Time for an update. The fishing has been….demanding for some of us that fish light tackle in close to shore, and especially those of us cursed with high expectations. Hot water, abundant floating grass, and a relative lack of redfish compared to past years has made some trips very challenging. Among the most frustrating was fishing the Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids tournament. This great event, the largest on the upper gulf coast, is always the highlight of the year for me. It’s for a great cause, and I was especially happy to be able to fish again this year with Noah Brindise. Last year we had an amazing couple of days of fishing, probably landing 10 large redfish, most oversize. I was concerned, though, because I had a trip the week before with Phil Evans; we targeted redfish, fished hard for 6 hours in some of my best spots, and caught none. The grass made fishing topwaters almost impossible and the baitfish were not in close. Fishing with Noah and his friend, Greg Cattalanotte, turned out to be just as frustrating. We did find a few trout but only one redfish. Most were catching larger trout in 8 to 10 feet of water, even in the early morning when they usually come in close.
Between the heat and lack of good fish, it made for a frustrating few days, but the tournament was a great success, raising over $180,000 for the Alachua County Boys and Girls Clubs. I hope to be able to fish it again next year.
This past weekend I took out my former colleague, Bob Watson and his son Jason. One of the early times I fished Steinhatchee, probably about 12 years ago or so, Bob, Jason and I learned how not to fish Steinhatchee in the winter. Hopefully I’ve learned a bit about the area since then. This was a birthday trip for Jason, and we still had some challenging conditions. We started out Friday afternoon, just to explore a bit, without much hope for big fish. The grass was reasonably bad, and Jason, who loves fishing topwaters like I do, spent a lot of time getting grass off his trebles. I rigged a Texas-rigged soft jerkbait (specifically the new Die Dapper Bass Assasin in a glow color) for Bob. When they are rigged weedless, they are a great bait; they can be reeled right through heavy grass. We went to one of my favorite spots, which has recently been overgrown with widgeon grass, a primarily freshwater grass that usually has died back by now. Bob was working the bait through some weeds when he hooked what was obviously a very large fish. Because it didn’t come right to the surface, I thought it might be a redfish but it didn’t take long to realize it was a really big trout. Bob worked the fish very carefully, making it through a number of screaming drag runs, before I slipped the net under this giant trout.
This fish measured 26 inches and weighed 6.25 pounds on my Boga, by far the largest trout I’ve seen this year. In fact this fish would have won every tournament this year…if it had been caught at the right time. Bob wanted to keep the fish, but we had a little problem getting it into the 45 quart Yeti cooler…
We caught several other trout that afternoon, but we decided we’d head back and try things in the morning. Saturday didn’t turn out to be great day. We tried to find Jason a cobia unsuccessfully, and fished a number of usually productive areas, but the grass again made things very challenging. We did manage to find one decent redfish, caught on a topwater, and Bob got another nice 4.5 pound trout.
In spite of the tough conditions, it was great fun to spend some more time with Bob and Jason, and Noah and Greg as well. We had a good time, enjoyed each other’s company, smoked some cigars and enjoyed some great times at Steinhatchee. Next weekend is the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club tournament, and the Steinhatchee Ladies’ Tournament, which will end the tournament season before the hordes show up for scallops on June 25.