Fishing has been tough for the past few months due to the early summer heavy rains in upper Florida. We’ve had tannin-stained water pouring out of every river and darkening the usually crystal-clear Steinhatchee waters, interfering with both scalloping and fishing; in over 15 years of fishing out of this wonderful port, I have never seen this until last year, and now we’ve had it for two summers in a row. Some reports even found darkened water over 15 miles offshore. Last year the water finally cleared in November and we’ve been hoping for an earlier improvement this year. Most of the inshore guides have been taking some time off and doing boat repairs. Near the end of September, I took Capt. Tommy Thompson and master angler Doug Barrett out to take a look. We found continued tannin-stained water and a fair amount of floating grass. There were baitfish everywhere; large schools of mullet, glass minnows and whitebait. The water was variable depending on tide and location, but we found some excellent trout schooling and blasting schools of small menhaden as if they were jacks. We caught a number of keeper trout on topwater plugs, but couldn’t find any redfish. I also jumped a tarpon but on trout tackle that was over quickly.
After a few weeks I wanted to see how things were going prior to a charter so Tommy and I went out last Saturday. While I had hoped for continued clearing, the water was still dark and in some areas near shore very turbid. Further offshore the water cleared somewhat, but floating grass was still an issue. We tried several of our favorite redfish spots, and Tommy found this nice 6 pounder on a small Skitterwalk.
On Sunday I had a trip with Glen Maddox and Jan Barnett. Both have a lot of fishing experience, and Jan has a place at Steinhatchee. Glen is ordering a Young Gulfshore 20 like my new boat and wanted to see how the boat ran with my Merc 150 4 stroke, as well as learning his way around the shallows at Steinhatchee. We left the Sea Hag Marina at 7:30 and headed south initially to fish some rockpiles on a high flood tide. Fishing with spoons, we found nothing so we ran up to the north where Jan caught this fine upper-slot redfish on a gold spoon. At the time she hooked the fish, she saw three or four other fish so we continued along the shoreline and then came back, but with no results. That was the only redfish of the day, which was disappointing.
As the tide dropped we moved out to try some trout fishing. We tried briefly around the Bird Rack outside of Big Grass Island but moved further out to an area known as Doghead, north and west of the Bird Rack. We fished jigs on the bottom in 5 to 8 feet of water and immediately began catching a good mix of sand trout (to 15 inches), speckled trout, black sea bass and some small mangrove snappers. I briefly hooked a cobia when he swam by us. When the bite stopped we ran closer to the river and fished some spotty bottom areas where Jan got this nice 20 inch speck.
Really enjoyed fishing with Jan and Glen; it’s always easier when your party really are accomplished fishermen. Additionally, we had a great day weather-wise, with cool temps, light wind and water temperatures that started around 69 and made it up to the mid-70’s by 2 PM. While the fishing isn’t nearly back to normal, the inshore guides are finding good limits of trout. The redfish are scattered and not heavily schooling yet, although that should happen in the next six weeks or so, assuming we get continued clearing of the water and the water temperatures stay in a similar range. Larger trout will move in closer to shore with clearing water and increasing salinity. And if you’re looking for something to do on October 19, it’s time for the second annual Hatchtoberfest, a fund-raiser for breast cancer, being held at Roy’s Restaurant in Steinhatchee. Lots of events including the famous Steinhatchee mullet toss, live music, a pink pancake breakfast, a 3 mile run, a poker game for prizes, and local crafts. Should be a great time….