Capt. Rick Davidson, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sea Hag December Fishing Report
Happy New Year to all from the Sea Hag Marina!
We’ve had a great month, and in spite of a challenging scallop season, the fishing out of Steinhatchee is better than ever. As usual, weather always plays a big role in December fishing, and this year was no different. Somewhat surprisingly, even without bitter cold, the river trout run began early and has persisted, up until the end of the year. And this was a good thing, since much of the month consisted of wind, rain and small craft warnings that made offshore fishing trips scarce. With gag grouper season ending at the beginning of the month, the last-minute rush resulted in some excellent catches. Red grouper were available throughout the month when weather allowed for offshore adventures, and some excellent amberjack came across the cleaning tables as well.
Inshore fishing was excellent, especially with regard to trout, but there were some fine redfish taken in creeks and near creek mouths. I fished several times this month, finding easy limits of good-sized trout. While there were some excellent fish caught in the river, in general larger fish are found outside of the river, schooling in areas around structure and creek mouths. See the forecast for some tips about how to catch these fish.
Sea Hag January Fishing Report
On good days, venturing out to 60 feet or so can result in some fine red grouper catches, but most offshore trips will be targeting amberjack or bottom fishing for Florida snapper or black sea bass. Kingfish have generally migrated south with Spanish mackerel. Inshore, the river run of sea trout is well underway and will continue. Look back in the November fishing report for some hints about how to fish in the river. In terms of outside the river, there are a number of things to keep in mind. The first is safety. This is the time of year of low daytime tides. Just today , the last day of the year, I fished a negative 1.2 foot tide. Delay your trip until the afternoon warming trend and higher tides are present. Trying to run in the Steinatchee area, with multiple sand bars, rocky areas and oyster bars, can be hazardous if you don’t know a little about the area. Consider getting a guide if you are not familiar, but you can also get a Sea Hag rental boat and get some tips from the Sea Hag staff about where to run. This time of year, water temperature differences of a degree or two can make a huge difference. On morning low tides, rocks and bars are exposed. As the sun rises, these shallow areas are heated and when the tides come in, that heat is maintained in the area. That’s why you will see mullet and trout concentrated around rocky areas on high tides, and those are the areas you should fish. There are great concentrations of these exposed rocks in the Rock Point area to the north and Sand Point, Hardy Point and Tater Island areas to the south. Don’t try to approach any of these areas directly, but work your way into shore with the tide. Because fish are cold-blooded, they are not very active in winter and they won’t chase bait or lures very vigorously, so fish everything slower than you think you should, and then cut that speed in half. Fish suspending lures (we particularly like the Paul Brown Corky Devil, but unweighted plastic jerk baits and light swim baits will work well, as will floating crankbaits like the Cotton Cordell) and retrieve them very very slowly, just enough to keep them above the rocks. We catch large fish in as little as 2 feet of water. Trout will be in schools; when you catch one fish, you are likely to catch others until the school moves. When the bite stops, move around until you find them again. Almost all of these fish caught outside of the river will be keepers, unlike the smaller fish in the river. Be careful and find some productive spots. They are likely to be productive year after year during the winter. While the tide is up, work your way into creeks that may hold redfish and trout. Fish deeper holes, which are frequently around bends in creeks, and remember to fish slow. Dallus Creek and Clay Creek to the north, and Porpoise Creek, Rocky Creek and Sink Creek to the south have all been holding good fish this winter.
Now here are some pictures and reports from our guides.
Capt. Brian Smith www.bigbendcharters.com (352) 210-3050
If you’re an avid fisherperson, you’ve gotten the word that speckled sea trout are swarming in the Steinhatchee River. If not, you’ve just been informed. Hot spots vary from day to day, but don’t change much. The best baits are Mirrorlures in pink to red top color or simple jigs of whatever make or fashion. I suggest bring your collection of jig bodies and start with the ones that haven’t worked the best then switch your way up toward your favorite color. Tandem jigs add casting distance, sink rate and, perhaps, to catch number. One last thought; if you find yourself in a cluster of short trout, move away. Trout most often school by size, and the hope of a legal fish out of the mass is foolishness. I realize getting a frequent bite, perhaps every cast, is fun, but the release fatality is more than you expect. Every one who has handled a trout knows trout are slimy. By handling the trout you remove the slime layer from the trout. The slime layer is a gooey anti-bacterial layer over the skin that protects against fish diseases. Upon release the trout swims away looking frisky. Yet, in short time, especially when the water temperature increases, the fish succumbs to the ever-present bacteria because the protective coat was removed by manhandling in the past.
True sportsmen love and respect their quarry. They, like me, have no desire to kill the young in any manner. There is no glory in slaughtering any prey when they are most vulnerable. Sportsmen seek and do whatever necessary to allow future success. They give back, by not taking, to their own and others children.
All sportsmen lose face because a small percentage of sour apples spoil it for the rest of us. I believe, if one or more is caught with intentional disrespect of fish or game regulations, they need to be punished harshly, whether financially or by time served so much so it breaks the spirit to try “it” again.
Enjoy winter trout fishing in the Steinhatchee River. It is fun. However, do so respecting the resource. Greed is horrible. Greed is a word I don’t want to be described with, do you?
Captain Tommy Thompson 352-284-1763
Steinhatchee and the waters of Taylor and Dixie counties consistently produce great catches throughout the year. On cold and bright sunlit winter days, we’ll target big seatrout and reds along the rocky shoreline using gold spoons or suspending plugs. But if it’s unseasonably warm this winter, we may even fish topwater plugs as the sun warms the rocks and shallow mud bottom.
Steinhatchee is exceptional for the fact that we have relatively crowd-free waters and excellent marine services. For those of you fishing with live bait, it’s available at the Sea Hag—along with ice, fuel, drinks and snacks.
Capt. Wiley Horton http://www.tunersportfishing.com/
This is my brand new 34 foot Mirage, taken out for it’s first fishing trip on December 30. We found amberjacks and lots of fine sea bass, and the boat rides like a dream. Looking forward to many trips in the future. Happy New Year to all.
Capt. Steve Rassel 352-359-5902 www.lastcastras.com
In case you have not heard, trout are in the river. While most are small, if you stick with it you will manage a limit. I am still catching limits of good trout on the flats and holes both north and south of the river. Been catching a few red fish in the slot on plastic baits mostly in dark colors. As the water temps start falling the trout will start leaving the flats for their winter spots. Plenty of sea bass to be caught around hard bottom. Booking up now for the 2014 season!