It’s been a good month at the Sea Hag Marina, in spite of the lingering effects of Tropical Storm Debby. The scallop season began with a bang, with limits within a few hours, but as the continued outflow of upriver rainfall made its way into the gulf, the challenge became finding the scallops that were there. At times the tannin-stained water provided limited visibility, so scallopers moved north and south of the river looking for clearer water, finding some good limits in the Pepperfish Keys area. Constant west winds also brought in a lot of floating grass, but the committed scallopers managed to find some tasty meals. The same issues made fishing a challenge as well. Fresh water close to shore and floating grass impacted both redfish and trout fishing, but there were fish available. Capt. Tommy Thompson and I went out for a very brief trip on the last weekend and managed a number of keeper trout and missed some redfish strikes on shore
lines to the north of the river. Offshore, the grouper bite was inconsistent, but there were some fine catches and there were lots of Florida snapper and black seabass for fish fries. We get a lot of questions about how to fish inshore in floating grass, so I thought I’d describe some of the techniques we’ve found to work over the years. Grass is a major challenge to me, since I fish almost exclusively with artificials, with topwater plugs being my favorite. However, grass puts a major damper on just about any fishing with plugs. Probably the most successful method of fishing in heavy grass is using cut pinfish fillets under popping corks. You will still be clearing a lot of grass, but having a piece of cut bait suspended just off the bottom, with the occasional pop of a Cajun Thunder rig will attract the trout and redfish when they are present. Substituting a jig with a Gulp bait or DOA shrimp will also produce, but fishing them without a popping cork will result in lots of grass on your jig. Try to keep your baits in one area without retrieving them too rapidly. Since I try to stick to artificials, I use two major lure choices: first, a simple gold spoon with a weedguard. Capt. Mark Brady recommends bending the very end of the weedguard downward to keep redfish from feeling the sharp end of the wire when they hit the spoon, which makes them drop it rapidly. Work the spoon close to the bottom, bouncing it along. Heavy thumps usually signify a redfish is interested in the spoon but not committed. As a follow-up lure, or as the single lure I use most frequently, use a Texas-rigged soft jerkbait, using an offset worm hook or an Owner soft-bait hook that comes with a small weight attached to the bottom of the hook. When fishing very shallow, I use an unweighted jerkbait from 4 to 6 inches in length. The crucial aspect of fishing these baits is to make sure the very tip of the hook is slightly buried in the top of the bait. I’ve included a brief video link that shows how to make this simple rig here.
There are a variety of jerkbaits that can be rigged this way, including the DOA CAL tails, Salt Water Assassin shad tails, and Gulp makes a jerkbait as well. My particular favorite is a Salt Water Assassin Die Dapper, which is a long jerkbait with a shad tail, but any of these will work excellently. A huge selection of jerkbaits, along with a great selection of hooks for rigging them, can be found in the Sea Hag Marina’s Ship’s Store. On a light spinning rod with 10 pound braid, these baits can be thrown for surprising distances. They can be worked in a variety of methods until you find one that seems to be working in your area. I will occasionally reel them quickly across the top of the water, letting the shad tail vibrate back and forth, similar to a freshwater buzz bait. Sometime I will let it sink a few feet, then work it as if it a topwater plug, walking the dog just under the surface. Sometimes, letting it suspend and giving it quick jerks, then letting it sink slowly toward the bottom will work as well. The largest trout caught on my boat this year was a 6.5 pound gator caught by Dr. Bob Watson on a jerkbait rigged in this manner, and of all the lures I use, it is by far the most weedless when correctly rigged; it will almost never pick up any grass, no matter how thick it is.
August 2012 Fishing Forecast
Offshore, keep in mind that amberjack season is open beginning August 1. If you want some exercise and some great eating, target these great fighters with one of our offshore guides. Gag grouper remain open as well. We expect the water to gradually clear inshore over the next few weeks. There are scallops present, and as the water clears, limits will be taken easily. Summer is traditionally slow for inshore fishing, with lots of scallopers and high water temperatures, but trout will be found in deeper water, up to ten feet, and solitary redfish will be planning for their schooling behavior in the fall. Don’t forget to drop by the Ship’s Store for scalloping supplies, fishing licenses, rod and reels combos, and any lures and terminal tackle you might need for a great time on the water.