Steinhatchee Fishing Report and Forecast

June 2012


Capt. Rick Davidson (, Editor



June Fishing Report

It’s been a busy June for everyone at the Sea Hag Marina. The fishing was exceptional, there were some great tournaments, and we had a new addition to the Sea Hag family.  Colby Eugene Snyder , son of Brittany and Derrick, was born, appropriately enough, on the 21st, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  All are doing well, and congrats to the proud parents. The month began with the Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids tournament and in spite of tough offshore conditions, there were some great catches.  I got to fish with Paul Michas and Noah Brindise and we found some nice reds, including a 26 ½ inch fish. There were over 100 boats fishing this year and in spite of some dicey weather, we had a great time.  The NautiGirls tournament was held on June 16th with some excellent fish brought in. Missie Schneider and Ray Hedgecock show off a great catch of June offshore fish:  red snapper, red grouper, blackfin tuna and kingfish. Late in the month, Nuts & Bolts of Fishing had their Fish ‘n Fest event. We managed to dodge Tropical Storm Debby and get in two great days of fishing. People came from as far as Minnesota and in spite of some tough offshore weather, there were some great catches.  On the first day I fished with Dan Myers and Sherman Harris. Sherman scored with a big red on topwater early in the day, and Dan got some fine trout. On day two, Jason Dempsey found a few nice trout along with John Wooten, the Wildman of Minnesota, and I found this nice red as well.


July 2012 Fishing Forecast

For the July forecast, there are two huge events occurring as of July 1. Scallop season opens, and gag grouper season opens as well.  And this year the scallop season will again be extended another two weeks until September 25th. The Sea Hag is getting ready for scallop season with our great rental boats, lots of accommodations (although they are going fast) and diving and fishing equipment you can use for both events. Scallop season in Steinhatchee has to be experienced, and we cordially invite you to share it with us. Our own Capt. Tommy Thompson has just written a great column that has everything you need to know about scalloping here. And just before publication time, the NOAA Fisheries people have extended the red snapper season six days. The season now will end on July 17th, so you’ve got an extra week to get some of the best-tasting fillets anywhere.
Because gag grouper season is opening, we’re going to try something new this month. I’ve asked the offshore captains to provide a little inside knowledge about how to target and catch gag grouper.

Captain Steve Hart ( notes that gags tend to like more substantial structure than red grouper.  Reds are not so picky; they will spread out and can generally be found around edges of live bottom.  After some major weather like the storm we are having now with Tropical Storm Debby, he recommends really working your best rocks and ledges for gags. He uses a 4/0 Penn or equivalent and prefers 60 lb. mono rather than braid just for the tangle factor. Steve suggests using an 80 lb. leader and normally a 6 ounce sinker depending on current and depth. His first choice in baits is  a live pinfish. While frozen bait works well on reds and will work for gags as well, if you have it available he would always suggest taking live bait.  While trolling works in colder water, Steve prefers bottom fishing, especially during the warm months.

Captain Wiley Horton  ( also likes to use the old style Penn 4/0 with the chrome spool,  mounted on a seven foot rod with a quick taper and some backbone toward the butt section that gives you some lifting power.  He uses mono for bottom fishing, 40 lb. test  with 80 pound leader inside of 80 feet,  and 60 lb. test with 100 pound leader in deeper water. He suggests fishing with the rod tip near the water to maximize your ability to get a nice fish off the bottom, and keep them out of the rocks.  Wiley feels either dead (pogies or squid) or live baits (pinfish, small grunts) can be effective, but also frequently trolls lipped diving plugs as a great option to break up the day. He uses braid for trolling to help get plugs deeper while keeping them closer to the boat. He asks that all grouper fishermen keep a dehooker and venting tool available to release the abundance of red snapper you are certain to catch after the season closes.

Remember that our Ship’s Store has literally everything that you will need for this month, from rods and reels, line (both braid and mono), terminal tackle, diving plugs and both live and frozen bait for gag grouper fishing, and masks, snorkels, dive flags, ladders, and even fishing licenses for scalloping. Most of our guides do scallop trips, and they will also offer split trips with a half-day of fishing and for a later cool-off, a half-day of scalloping. Take advantage of the broad range of services and equipment available at the Sea Hag Marina Ship’s Store.

Breaking news…we delayed posting this report to find out how things were looking on the first day of scallop season. The day started with a comfortable west wind, slightly tannin-stained water, and lots of floating grass (courtesy of TS Debby). There was concern about the amount of fresh water close to the river, but apparently the scallops didn’t notice. Jim and Joyce Hunt, sitting on their balcony, decided to count the number of boats going out. Between 6 AM and noon, over 400 boats came by their house at Marker 41. Scallops were easily available, with quick limits.  For more details of the first day, see Capt. Tommy Thompson’s report below.

And now some reports from some of our excellent group of guides….


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


My hunch was right! The fishing through the month of June has been as good as or better than it has been each month this year. So far, except for the days that followed strong weather fronts that put the fish and the anglers on their heels, we have enjoyed great fishing. There are a variety of species taking baits right now along with the targeted spotted trout and redfish. We have been catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish regularly and an occasional pompano.  On a recent trip we found those hard fighting sand trout that move in and create a sizable share of the bite this time of year as well. Early in the month we enjoyed the explosive thrill and acrobatics of about a 100 lb. tarpon that lasted on our line about  5 seconds while  fishing in shallow water near Horseshoe for redfish. What a treat that was! The water temps here at the end of the month are lower than usual which I believe is helping keep the bite on fire and should continue to do so. Maybe it’s all of the rain and fresh water. Whatever it is we brought a staggering 80 + lbs of fish to the boat last week!  With scallop season taking the pole position over fishing on the Nature Coast for the next two months, we encourage folks to give us call and line up a scallop trip for the family with Hooked On Reds Charters. While it can be a little tougher to fish with all of the folks out there chasing tasty mollusks (the fish tend to share the best fishing holes with the scallops) we continue to book fishing charters as well.

 As far as the baits go ... Cajun rigs with 1/4 ounce TBS jig heads are working well with live pinfish, cut bait and Gulp baits.  If you’re hunting sand trout  straight lining  jigs with  fluorocarbon leaders is the ticket. Be sure that your jig head gets you to the bottom where those guys hang out.


Captain Steve Rassel  352-359-5902


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

Bad To The Bone Charters


Capt. Tommy Thompson

(352) 284-1763


SCALLOP UPDATE: While the water was a bit murky over the July 4 holiday, there were plenty of scallops. Many were deep, mainly due to the highest tides of the summer that happened during that week. However, the weekend of July 6-8 should be better, with mid-day low tides. It's not that the scallops aren't there during the high tides--they're just harder to reach. Most of the boats headed north towards the hump near the Big Grass Island bird rack and did well there. And while I didn't see many scallopers to the south, I heard rumors that the waters were relatively clear south of the river, especially near the Pepperfish Keys. It might be worth a try in those uncrowded waters. You might also enjoy my photos and story from "Scallop Season, 2012 Opening Day at Steinhatchee" on my website.

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

The first part of June started off well with nice catches of red grouper and red snapper but as the water has warmed the bite has slowed somewhat. We are still catching nice fish but be prepared to keep on the move.  I have done well in the 40-50' range for red grouper but the snapper are still much deeper, as a rule in the 80' plus range. Florida snapper and sea bass are still doing great in the 40-50' depths.

Don't forget that gags will open July 1 and the ever popular Scallop season also opens July 1. Please please remember to be extra careful on the water.  I do lots of scallop charters and every year I can't believe how careless some people are. Be extra careful and I hope to see you on the water soon.


Captain Wiley Horton,


July is a great month in Florida’s Big Bend.  Generally you can count on calm seas to get offshore as far as you dare and be rewarded with some bigger fish than are available inshore. 

Don’t forget about scallop season!  The next couple of months offer an unrivaled opportunity to enjoy the shallow, gin clear grass flats around Steinhatchee.  A large dive flag is a necessity.  Keep a watch while you are in the water, just because someone has the coin to purchase a boat does  not mean they have the sense to operate it.  Be aware of other boats moving in your area and if you are driving, stay slow until you are well clear of other boats.  Hope to see out on the water soon!



Captain Brian Smith, (352) 210-3050