This weekend we will welcome the month of December and its no secret that the fish are biting. If you don’t believe me just ride down to your local landing and see for yourself the number of pick up trucks with trailers and cars with kayak racks that are parked there. I’d say the word is out. Water temperature has been hanging right around 60 degrees for about the last week. Smaller redfish can be found schooling around creek and river mouths, while the bigger bull reds are still stalking around the shallow flats. Areas on the flats that hold oyster bars or just some rocky bottom are prime places to target nice upper and over slot reds. Speckled trout are being caught from the grass line on out to about 4 feet of water. The bigger trout are in closer but you will get more action out in 3-4 feet you may just have to release 7 trout for every legal size fish you boat. From my experience on the water last week and from what I’ve heard from other anglers is that the trout and redfish bite has been feast or famine at different points throughout the day. One day last week I was working through an area where I kept seeing redfish but could not get a bite. I knew I was in an area holding fish because I could literally see them under the boat and then like someone flipped a switch they woke up and starting reacting to our lures. Same thing with targeting trout, you could catch twenty-five in an hour or two then nothing for a while in the same area. Fish feeding more during certain times of the day is nothing new it just seemed a little more noticeable. Fish don’t decide when to feed based on you old farmers almanac feeding time chart either, if that was the case it would make my job a lot easier to just base trips around that. A saving grace for anglers lately dealing with a slow speckled trout and redfish bite or just a low winter tide has been the black sea bass and spanish mackerel. On a day last week during a negative tide I ran out to the first break and found lots of feisty spanish and bluefish ready to oblige my bait. At first, I was not set up for all those sharp teeth so I lost some lures but after that it made for a fun few hours waiting on the water to come back in. My guess is that if you wanted to sink a chum block in about 8 feet of water where you have caught or seen a couple spanish, you could probably anchor and catch a good number of them. People have also been catching huge numbers of legal size black sea bass in 8-10 feet of water especially in areas where rocks are present. This is something to keep in mind on your next trip during low tide unless you are one of those people who love fishing skinny water. I am not one of those people. f�;u0
August 15th 2017
For those of you still braving the August heat and storms to go chase fish you should be rewarded with unseasonably good fishing. All the rain that we have had has kept the water temperature a bit cooler than it normally is this time of year. As a result of cooler water temperatures, the trout are staying in shallow water longer than normal. You can catch trout in 6 feet of water first thing in the morning before the sun gets too high then by midmorning your best bet would be 8-10 feet of water. Always looks for areas were sandy spots are present among the grass, your success rate should go up in these areas for targeting trout or black sea bass. A lively bite sized pinfish is always a good choice for bait but are especially great this time of year. Most trout can’t resist an easy meal dangled just over the grass where they are resting in the cooler water. If you are fishing artificials this time of year I prefer the soft plastic jerk shads or paddle tails, something that mimics a fish as opposed to shrimp style plastics. A white jerk shad rigged under a popping cork is always a good bet. When going after redfish find the creeks or bars early in the morning that have the most baitfish action at the surface. Where you find the baitfish, the reds will be there as well harassing them. Early morning topwater is the preferred method this time of year. Sneak around the grass lines pitching your plug and you should draw some strikes, topwater is probably the coolest way to catch fish in my opinion because you get to see the eat. Live bait will also be successful for redfish and the shrimp boats have started running again so you probably can find some at your favorite bait store. If you don’t feel like fighting the pinfish using shrimp, try mudminnows or pinfish.
It is hot outside but I’m guessing you already had that figured out by now. I was on the water a lot last week and at no point could I look around and not see rain on the horizon. I was able to work around most of it but did get wet a couple times, including last Sunday when a big storm popped up over the St Marks river mouth and I had no choice but to run through it. That was some of the hardest rain I have been caught in in a long time. Water temperature is around 80 degrees in the morning and rising to around 88 or 89 degrees in the heat of the afternoon. I have fished out at the stake line and I fished in and around the creeks and oyster bars. If you are planning on hitting the water this weekend there will be a high tide for you to work with in the morning and I would recommend working the creeks, oyster bars and grass lines. Like I tell my clients, fishing in close this time of year is high risk/high reward, you can go hours without a bump then hook up with a really nice fish. There are not high concentrations of trout in close but the fish that are there will be quality for the most part. Some really nice redfish move into our area during the late summer and hooking up with a true bull can be an incredible fight. I’ve put eyes on a couple of 10-15 pound fish and even fought one for a while but have yet to put one in the boat this season. What is a fishing column without a “I almost caught a big fish” story? A live bull or tiger minnow rigged under a cork or freelined can be deadly on fish this time of year on the grassline. If you are striking out in close and need a little action, motor out to the stake line. For clarification, the stake line is a line of buoys marking the boundary of the St Marks National Wildlife Refuge and it has been a ladyfish, shark and short trout bonanza out there. It is great if you are just looking to get a tug on the end of your line but not great if you are looking to put some quality fish in the ice chest, unless eating shark is your sort of thing. I do not judge. If you are planning a trip to east portion of Apalachhee Bay, from the Econfina river down to Steinhatchee, you will still have luck over spotty bottom in 8-10 feet of water. Speaking of, the scalloping continues to be good south of Keaton Beach to Steinhatchee. I have not heard any recent reports north of Keaton and the Econfina area. I had an opportunity to scallop a bit out of St Marks last Saturday with 16 year old Tyler Whitfield who traveled down from Atlanta with his Father for the weekend. Tyler had never snorkeled in the ocean before and he had a blast, that is by far my favorite part of taking out charters, seeing kids get excited. As for the St Marks scallop report, the scallops seem to be in better numbers than a couple weeks ago but still spread out thin and running a little small. Try searching for them near the sandbar by the channel marks and in the rock garden.
Dawn is making its first little crack around 6am now so set your alarms early for that daylight bite, but if you don't make it at daylight don't fret because the days are lasting about 14 hours this time of year. The daylight topwater bite is still good for redfish. Live pinfish or mud minnows rigged shallow under a cork and pitched around the grass line will get you a fish or two as well. Live shrimp are always a good bet for redfish, the trick is keeping the pinfish from tearing them apart this time of year. The trout are biting but you might have to throw the whole tackle box at them to see what they prefer to eat each day. Go out in 7-10 feet of water. Watch your depth finder, humps, ridges, ledges and anywhere with depth change is a good place to try. Find depth change with "spotty" bottom and that is an excellent area to find trout. Work these areas trying different baits and retrievals to find what is working. Most any day a big trout will oblige a nice bite sized live pinfish rigged under a cork but if you don't have any of those you can cut a bigger pinfish for "shiner tails" or use a chunk of ladyfish. For those of you that don’t know, shiner tails are when you remove a pinfish’s head and split the rest of the body down the backbone from the tail up. A Gulp shrimp bounced with a 1/4 oz jighead will produce some keeper size black bass along with a few trout. Over spotty bottom when fishing on bottom slow your retrieve down over the sand patches to hook into a flounder. Jerk shad style soft plastics rigged under a popping cork have been taking keeper trout as well. When you are drifting an area and catch a couple of fish, mark the spot on your GPS or throw a marker buoy so you know where to re drift, usually there will be more fish in that area. Scalloping is now in full swing all across the area. Reports I’ve heard from the St Marks area have not been great. Scallops are thin and the water is stained, although it has cleared some. All the rain we have had in the area has put a ton of freshwater in the shallow flats and that is just not good for the scallops who like their water salty. Hopefully in the coming weeks they will move in with greater numbers. You scallop hounds may just have to make the drive to Keaton or Steinhatchee, the waters over that way have been more productive.
June 24th 2017
All the rain we have had in the Big Bend area last week has lots of fresh water pouring into coast and inland waters have been darker as a result. The inshore report has not changed in the last week and probably will not change much for the next few weeks. The seatrout bite has slowed some in the past couple of weeks but they are still there to be caught it just may take a bit longer. Try 8-10 feet for trout and make sure you are working your bait slow and in the bottom few feet of the water column. If targeting spanish mackerel, bluefish or jacks watch for bait and bird activity and working brighter lures faster and higher in the water column can be successful. I would recommend a light wire leader or heavy fluorocarbon leader 50-60 lbs while doing this. If you want a good fight hook a large pinfish under a cork using a circle hook. I use a 5000 size bait runner spinning reel spooled with 300yds of 30lb power pro with a heavy or medium heavy action rod. It is almost a guarantee that a nice size shark will cruise by and inhale that pinfish, you may even get lucky and bag a nice cobia. Offshore anglers have been taking advantage of the extended federal snapper season and have been rewarded for their efforts. Most of the offshore guys I have talked to have done really well targeting snapper and have also been bagging some nice grouper to boot. The offshore structure is alive with all kinds of species right now and can make for a very entertaining day, you just may have to dodge a few storms.
I have been scalloping out from Taylor county the last couple of weeks and the scallops are starting to show up thick. This past weekend we gathered limits despite the water being a little stained without moving more than a couple hundred yards both Saturday and Sunday. Hot spots have been Grassy Island, Dallus Creek, Rocky Creek and Pepperfish Key. The scallop season opens in Wakulla county waters this weekend. When looking for scallops start by target clearer water, this means you need to stay away from major sources of freshwater like river mouths. Once you find the clear water I have been picking scallops in 3-7 feet of water and a lot of that is dependent on the tide. Look for the reddish brown seagrass mixed in with the normal green eelgrass. I’m not sure of the name of this reddish brown seagrass that scallops like and a quick google search did not produce the results I was hoping for, so if any of you know the proper name I encourage you to email and educate me.
With scallop season upon us and July 4th coming next week this is probably the busiest time of year and I’d like to talk a little about boating etiquette and diver down laws as they apply to scalloping. First let’s start with the boat launch. During this busy time and really anytime it is important to do everything you can to prepare your boat for launch before arriving at the boat ramp. Doing things like putting plugs in the boat if you are not anticipating rain on the drive or loading gear in the boat before leaving home can cut down on wait times. I realize that not everything can be done prior to arriving at launch points but in this case, stop clear of the line to stage so as to not hold up boats that are ready to launch. Also after loading your boat back on the trailer, please pull well clear of the ramp area before stopping to prepare your boat for the ride home. Once on the water be mindful which way the wind is blowing and if possible do not run through another boat’s fishing drift, which is the immediate area of water downwind of the fisherman. Offshore if someone is on your numbers move to the next one or wait for the boat to move before dropping anchor. Now let’s go over diver down laws, a diver down flag is not to be a fix object on you boat, it is only to be display only when divers are present in the water. When divers are in the water the flag needs to be displayed at the highest point of your boat so as not to be obstructed by anything. Divers are required to stay within 300 feet of a displayed diver down flag and boats are required to be at idle speed while within 300 feet of a displayed flag. I’d also like to thank the FWC Officers out patrolling for helping keep everyone on the water safe. Everyone be safe and enjoy you holiday weekend.
June 18th 2017
Well it’s full blown summer time now, with water temps well into the 80s. That means the fishing is slowing a bit and scallop season is here. I’ll get to scalloping, but first let’s dive into the fishing report, I promise that is not a pun. The redfish bite has been good in the early morning hours and late in the evening. I like to target them this time of year with a gold and black Cotton Cordell Rattlin Redfin, Rapala’s Skitterwalk and Super Spook Jr also will produce nice fish. Work these lures on oyster bars, creek mouths, grass points and rocks, pretty much your usual redfish hangouts. Trout are funny this time of year, I’ve had really good days catching lots of quality fish and some not so good days in just a week’s span. Unlike the redfish, I’ve seen that the trout care much less about the time of day for when they decide to bite and it’s not always going to align with feeding times. The best advice I can give you for targeting trout right now is fish deep 8-10 feet and keep your bait deep whether you rig a long leader under a cork or jig on bottom. Fishing cut bait can be a good way to catch trout right now and you will also catch some other species such as sharks or bluefish to help break the monotony during the slow times. If you are not having success in the beginning be patient and stick with it the fish can turn on at any moment.
Scallop season opened last weekend in Dixie county and a portion of Taylor county from the Suwanee River to the Fenholloway. The boat ramps were overflowing with the scallop armada in full force. Hundreds of boats were spread out in large groups from Keaton to Steinhatchee. Grassy Island seemed to be the line last weekend where the scallops started to show up. Reports were better further south towards Steinhatchee whereas the people who scalloped right out from Keaton, or just north, reported very few scallops in the area. I went south out of Keaton and started picking them up just south of Grassy Island. With the season starting earlier this year, the scallops were not as thick as they were for openers in the past couple of years. I have heard some fisherman in the central and western portions of the bay report that they are starting to see scallops while fishing from Econfina to St. Marks. I look for the scallops to gather in greater numbers around the first of July as the water temperature is warming and hopefully the opening weekend for the western portion of Apalachee Bay will be more productive.
June 11th 2017
Well it is the second week in June and the fishing has still been pretty good, with water temperature hanging in the upper 70s. If you plan on hitting the flats this weekend my advice is to go early and deep. I have been having the most success early in the morning or late in the evening with the bite falling off considerably during the afternoon hours. All of the rain we have been getting has the trout scattered around so try some different areas if you are not having success somewhere you did the week prior. I have caught most of my fish in 6 to 10 feet of water where grass and sand are present. When you get in these areas try bouncing a soft plastic like Gulp or Z-man off the bottom, you will catch trout and black sea bass with the occasional spanish mackerel and bluefish. Live pinfish or cut bait fished deep under a popping cork have produced some quality trout as well. There have been reports of large redfish schools roaming the flats including some really big fish. I dusted off the mask and snorkel and took a swim for the first time this year in anticipation of scallop season opening in the eastern portion of Apalachee Bay. The scallops I found were in deeper water close to 10 feet, but will move in closer once the water temperature and salinity rise. And remember the season is opening two weeks earlier than normal this year in some places. Dixie county and a portion of Taylor county the harvesting of scallops begins Friday June 16th with the boundaries being the Suwannee River up to the Fenholloway River. All other areas the harvest begins July 1st with the except of Gulf county and St. Joe’s Bay beginning July 25th. I will be at Keaton Beach for the next few weeks and would love to take you and your family out on a scallop trip.
Fishing has been good throughout Apalachee Bay. The front that came through last week dropped the water temperature back into the mid 70s and has kept the fish active. Water clarity has been good despite the rain. Trout have been a bit deeper, finding them more in 7-9' of water. If you can find a 3-4" pinfish, put it under a cork live and hold on. Shiner tails have also been productive when smaller pinfish are unavailable. For artificial, white or off white and anything with a chartreuse tail are good choices. Remember with fishing the deeper flats you may want to move to a heavier jighead 3/16 or 1/4oz to help keep your bait down. Whitebait and ballyhoo are everywhere right now so the Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish won't be far behind. I would recommend using 40lb fluorocarbon leader to reduce cut offs. Try to get on the water early because the bite has been slowing during afternoon hours. It is a very busy time of year at all the local launches so remember you boat ramp etiquette, be courteous and good luck.
May 18th 2017
This bite has been good on the flats the past couple of weeks since the wind decided to lay down a bit. Trout fishing has been productive early in the morning in 4-5' of water moving to 6-7' in the afternoon. Soft plastics white or anything with a charteuse tail along with live and cut pinfish have been boating nice fish. Larger trout can still be found with the redfish around bars and creek mouths in the shallow flats. With water temps hanging around 80 the migratory fish have moved in heavy in in the Apalachee Bay area. Drag a pinfish behind the boat during your drift and hold on, you'll hook up with a shark, cobia or maybe even a tarpon. If you see a turtle or a large ray, cast towards them chances are they will have a cobia in tow. I have been finding Spanish mackerel in 6-10 foot of water in areas where grass and sand are present. Jigging soft plastics in 8-12 feet or water has been producing some nice size Black Sea Bass.
Keaton Beach Fishing Report
St. Marks Fishing Report
Aucilla River Fishing Report
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