Capt. Rick Davidson, Editor (email@example.com)
Fishing Report JANUARY 2022
Before some tough weather slowed things down at the end of the month, the fishing was fantastic in January. While we haven’t had extended bitter cold that drives the trout into the river in large numbers, there were some great trout taken in creeks and on the flats. But the highlight of the month were redfish, which were everywhere. Several tournaments had great timing in terms of the weather, and a great turnout and available fish made for success.
Offshore, in 50 to 60 feet the red grouper bite was a little variable but generally very good; gag grouper are out of season for another two months. Live and cut bait performed better than trolling for much of the month. Some excellent amberjack catches and spawning collections of large black sea bass gave lots of offshore fisherfolks some fast action and some great table fare, but now amberjack are closed until May. Here are some pictures from this month.
To view a full-sized version of an image, simply click on any one of these smaller versions!
Fishing Forecast FEBRUARY 2022
Assuming it’s a usual February, the two most active areas for this coming month are going to be in the river, as the trout come into deeper water to escape the frigid flats, and on nearshore rockpiles as the sheepshead get into spawning mode. There are sheepshead available in our area year-round, usually around pilings or docks with barnacles and frequently in creeks and rivers. When they spawn in the winter, the mature fish migrate to offshore rockpiles in from 15 to 40 feet of water. While they are worn down and just a shadow of their former selves, the rockpiles at Steinhatchee Reef are a great place to start if you don’t have any other numbers for rockpiles. The smaller males usually arrive first, followed by the larger females. Because water in the winter is frequently very clear, it is easy to even see the fish circling the rocks below. Sheepshead are like grouper in that they may not always hop right on your baits; the bite turns off and on, frequently in association with increasing tidal flow. In terms of tackle, your trout and redfish tackle will be perfectly fine. Fishing with braided line is a great advantage because great sensitivity is needed to detect the subtle bite of a feeding sheepshead. At the very first tap on the line, set the hook. Most of the time you will need a carefully selected weight to keep the bait in and near the rockpiles. A fishfinder rig, a drop-hook rig, a knocker rig or a larger jig will all work, with the selection of weight depending on the current flow. Wide gap hooks and fluorocarbon leaders work best, but some people just use a knocker rig with no leader at all. Live shrimp or fiddler crabs are the standard bait for sheepshead. You want to suspend the bait in the general depth of the fish, which are usually quite visible on a good fishfinder. As mentioned, even with fish present, they may go for some time before “turning on”. If you aren’t sure you see fish on the finder and you’re not getting any hits, move to a different location. Some people have actually brought buckets of barnacles scraped off pilings and docks and used them as chum. I can attest to the success of this approach. When the bite does “turn on” you’ll have multiple fish on at once. Because so many large fish are present in a small area, it will likely be crowded so approach other boats carefully and spend some time thinking about your anchoring efforts. The minimum legal size is 12” and the bag limit is 8 per person. When the bite is on, whether trout in the river or sheepshead offshore, it’s a great time to take the kids with you. You can get live shrimp and frequently fiddler crabs at the Sea Hag Marina, and hints on rigs and tackle as well. If you’re looking for a fun time with kids, and don’t have any numbers, a short-range offshore charter will give them tons of action with great eating bottom fish (black seabass, Florida snapper and sheepshead). If you want to deal with your own bait run to offshore structure or hard bottom in 20 to 25 feet of water. And for fishing in the river, keep an eye out because of the hard freeze forecast for the last weekend in January…it may drive the trout into the river. It may be a cold month, but some of the fishing in February will warm you right up.
Some of our tournaments have been rescheduled, so here is an updated schedule for 2022.
February 5th is the Florida Pro Redfish Series tournament. Go to this link for more information: https://flredfishseries.com/?fbclid=IwAR2wYCCD3hkjYd8tfItXyi6F2v3paJH0870sIbxATHlbuoq60uULlxJ7L8o
Steinhatchee’s big winter event is the annual Fiddler Crab Festival, and there is a tournament that weekend on February 19th. For more information, go to this link: http://steinhatcheechamber.com/the-events-calendar/fiddler-crab-festival/
It may be cold in February, but there’s lots of fun stuff to do at the Sea Hag Marina. Come see us. And don’t miss the Fiddler Crab Festival.