Capt. Rick Davidson, Editor (email@example.com)
Fishing Report NOVEMBER 2021
We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with their families. It’s a special time of year, and a great time of year to go fishing, since many have visiting family. Despite windy conditions for much of the month, there were lots of fish out there. The cold snap near the end of the month slowed things down for a few days as the fish acclimated to colder water temps, but overall, it was a great month. And offshore fishing was on fire. Here are some shots from this past month at the Sea Hag Marina.
To view a full-sized version of an image, simply click on any one of these smaller versions!
Despite cold temperatures, serious fishermen love the winter months. Big trout and big grouper are two of the major reasons. Inshore, the big anticipation is the arrival of trout in the river. While last winter was the mildest in some time, at some point in the next two months we’ll have a big cold front with temps in the 30s. That’s intolerable to fish in shallow water so they need to get to deeper water to survive; and there’s deep water in the Steinhatchee River. Fishing the river during a winter trout run is great fun, once you get used to the fact that the river may be jammed with boats. Courtesy is important and spend some time anchoring appropriately so that you are not in the channel. This can be a challenge, because most of the fish are found in the channel and deeper water around it. Additionally, the best fishing is frequently near the mouth of the river between markers 19 and 26. As the temperature gets colder, into the 30’s, the fish may move further upriver. One way to locate fish is to slow-troll the classic 52M Mirrolures in the channel. When you find one, pull to the side of the channel and anchor carefully. I’ve always found river fishing to be most productive either casting sinking plugs, free-lining live shrimp with some split-shot to keep them near the bottom, or ¼ oz. jigheads with Gulp tails or DOA shrimp in the ¼ or ½ oz. size. Attach them with light fluorocarbon leader. Throw your lure or bait upcurrent into the channel and allow it to sink as deeply as possible, working the plugs with nothing more than the occasional twitch. Remember that much of the area that holds the most trout is also the rocky part of the river, so be prepared to lose rigs on the bottom. When in the river, trout tend to move up and down the channel in schools, but sometimes in warmer afternoons they will set up camp over some warmer mud bottom that’s been exposed to the sun.
Trout in the river are frequently variable in size; I’ve caught some 26 inchers right next to short fish, but remember that regulations are enforced year-round, and you may very well be checked for short fish. Because of shrinkage, it’s wise to only keep fish that are nearly 16 inches in length, just to give yourself some leeway; short trout can make for a very expensive meal. Fishing with shrimp, you may also find some nice croakers, black drum and redfish in the river rocky areas. Finally, while river fishing is easy in almost any weather, and there are keeper fish available, those with local knowledge understand that winter is the best time of year for trout over 20 inches. Sunny warming afternoons on flood tides in areas of rocks or dark bottom is a great way to start, but key trout locations are guarded jealously by those in the know. And no matter where you fish, remember: in cold water, slow down everything. Fish everything as slowly as you think you can, and then cut that in half. Next month I’ll provide some more specifics about how to find big trout in the winter outside of the river. Offshore, the grouper bite will continue to be excellent; this is one of the best times of the year to go for grouper in shallower depths, using live and dead bait on the bottom. Trolling is not as productive in colder temperatures, so find your spots and anchor. And don’t forget about the fine bottom fishing for big sea bass and Florida snapper.
Most of the posted pictures each month come from guided trips; we have the best guides in the Big Bend, both offshore and inshore. Because winter fishing can be hit or miss, this is the best time of year to hire one of our guides and learn some tips about how to fish in colder water. You won’t regret it.
The Eggnog Open fishing tournament, affiliated with the CCA, is one of the few winter tournaments and is always a fun event. It’s scheduled for December 11th. For more information, call the Ship’s Store at Sea Hag Marina. And remember we have the best fleet of rental boats anywhere on the west coast, great accommodations, and all the tackle and bait you need to catch ‘em up this month while your family is in town. And we want to wish you a very happy holiday season in advance….a merry Christmas, a happy Chanukah, and a fantastic New Year.