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 (to the South) or Dallus Creek (to the North). A good technique in these depths is to fish live shrimp, DOA shrimp, or Berkley’s Gulp! shrimp under rattling corks. Try to rig your bait so it just brushes the tops 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’. Jig heads rigged with soft plastics from Bass Assassin are also popular, either under corks, or 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 20# fluorocarbon leader for trout and reds, but you might want to consider 40# if the Spanish and blues (or small sharks!) are in the neighborhood.
For the more fearless among you, 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 and pushpoles come in really 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 slow down the fishing. Try being as quiet as possible when fishing shallow. The entire shoreline from Rock Point (to the NW of Steinhatchee marker 5) to Dallus Creek is a great spot to sight fish for reds with either topwater plugs or flies. The same goes for the entrance to Cow Creek (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 (2500-sized spinning reels, long rods, and 10# Power Pro braided line work well). Long casts using topwater lures like Mirrolure Top Dogs or slow-sinkers like the Catch 2000 are great for this type of angling. Gold Johnson spoons are also a great way to fish large areas of ‘rock grass’, that almost always hold slot reds. And, for those ‘bassers’ among you, try weedless rigging 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 hole in the river. Nice, slot-sized sea trout and small redfish are usually found by the hundreds in deeper water under 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 slowly with short 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 there unless you get up pretty early!
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.