Summer is always a slow time for inshore fishing, and in the Steinhatchee area, it’s even more challenging because of the hordes of scallopers. Many of us just take it easy through the summer and wait for September 10, the closing date of scallop season. While we tried some trips during the summer, the redfish were few and far between and the trout were in very deep water, and between the 100 degree heat and mats of floating grass, it was more enticing to stay inshore and watch the antics at the boat ramp and marina. The crowds were large and so were the scallops this year, although the crop thinned a lot by the end of the season. I’ve been out over the past two weekends and things are returning to normal in terms of inshore fishing. There have been some large schools of redfish and they have been accessible on low water with topwater plugs.
On a recent trip, we were fishing close to shore on a rapidly dropping tide and when the water ran out, we decided to try fishing around one of the many offshore bars around Steinhatchee. These sand bars, some of which are within 2 miles from shore, can hold schools of whitebait and are a great place to target Spanish mackeral. With Tommy Thompson in Doug Barrett’s boat, we found ourselves fishing one of these bars and watching the fish swim across them. The first sizable fish we noted was a 7 foot bull shark which we passed on, but a few minutes later a large ray came across the bar; both Tommy and I were trying to figure out if a cobia was following it, and he had the first shot, so he tossed a DOA shrimp on his trout rig on top of the ray; a nice cobia immediately ate it and the fight was on. Without the usual crab traps or channel markers to provide cover, the cobia gave up the ghost fairly quickly. As we didn’t have a large enough net, I grabbed the Boga grip, knowing I was going to pay for this later. Getting a cobia into the boat with a Boga grip is guaranteed aerobic exercise. My shoulder managed to stay in it’s socket, and Tommy posed for a pic with the fish.
On another recent trip I took old friend and fishing partner Doug Fertig out to explore some old areas I haven’t fished in a while. We found tons of baitfish….schools of mullet, glass minnows, whitebait and juvenile ballyhoo everywhere, with lots of skipjacks, ladyfish and smallish trout paying them some attention. Mixed in where some larger fish, including Spanish mackeral, and we saw several small tarpon but couldn’t entice them. The tide was rapidly rising and the water was a bit high to find redfish, but we caught about 20 or so very reasonable trout mixed in with a number of shorts; Doug caught a fine 25 inch Spanish mackeral. We drifted over flats using topwaters and suspending plugs and had consistent action through the morning. We finally found some excellent fish near the outflow of two adjacent creeks at a slack tide around noon. It’s clear the fishing is on the way up as the water temperatures are on the way down. It should be an excellent fall inshore season ahead.