Capt. Rick Davidson, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org
Fishing Report JANUARY 2021
So far this winter we’ve not had any really bitter cold fronts with temps into the 20’s for several days, which is guaranteed to bring trout into the river. While there are trout there, there are also plenty on the deeper flats….big ones. And redfish, and flounder. We had two great tournaments this month, which is always risky this time of year, and both had some spectacular catches. See pics below from this month.
February 2021 Forecast
The forecast for February is always weather-dependent, but things are looking good. Offshore, gag grouper and amberjack are closed, but you can still bring in some red grouper, and this is a great time of year for some simple bottom-fishing for Florida snapper and black sea bass (my favorite tasting fish, actually). Inshore, even without severe fronts, the consistent low temps have provided some water (a week ago when I was on the water the temp was 47 degrees). That usually puts the fish in somewhat deeper water. Areas of deeper grass from 3 to 7 feet have been producing trout, along with bluefish. As always, the key to winter fishing with lures or jigs is SLOW. They’re not interested in expending a lot of energy chasing a bait. Live or dead shrimp, or cut ladyfish or mullet are great bottom-fishing baits. Bounce jigs with Gulp baits for trout in that deeper water. Areas around Pepperfish, outside of Sink Creek, west of the Bird Rack, and around Piney Point when there’s enough water have been producing trout. For redfish, try outgoing tides near sandbars with cut bait or live shrimp, or fish slowly with suspending lures in the same areas. Redfish are staying closer to shore but move out with some of the severe winter low tides we’ve been having, but if you can get into some creeks with enough water, you will find some there as well.
Soon we’re going to see the annual sheepshead spawn. I’ve taken the liberty of providing a link to a sheepshead article written by my friend and Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club member, Capt. Russ Roy (http://www.gofc.us/gofc_sheepshead_00.htm#primer). Our fish will be found around the rockpiles at the Steinhatchee Reef, about nine miles west of the mouth of the river. The males have already been caught on the reef, and the numbers will increase. Sometime between mid-February and March the much larger females will arrive. When fishing in clear water, you can see the schools of fish swimming in circles over the rockpiles. At times sheepies behave like grouper; you know they are there, but they just aren’t eating. Then they will turn on with a vengeance. I like to use a redfish rig, such as a 4000-size spinning reel with 15 pound test braided line. While there may be many arguments about braided versus monofilament line for many types of fishing, there is no real argument when fishing for sheepshead. The bite is very soft, and you need the sensitivity of braid to better feel the very soft bite of a sheepshead. A standard fishfinder rig, with enough weight to keep the bait down on the bottom, is needed, and this is usually an egg sinker in the ½ to 1 oz. sizes. A fluorocarbon leader will help. Many experienced fishermen use a simple ½ to ¾ oz. jighead and simply bait it with your bait of choice….and that will be either live shrimp or fiddler crabs. Sheepies aren’t very interested in artificials, even scented plastics. We expect to have both live shrimp and fiddler crabs available in the Ship’s Store at the Sea Hag Marina when the fishing turns hot. Spend a lot of time getting anchored so you can keep your baits over the structure…. but try a few throws into the sand around the structure, because this can provide some excellent flounder. A combo sheepshead trip and some additional bottom fishing for these reef fish will provide you lots of action and lots of filets as well. I get emails asking about finding local locations, so here is a public list of some offshore reefs (the Buckeye reef is a great sheepshead spot most years) and some other local landmarks. The Steinhatchee Reef has slowly worn down over the years, but others on this list are there for you to explore: https://www.floridagofishing.com/reefs/nc-reefs-taylor-county.html
Finally, speaking of fiddler crabs, make sure you have the Annual Steinhatchee Fiddler Crab Festival on your calendar, this year on February 13th and 14th. There is a tournament on Saturday the 13th. There are also two redfish tournaments this month: the Sunshine Tour event on the 19th and 20th, and the North Florida Redfish Series on the 27th. Call the marina for any information.
Here are some pictures from this month. Most of these pictures show fish that were caught with our Sea Hag guides. Winter fishing is challenging because of low tides and there is no better time of year to hire one of our guides for a full or half-day fishing. You will not be disappointed. Here’s a link to our guide page, and we’ve added a few more to this list, including Capt. Chase Norwood. http://seahag.com/guide-information/