Steinhatchee Fishing Report and Forecast

January 2012


Capt. Rick Davidson (, Editor



January Fishing Report

The New Year got off to a confusing start for both fisherfolks and seatrout. This winter has so far given us relatively mild temperatures, and the few cold fronts that have gotten the air temperatures down have been short-term and haven’t resulted in getting the water temperatures down to drive the trout in large numbers into the river for an extended time. It’s made for more comfortable but inconsistent fishing. Not that there weren’t some large trout around; Phil Horn set a new Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club record with this 6.9 pound trout caught on a Catch 2000, breaking a record that had stood for almost 15 years. We found some large trout outside of creek mouths, but they weren’t in their usual schooling behavior that we look for this year. On one day after the air temp dropped to the high ‘20s for two days, the water temperature was still in the high ‘50s, unchanged from the week before. The river trout, like this one caught by Russ Roy, were scattered and mostly smaller slot-sized fish. However, we have the newly opened season in February to find the fish, which is a great advantage.

Offshore, we’ve seen some great catches of black sea bass, Florida snapper and red grouper. Some of our inshore guides with larger boats have been targeting the tasty bottom fish with great success. Lots of action, and great eating for those that can get to 20 feet of water. Sheepshead have also been available in decent numbers, ahead of schedule this year because of the warming trend.



February 2012 Fishing Forecast


Offshore, both grouper species are closed this month. However, you can still have some great fun with amberjack and some great eating with bottom fishing. Our offshore guides are bringing in huge catches of bottom fish while we wait for the migration of the pelagic fish (kingfish, Spanish mackerel and cobia) that will begin soon with sustained warm temperatures. Sheepshead fishing should be excellent this month, but for an up-to-date report, call the Sea Hag Marina Ship’s Store. We have plenty of live shrimp, and all the tackle and tips you’ll need to score some of these great eating fish. Inshore, the major changes are the opening of trout season this month, and the increase in redfish limits to two per angler. Make sure you plan to attend the Fiddler Crab Festival the weekend of February 17-18 for a great time, hot live music, great food, and excellent local crafts. For more information go to the Festival website at:

Here are some reports and photos from our excellent guides:


Captain Randall Hewitt 386-208-3823 (C) 386-294-1257 (H)

Mild temperatures this winter have changed things up a bit on the Nature Coast ... the trout fisherman are visiting their typical hot spots this time of year and are having marginal success in the Steinhatchee River and its mouth. Cold temperatures this time of year drive the trout to the deeper warmer water of the river vs. the flats where the air and water temps are more likely to mirror one another in the shallow waters. However some anglers are reporting banner catches of specs in a handful of locations. The trick is finding them. With so many bluebird days we have been heading to 25 to 35 feet of water to focus on b lack sea bass and Florida Snapper, when the conditions are right for our equipment. With 1-2 foot seas or less and a 10 mph wind or less we have been heading to the dock with 75-100 lbs of these tasty species,  that some consider the best eating in our Gulf waters. This time of year, as the bait moves to deeper waters and the predators move in to enjoy supper, the action is often non- stop. We have pulled our medium weight rigs out, including Fin-nor Ahab 8s with 7 foot medium heavy rods with fast tips, jigging Spro 2-3 ounce buck tail jigs ( sold in the Sea Hag’s Ships Store). Tipped with squid or Gulp shrimp, this is a highly effective and tasty appetizer for a variety of species. Look for hard bottom on your machine and drift a bit to locate them, and if you find a spot toss the anchor out. When the bite is over, repeat and do it again. One of the best things about fishing for blacks and Florida snapper is the by-catch;  you just never know what will come next, which really makes things interesting. We have been pulling flounder, red and gag grouper and an occasional redfish in as well. These surprises make for an outstanding day of family fishing, as it keeps the young anglers very occupied. Visit for routine updates and get yourself to the Sea Hag, Steinhatchee's premier marina !


Captain Steve Rassel  352-359-5902


 January was a tough month for trout fishing, there one day and gone the next as the weather was anything but helpful. Still there were some fish caught in the river as well as in the nearby creeks. Live shrimp or Mirrolures seemed to work best. Red fish were caught around rock bars and inside creek mouths with most being of keeper size. Plenty of sea bass can be found on rocky bottom with a few in the 16 inch range. Trout season will be open this year in February so come on down and catch some fish. 


Capt. Scott Peters, Jr. 352-356-7502

Bad To The Bone Charters


Capt. Tommy Thompson

(352) 284-1763


With no closed season for seatrout this year, things will stay busy at Steinhatchee throughout the month of February. I'm hoping for some colder weather, but even if it doesn't show its (ugly) face and I have to leave my 'survival jacket' at home, I think the trout will still be plentiful. They may not be packed up in the river holes, but since they're not sure about the weather eithere, they'll be hanging close to the river. Look for good fish on the flats to the south of the river, especially in areas where the seagrasses are still green. If they're shallow, try fishing with live shrimp or GULP! baits under corks, or with slow-sinking plugs like Paul Brown Devils. If they're deeper, toss or slow troll MirrOlure 52Ms or TTs. Look for redfish near the mouths of bigger creeks, especially on warm, sunny afternoons.

If you're interested in some more in-depth information about fishing Florida's Big Bend, take a look at my weekly Fishing4Cast on the Florida Sportsman Magazine Web site at, the Florida Sportsman Big Bend Action Spotter column in each month's issue. All of the Big Bend fishing 4Casts are now available to to viewed on my editorial website. And starting this month, I'll be taking over the 'Sportsman's Kitchen' column in Florida Sportsman magazine. I like to fish, but cooking and eating are a close second-place!

My award-winning fishing guidebook, The Saltwater Angler's Guide To Florida's Big Bend and Emerald Coast, might be a help to you if you spend lots of time at Steinhatchee (or anywhere from Chassahowitzka to Pensacola). It's got LOTS of secrets, tips and tricks, so don't forget to pick up a copy at the Sea Hag Ship's Store the next time you're at the marina. You can learn more about the book at

Also, my book, The Inshore Advantage, Aerial Photos of the Shallow Waters near Steinhatchee, Florida is again available ONLY at the Sea Hag's Ships' Store. Although pricey ($75), the hardbound book with its 26 high-resolution color photos, taken at very low tide will give you a decided advantage in that you'll get a close-up look at the details of the shoreline from Pepperfish Keys to Sponge Point.  The photos are also overlaid with GPS numbers and place names to help you better understand the shoreline.  Also included are two articles, Steinhatchee Inshore Waters and Navigating Steinhatchee's Rocky Shoreline.


Captain Steve Hart, (352) 498-0299

Well February is here and that brings on the close of all grouper for two months. This gives time to work on boats, spool new line and most of all check all safety equipment, making sure everything is up to date (Flairs, EPIRBs,  life raft, PFD's),  all very important things for you to inquire about when chartering a boat. As for fishing, don't sit in front of the TV; look for a nice day and go catch some nice black sea bass and Florida snapper. A half day trip can provide lots of fun and great eating fish.  Sea bass can be found in the 20' plus range and Florida snapper will do better in 50' plus. Sheepshead should show up on the reef in March, the best bait being shrimp and fiddler crabs;  both are available at Sea Hag Marina.

Stay safe and I hope to see you on the water soon.



Captain Brian Smith, (352) 210-3050

It is prime time for big black sea bass. They are swarming over any piece of hard bottom from twenty to forty feet deep. See if you can save gas by first fishing the shallower reefs and working your way out. As far as action and eating, sea bass can’t be beat. For the most fun, use typical trout gear. The lightweight approach really adds fun to the experience. As bait, I like a 3/8 to ½ ounce jig tipped with squid or Gulp. The length and sturdiness of the jigs greatly helps hook removal, as well as, keeping you and yours in the action of catching sea bass. If conditions are calm enough, drift fish. By slowly moving along, you’ll pick off the cream of the crop and not have to deal with as many short sea bass. Multiple hook rigs will pick up more fish per drop, but the overall outcome will be the same or less because of the addition time needed for unhooking. And much of the time, one of the fish will have swallowed the hook. I prefer a simple one at a time style using a sweetened jig. There is no wrong way to catch sea bass, so do it like you like it. The reward is a fine diner with fries and cole slaw!



...And our legislative update from Capt. Wiley Horton, Coastal Conservation Association Florida Board Member.

Captain Wiley Horton    352-284-0990

February and March present some of the best grouper fishing of any year when the weather cooperates.  Unfortunately, Dr. Jane Lubchenko now heads the National Marine Fisheries Service division of NOAA, and she has strong environmentalist leanings.  Resulting policy decisions have been predictable; fishing seasons and limits are driven by the environmental movement’s goals rather by sound science. In the past, recreational and commercial interests have been at odds over allocation.  Those battles continue but are increasingly left moot by federal decree that no one shall fish.  A prime example is red snapper.  A combination of hurricanes that decimated the shrimping fleet, higher fuel prices and the increased competition from farm raised shrimp means that more juvenile red snapper survive to reproductive maturity; their number and range has increased dramatically over the past 7 years.  NMFS’s  take on this is since there are a lot more fish out there, they need to shorten the season each year or too many fish will be caught.  This year they are proposing a 45 day season. To their credit, Florida’s congressional delegation has been unusually vigorous in pursuing an end to these job killing regulations, which have pushed marinas, tackle stores, bait shops and associated businesses past the point of no return.  The good news is Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission is far less influenced by the environmental lobbyists.  They recently increased the redfish limit to two fish per person in state waters and opened February to trout fishing.  Offshore, sheepshead fishing has picked up and provides some exciting sport on light tackle.  Florida snapper and big sea bass continue to be abundant and make for a fine fish fry.  Good luck out there!