it in chunks and inserting a hook. Florida snapper are large and abundant deeper than 40 feet. It doesn’t take long to put together a fine fish fry when the snapper are two pounds or better. Black sea bass are swarming now as well; the knot-head males are aggressive. Try using a one-ounce jig as a sinker with one dropper hook above that to double your pleasure. Sea bass are one of the tastiest fish to come out of the Gulf and now through winter is the time to target good food. For sea bass and Florida snapper, frozen squid makes a great bait because of its durability. So, pick a good day and give yourself and others a pre-holiday holiday on the water. The fishing is prime.
Captain Steve Hart, www.legallimitscharters.com (352) 498-0299
I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving and had a chance to get on the water in November. The grouper bite has been good throughout the month, catching some great gags until they closed. The red grouper bite has been doing well also and with the new increased limit of 4 per person, I am excited about fishing on into the winter months. As for the depth, I am still catching some nice fish in water as shallow as 40 feet and have fished as deep as 75 feet. Frozen bait has worked well; I personally use threadfin herring. Live bait almost always is productive as an added bonus. Check with Sea Hag, because we are likely to have live pinfish for your trip. The amberjack have been doing well and here some live bait is a real bonus, or try a large top water plug for some real fun. If you, like many people, have a negative opinion of amberjack, just take a couple of fresh fillets down to Fiddler’s Restaurant and have Jim grill it up for you. I am sure that you will change your mind; it is out of this world*. As always we are catching some really nice Florida snapper and the sea bass are doing really well. Please don't rule out December and January for offshore fishing; they are great months, if the weather is favorable.
Wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday season.
Captain Wiley Horton http://www.tunersportfishing.com/ 352-284-0990
SEA HAG GUIDES