There’s no doubt that Steinhatchee inshore waters are some of the best in the State. Abundant sea grasses mixed with limestone rock structure are a natural holding system for all sorts of bait and the resulting predators, including spotted sea trout, redfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel.
Steinhatchee offers easy inshore fishing for many types of anglers and boats. A quick run to the north or south of the river will put you onto some great flats. You won’t find it hard to find mixed bottom with large white patches of rock or sand amidst turtle grass. A couple of good spots for inshore fishing are the 3 to 5-foot depths off of Rocky Creek 29° 36.102’N 83° 23.918’W (to the South) or Dallus Creek 29° 42.670’N 83° 29.830’W (to the North). A good technique in these depths is to fish live shrimp, 3″ 1/4 ounce DOA shrimp (FSH3-3P-313), or 3″ new penny Berkley’s Gulp! shrimp (GSSHR3-NP) under a Cajun Thunder popping cork (15405 Sunglo Oval). Try to rig your bait so it just brushes the top of the grass. Fishing this way is as simple as tossing out your bait, popping the cork every 30 seconds or so, and waiting for the ‘bite’. 1/8 ounce chartreuse flash Bass Assassin jigheads rigged with soft plastics such as space guppy Saltwater Assassin sea shads (SSA25389) are also popular, either under a popping cork or without, worked slowly along the grass tops and through white sand patches. You’ll likely catch trout all year using this method, and there will be some redfish mixed in. In the Spring and Fall, mackerel and blues will come to your bait as well. In fact, if your whole rig disappears, you’ve been cut off and it’s time to put a heavier leader under your cork. Most anglers use Trick Fish 20# fluorocarbon leader for trout and reds, but you might want to consider Trick Fish 40# if the Spanish and bluefish (or small sharks!) are in the neighborhood.
For the more fearless people, try moving closer to shore. Remember, though, that our rocky bottoms are notorious lower unit wreckers. Take it easy, even if your chart shows plenty of water. (By the way, we sell and recommend Florida Sportsman and Top Spot fishing charts. They’re loaded with inshore fishing information and while they’re not for navigation purposes, serious anglers should keep one aboard for reference!) There are some rocks in 5 feet of water that come dangerously close to the surface. Shallow draft boats (including canoes and kayaks) are perfect for these places, and trolling motors/pushpoles come in handy, and also allow you to be quiet. It’s surprising how many anglers think that slamming cooler tops, hatch covers and loud laughing won’t stop the fish from biting. Try being as quiet as possible when fishing shallow. The entire shoreline from Rock Point 29° 57.774’N 83° 52.208’W (to the NW of Steinhatchee marker 5) to Dallus Creek 29° 42.670’N 83° 29.830’W is a great spot to sight fish for reds with either topwater plugs or flies. The same goes for the entrance to Cow Creek 29° 30.819’N 83° 23.058’W (Inshore of Pepperfish Keys). Good shallow water technique requires lots of patience, a clear understanding of the tides (Don’t get caught!), and the right tackle like a PENN Conflict II CFTII2500-sized spinning reel, Fenwick HMG 7’6″ rod, and 10# test spiderwire invisabraid line works well. Long casts using topwater lures like Mirrolure She Dogs (83MR CRRW), Rapala Skitter Walks (SSW11 HS) and/or slow-sinkers like the MirrOlure Catch 2000 (S20MR 808) and Unfair Rip-N-Slash 90 (PRS90SU21) are great for our type of fishery. Gold Johnson 1/2 ounce spoons (SM1/2-GLD) are also a great way to fish large areas of ‘rock grass’, that almost always holds slot reds. For those bass fisherman, try weedless rigs as you would for lunkers with 4/0 to 5/0 wide gap hooks and soft plastics for our big ‘red’ bass!
Cold Winter days mean river fishing. We’re not talking about ‘cool’ days, but bone-chilling days following the big Arctic air pushes we get each year. Bundle up, get a Thermos of hot coffee, buy a bunch of live shrimp at the Ship’s Store and head to one of the deep holes in the river. Nice, slot-sized sea trout and small redfish are normally found by the hundreds in deeper water in these weather conditions. A ‘typical’ rig is to use a whole live shrimp threaded tail-first onto a 3/8 oz. jig head. Fish the bait as slowly as possible with short twitches/ bounces along the bottom. (The fish are very lethargic in this cold water and they don’t want to work hard for a meal). You’ll lose some tackle to the rocks and oysters, but that’s a small price to pay for a nice dinner on a cold winter night! Try the ‘Suicide Hole’ just across the river from our dock, or the edges of the channel near marker 21. You’ll see lots of boats already anchored there unless you get a head start on everyone!
This advice should get you started with your Steinhatchee inshore fishing adventure, but be sure to check our Monthly Fishing Reports for current happenings, advice and guide reports. Also, if you’re new to the area, a day with one of our experienced inshore guides might prove invaluable.