Steinhatchee Fishing Report and Forecast

April 2012


Capt. Rick Davidson (, Editor



April Fishing Report

This has been a great fishing month in Steinhatchee. Offshore our captains have been busy with big amberjack and tons of red grouper. While the kingfish bite has been slow, reports have them working their way north to our area. Inshore, the fishing has also been excellent, with full boards of redfish and trout. While the reds will occasionally shut down after a frontal passage, the trout bite has been spectacular this past month. Shane Rhodes and some friends from South Georgia came down for a weekend and caught multiple limits of trout before 11 AM, fishing around the Bird Rack to the north of the river. Thomas Benton, in Shane’s group, landed this nice 4.5 pound redfish as well. The rest of the pictures are from the Florida Lure Anglers’ Tournament on April 14th. Young and old scored well in this great event.



May 2012 Fishing Forecast

May will be another fantastic fishing month. Red grouper and amberjack will continue to lead the way as gag grouper season is closed in federal waters until July 1. Everyone is also waiting for the red snapper season to open June 1. Our offshore captains will be very busy in the next few months, so please call and reserve your trip if you want to get to sample a variety of great offshore fishing. Inshore fishing will continue to be very productive. The flats are full of keeper trout in 3 to 6 feet of water over mixed bottom. Most folks have been scoring easy limits of fish using ¼ to ½ oz jigheads and Gulp shrimp fished slowly along the sand holes and grass patches. Try to avoid areas of solid grass, and keep moving if you don’t locate fish within a few minutes. When drifting the flats, make sure you use your Man Overboard marker on your GPS. When you come across a pod of fish, mark the spot so you can drift through it again on a later drift. For those traditionalists, a small weighted marker works great for this as well. Trout schools seek out areas of slight changes in depth or water flow that you can’t see from the boat, but there is a reason they are there, so it’s worth a return drift through the same area. Redfish have been a little finicky in terms of the bite, but they are there. A few trips this month we saw lots of reds that just weren’t interested in eating. Fish shallow rocky areas (around Rock Point and behind the Pepperfish Keys have been hot spots recently) with gold spoons, jigs or topwater plugs. There are some great new items in the Ship’s Store, including the new LiveTarget lures, some new Rapala and Yozuri hardbaits, and Sebile soft baits that are fantastic redfish lures. Whether offshore or inshore, keep a cobia rod handy because they are both on the flats and offshore structure. Spanish mackerel are beginning to get here in large numbers; find nearshore bait pods and chum near sand bars, or troll jigs or Clark spoons for lots of action…and don’t forget the wire leader.

Tournament Schedule For Spring 2012

May 5: Optimist Club Saltwater Tournament (weigh-in at Sea Hag Marina, Econfina and Keaton Beach)

May 12: Big Bend Redfish Club (weigh-in at Sea Hag Marina)

May 26: Wildwood Athletic Club tournament (weigh-in at Sea Hag Marina)

June 8-9: Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids tournament (weigh-in location TBA)

June 16: Steinhatchee Nauti Girls tournament (ladies only; weigh-in TBA)

Lastly, we get frequent questions about the open seasons for fish in our area. Sometimes this is a challenge because they change frequently based on federal and state rulings. As of today, this is a list of the seasonal regulations for grouper, amberjack and red snapper.

GAG GROUPER: State waters open April, May and June for Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin Counties.  July 1 thru October 31 Federal waters open but STATE waters will be closed to above counties. BAG LIMIT 2 per person within the 4 Grouper aggregate bag limit, minimum size 22 inches.





Now some reports from our guides…the finest in the area:


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

If you have been waiting for that famous Steinhatchee bite to take shape, wait no more! Our inshore charter action has been red hot and those elusive redfish are now biting too. In all my years fishing, I doubt I have had two days, back to back, where we hooked more reds and trout. Solid limits of keeper trout and hundreds of near keeper fish are making their way to the boat and the new redfish limits are making things very interesting on the Nature Coast right now. When it comes to trout we typically test the water column by tight lining with 3/8 oz TBS black nickel jig heads with an 18" fluorocarbon leader and Cajun rigs equipped with 1/4 ounce jigs heads. To fish the shallow tides over the grass beds, a leader as short as 18" can be the prescription with a Cajun rig as well. Reds have been another story; bring a buffet and try different techniques. From day to day their preferences seem to change and you'll be standing on the dock fishless if you’re not willing to move around and stick with the same bait all day when it’s not working. The Sea Hag's Ship’s Store has all the ingredients for your buffet. Just ask what’s been working the best, buy some and hang on.
I had suggested last month that the unseasonably warm weather might well set things in motion 4 to 6 weeks ahead of schedule, and I was right for a change! We have landed three cobia fishing the flats already which has been a "reel" treat. Spanish mackerel are also making their way to the boat as are some large bluefish (one of the toughest fights on the flats, especially on our light tackle). A special thanks to everyone who has joined Hooked On Reds Charters in April; we look forward to your return. We have a handful of weekend dates available. In case you’re wondering,  the word is out, so call now before we are completely "sold out". Try to enjoy the photos as much as the folks in the picture did ( I doubt you will, but try just for your own sake). Better yet, pick up the phone and give us a call and let’s see how big your smile gets!


Captain Steve Rassel  352-359-5902



Fishing on the flats continues to be red hot for both trout and redfish. Pepperfish is still the hot spot. Spanish are showing up in numbers around the deeper sand bars. May will be another great month to come to Steinhatchee and catch your limit.


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

Bad To The Bone Charters


Capt. Tommy Thompson

(352) 284-1763


May's always an exciting month at Steinhatchee. Expect to find good numbers of seatrout on the flats, and start looking for schools of hungry redfish cruising the shorelines and creek fronts. I'm a topwater lure/shallow water fanatic, and if you've ever seen a big red chase down a plug, you are too. Cobia have already started to show up, and while I don't necessarily target that species, I always keep a big spinning rod, "rigged and ready" with a rubber eel==just in case a cobia swims up to the boat. Following this dry winter, there hasn't been much runoff from rainfall, so expect our waters to be exceptionally clear. That means that the fish will be spooky, and that long, accurate casts are essential. Thats the reason I use quality Shimano reels, long (7-to 8-foot) rods and wind-resistant Power Pro line. Even big reds and small cobia can be landed on light tackle!

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

April has been fun. We had a few days when the wind blew but we also had a lot of beautiful days. Red grouper are now in season and the bite has been good,  I have found a few in the 30’ range but the best by far has been 65’-72’. Frozen or cut bait works better on reds;  live bait will catch you some nice gags but it only harms them and kills us to let them go.  You can keep them if you are in state waters but be very careful and do not cross over into federal waters, because they have been writing tickets. Gags will open July 1 in federal waters.  While live bait may not be as important for red grouper you will want it for some amberjack action;  they have been plentiful so far but remember season closes June 1.  Live bait is also good to have in case you see a nice cobia;  I have already caught several keepers and a number of throw backs so keep a rod with a free line handy just in case.  I have tried to stay away from red snapper but still have caught and released some really nice ones. Their season opens June 1. Scallop season will open July 1 and I am already getting good reports so book early.

While the cost of everything is going up, I can still offer an affordable half day offshore for $500.  These trips provide lots of fun and fish without breaking the bank, so keep it in mind. Be safe and I hope to see you on the water soon.


Captain Brian Smith, (352) 210-3050



Hot dog! -- it's May!  After knowing what has been banging this April offshore, and seeing the last three day catches inshore by Capt. Scottie Peters, I’m ready to be rocked by fishing in May.  Trout and redfish catches, brought in by our first-rate Steinhatchee guides, have been off the chart.  Some pompano, flounder, cobia and Spanish mackerel have been in the catch as well.   Inshore action is hot and expected to heat-up!  Offshore action has been wonderful.  A showcase of amberjack has entertained every charter.  Fighting an amberjack on a grouper stick is great, but seeing a horde of them doing flips for topwater plugs is unforgettable.  Right-coasters dismiss AJ’s because they’re wormy, but here on the left coast, the 15-25 pounders are clean, and more than kitchen worthy. 

The cobias have showed up in better than average numbers.  I’m still lamenting the 60-pound cobia that flopped off my gaff a week ago.  Life goes on, but I’m still thinking of what I could have done to bring that fish aboard.  Sharks are abundant,  large ones and you never know what species will show up on the end of your line.  A seven-foot bull shark took a chartreuse jig while AJ fishing two weeks ago.  We brought the prime-of-life shark boat-side after a four-man rod handoff.  It was beautiful, but I didn’t get my jig back.  Shark hunters have a great opportunity of battling a beast in close or far off, but bring the heavy gear. Florida snapper and sea bass are running thick on hard bottom 40-50’ deep.  The bait is irrelevant; a pound box of squid to kick off with then switch to cut bait and enjoy fast soon-to-be tasty action. Red grouper, keepers, are best found 65’ or better.  Live bait isn’t necessary.  Frozen bait or cut will work just fine and eliminate money or time to get live bait.  However, I’m one to always have an assortment of live bait because it is still better than Gulp regardless of what is advertised. 

May is prime time fishing time in Steinhatchee.  Come and do some float time and get you some of everything.


Captain Wiley Horton    352-284-0990


May is shaping up to be a fine month on the Gulf coast.  The sheepshead have headed back to the shallows but the kingfish and cobia are showing up in numbers.  The red grouper limit was expanded to four fish per person a while back making those trips offshore worthwhile.  Amberjacks are available through the end of May, red snapper open on June 1 and run for 43 days so plan that trip now while days are available.  The venerable gag grouper will see an open season from July 1 through approximately the end of October.  Those in the know have figured out that the first 20 days of July offer an opportunity to turn the clock back 30 years and go catch an abundance of offshore species. On the conservation front, economists from the National Marine Fisheries Service have calculated that the economic impact of a commercially caught fish to the state of Florida is a little over $1/lb.  That same fish caught by a recreational angler is worth over $9/lb to the state’s economy.  That’s good news in an otherwise bleak scene from fisheries management. Look for any future increases in harvest to be directed toward the far more lucrative recreational sector. Best bet for May:  try fishing for kingfish with a kite and live bait; the strikes can be spectacular.  Fighting a large fish from a dead boat takes some angling skill. Hope to see you on the water!