Archive for the ‘Tournaments’ Category

Reeling for Kids Tournament…another fantastic weekend   Leave a comment

This was the ninth year for Doug Johnson’s Reeling for Kids tournament which benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alachua County. Doug spent a lot of time as a kid at the Northwest Boy’s Club, and after his NFL career with the Falcons and Bengals, moved back to Gainesville and wanted to give something back.  I remember well the first year in 2003….Brian Holt and I fished and we managed to catch the largest redfish; I even found some pics from that first tournament.

The tournament has grown over the years to be the biggest tournament in our area, with a host of sponsors, a kick-off event at the Touchdown Terrace, and around 100 boats participating. I have been fortunate the past three years to fish with Noah Brindise, former Gator quarterback, assistant coach for the Redskins and offensive coordinator for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Noah decided that a football career was a tough way to have a family and has been working for Arthrex for a number of years, a company that makes orthopedic applications. He also is a very good fisherman and several years ago we had a great day during the tournament, with the boat catching the second biggest redfish. I’ve been lucky enough to fish with him each year since. Last year was a tough tournament, but we were optimistic this year as I thought I had located a great redfish area. Our only worry was the weather, with storms and high winds. Noah invited his friend Paul Michas from Albany, Georgia and we set out before dark on Friday. The fishing wasn’t easy, and made a little more challenging when my GPS gave up the ghost just as we got out on the water. We found some nice redfish early, but no tournament fish, and when we moved out with the tide, and fished an offshore bar for trout, we realized that the electrical problems were continuing; my bilge pump had failed and we had a bit of water (actually more than a bit) in the bilge. Unfortunately we had no choice but to run in and get the pump replaced which kept us off the water for three hours (thanks be to Charlie Norwood, who managed to get us back quickly). We managed to get back out and caught a few more fish, but again no tournament challenging fish.

We had great hopes for the next day, and managed to find an excellent fish early that measured 26 1/2 inches, which ordinarily is a fine contestant.

We drifted out over some deeper flats. We had been catching lots of trout, but very few keeper fish, which has been a problem this year. One excellent boat caught 110 trout…and only one was a keeper. We actually caught about four or five keepers, but none were large enough to be tournament fish and were released.

We came in early because of other commitments and I was disappointed to find out that our redfish came in sixth place….which means there were five other 26 1/2 inch redfish that weighed more than ours. Mine had obviously been on a diet and just lacked that killer appetite that we needed. Two years ago we had the largest fish (also 26 1/2 inches) and a fish the same length beat us by almost a pound. Happens all the time.

In spite of not finishing in the money, we had a great time and we’re looking forward to next year. Here are some of the winners…The Master Offshore Team, the Williams team, caught a 16 pound red snapper, an 8.3 pound red grouper and a 30 pound kingfish to win the $5000 prize.

And my buddy Mark Brady and his team caught a 3.15 pound Spanish mackerel, a 4.3 pound trout and a 6.7 pound redfish to take the Master’s Inshore prize.

We had great food on Friday and Saturday night, great entertainment, and it was an all-around good time. Already looking forward to next year’s tournament. You should make plans now. Great thanks to Doug, Ken Fickett from Mirage Boats (who donated a boat for the raffle prize for the second straight year), Wiley Horton, and especially Laura Javidi from the Boys and Girls Club who makes everything go. You guys are great!


Posted June 14, 2012 by grassflats in Steinhatchee, Tournaments

Florida cca ICC….huh?   Leave a comment

Just in case you don’t know what that all meant, let me tell you a bit about the Coastal Conservation Association. The CCA is a non-profit conservation group that advocates for preservation of marine resources and the interests of recreational anglers. There are state chapters in most of the coastal states in the country, currently 17 states. Florida is one of the largest state chapters, and has a number of local chapters. I’ve been a member of the Gainesville chapter for about ten years now, and now help represent our local chapter on the state board with my friend Wiley Horton. Florida CCA is involved in legislative actions and legal activities that deal with the intersection of commercial and recreational interests and the preservation of resources.  Along  with providing manpower and resources for habitat restoration, CCA Florida takes positions regarding proposed changes  in state and national fisheries legislation. For instance, CCA Florida has taken a strong stand against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s recommendations to increase the bag limit for redfish from one per person to two. The redfish bag limit, along with the outlawing of gill netting, has resulted in an excellent redfish population and we see no reason to change this. For more information about CCA Florida, please go to this link:

Once a year CCA Florida hosts an inshore fishing tournament that is a competition between local chapters: the Interchapter Challenge (ICC). For the past several years it’s been held in Jensen Beach at the River Palm Cottages, a place I’ve visited several times before that has excellent fishing in the Indian River, including the St. Lucie Inlet. Tommy Thompson and I decided we would take on the challenge, which it was. Some chapters (Orlando and Martin County, for example) had over 15 members fishing and the competition was based on the largest fish caught within the chapter; so, the more people fishing, the more the likelihood of catching some large fish. The winning team is the team with the greatest length of the largest three fish caught from each category: redfish, trout and snook.  All fish are measured on a tournament ruler, a picture is taken, and the fish are released.  Another of our challenges was the fact that the location of the tournament is in Martin County, which also happens to be the home of DOA Lures; Mark Nichols, the owner of DOA, and Jerry McBride, their major point man, fish about five days a week in the area and post their catches for all to see on DOA’s Facebook page. Let’s just say they catch a whole lot of big fish. And they were part of the Martin County group.  However, we knew we’d have a good time anyway, and since redfish have always been the challenge down there, and we love to fish for redfish, we figured we might have a shot, especially since Tommy is familiar with the area. This was their biggest year ever, with 125 anglers representing 19 chapters.

We launched the boat on Friday afternoon at a nearby ramp and staked it out in front of River Palm; that’s the Photo Opportunity on the right side of the dock.  After a great dinner at the chickee at River Palm, we enjoyed the open bar but not for long as we had an early tee time.

We ran north from River Palm to a bay with mangroves on the north side and interesting prefab houses on the south, with a large grass flat in the middle. The flat and the channel alongside of it were full of schools of baitfish. On about the third cast, Tommy nailed a fine trout, followed by a small but legal redfish. I was throwing desperately, since I knew we were going to lose the topwater bite as the sun came up. I made a long cast and as the line settled down, a very unfortunate brown pelican came swooping through. Fish on. I promptly broke the bird off  (he never even stopped, actualy) and had to re-rig. We continued to fish the area but had nothing but occasional swirls. We moved across the flat and decided to fish the mangroves on the other side for snook. We rigged with soft baits, Tommy with a DOA Shrimp, and me with a weedless soft plastic rigged Texas-style so it was weedless, which helps when you’re throwing into mangroves and skipping baits back into heavy brush. We were about halfway down the shoreline when I saw a fish roll on my bait and the line tightened. I set the hook and then started worrying. With my usual cavalier attitude, I was using the lightest rod and reel combo I had. When a fish is hooked in the middle of mangroves, the idea is to horse them out away as quickly as possible to avoid getting wrapped. Well, this was a big fish and I had little choice but to grab the spool and try and turn his head out of the mangroves. At one point he ran about 5o feet under a string of mangroves, then moved away from shore, and amazingly the line managed to make it through as well. Tommy moved the boat away from the shoreline and from then on it was just a struggle with a big fish on light tackle. As we got the fish closer, we were surprised to see that it wasn’t a snook, but a large redfish.  It measured 27.5 inches, without the tail pinched. At the time that seemed like a pretty reasonable fish. In retrospect, I wish we had paid a little more attention to pinching the tail and taking a more accurate picture, but more about that later.


With a decent trout and what we thought was a great redfish (the largest redfish caught last year was 21 inches), we decided to spend the rest of the day trying to catch a good snook. We had a few hints from folks (we knew some fish had been caught in the famous Hole in the Wall along the edge of the inlet) but also had some recommendations to try some docs along the river. We fished with DOA shrimp along the docks, throwing into the shady areas under the docks. We finally located some (based on a suggestion from Drew Wickstrom, the media director of Florida Sportsman magazine) and Tommy managed a longspine snook that was two inches short. We had a few others on, but just couldn’t get one that would help.

As it turned out, that redfish was close but not enough for the individual prize, losing by a half inch to a 28 incher. Every time I look at the pic I wonder….could have been 28 with a pinched tail? Anyway, it was a nice fish and I had a great time. Not surprisingly, the winning team was Martin County, with the big redfish and big trout (a 27.5 incher) provided by Jerry Mcbride and Mark Nichols from DOA. Not that they didn’t have help….this is the entire chapter with their trophy (with Mark third in from the right in the back, and Drew with his thumb up in the front row).

The weekend finished off with a live auction and raffle items on Saturday. We left the boat in the water and actually went out for an hour or so Sunday morning but found only some large bluefish and jacks, although I had a large trout on that managed to escape. It was a great weekend. I would encourage anyone who wants to help with conservation of marine resources in Florida to join the CCA. Along with many other benefits,  you’ll get a beautiful magazine, Tide, every month. I’ve included some additional  pictures from the weekend, including Ron Pressley with the Mystery Fish Award for a large (but still juvenile) goliath grouper (he put the ruler in the water to take the pic as it is illegal to put them in the boat….way to go, Ron) and some pictures of next year’s state president, Jeff Miller and his wife Susan (Jeff is also the owner of Miller’s Marine in Ocala, where I have bought every boat I have owned since returning to Florida almost thirty years ago), and some random shots to give you an idea of the event, including a truly committed inshore fisherwoman, and a picture of Steve Furman from Tampa, who also fishes out of Steinhatchee, with a nice Indian River snook,. It was my first time but I look forward to many more.

Posted July 2, 2011 by grassflats in Inshore Fishing, Tournaments, Travel

The trout of the year….so far   1 comment

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.

Posted June 13, 2011 by grassflats in Steinhatchee, Tournaments, trout

a game of ounces…   2 comments

Thought I’d post about a few recent trips to keep things up to date. Two weekends ago I had the great challenge of taking old friend and experienced offshore captain Wiley Horton on an inshore trip, and we decided to fish in the Shands Fishing for Kids tournament. Frankly, I have avoided this tournament in the past because I dislike the way the winners are determined. The winning boat is the one with the largest 5-fish trout limit; that would be four fish between 15 and 20 inches, with one more allowed over 20 inches. With 60 boats fishing, that means that almost at a minimum, at least 300 trout were killed and brought in to weigh. I much prefer tournaments with either a single winner by weight, or a tournament that requires the fish to be weighed in alive (as in many redfish tournaments). However, with a change in venue to the Sea Hag Marina, and the fact that it’s for a good cause, I figured I’d give it a try, but in this circumstance I will always keep the fish in a live well in case we decide to release them. Given the fact that Wiley has as much disdain for “trout-snatchers” as I do for “offshore bottom-feeder fishing”, we usually have a great time insulting each other. However, the fact is that Wiley grew up inshore fishing before going to the dark side and fishing in many large offshore tournaments in Florida and the Bahamas over the years. At least he still remembers how to cast a spinning reel. My strategic plan didn’t work too well; we did end up with some nice trout to 19 inches, but never could get the big one we needed to anchor the limit. I did manage to lose one fish near mid-day that would have put us close, but there was a shark in the area and I put a bit too much pressure on the fish and the hook pulled. Wiley got a nice 5 pound redfish and we caught several smaller reds, but it was clear we were not going to win, so we released all the fish on the flats. What I can’t believe is that I neglected to take any pictures on this trip, being in my “tournament intense mode”.  We did have a great time together (which our friends find hard to believe).  The winning team tied for first place with a 12 pound limit, but won the tournament based on their largest fish, a 4 pound 15 oz. fish. The largest redfish was 6 pounds 9 oz. Both of these winning fish were smaller than usual for tournaments this time of  year, probably reflecting the fact that a front had come through the day before and temps dropped dramatically during the night.

The next weekend I fished the Perry Optimist Tournament with Doug Barrett. This tournament always has a lot of large fish, and there were three weigh-in sites, Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach, and Econfina.  Since I knew some cut baiters were fishing (including Jeff Evans and his wife Debbie) I had no great fantasies, but I figured we’d have a good time.  As I could have predicted, for the second straight week, a front came through on Friday and the temps dropped once again. Our strategy worked a little better; we found some nice larger trout in several different locations and several decent redfish, but none over 25 inches. The trout were slightly over 4 pounds on the Boga grip, and the redfish clearly weren’t winners, but as they say, you can never tell, so we kept them in the livewell.



We got to the weigh-in early, as usual, and weighed in the two largest trout and the redfish. The larger trout was 4.4 pounds, which usually is a very nice fish, but not close to a tournament winner. However, I did get to be in first place for the $2500 prize for a while….


So we got a beer at the Tiki Bar and settled in to watch the action. Wasn’t long before Bobby Cumbo, a regular Rocky Creek resident,  came up and said “well, I just barely got one bigger than yours”. His was 4.45 pounds. I chuckled and said “well, don’t worry. Neither one of us will win this tournament”. But the longer we waited, and reports started coming in from the other locations, there weren’t any trout weighed in larger than his.  However, we did get a report from Keaton…Debbie Evans had weighed in a big trout at exactly 4.45 pounds as well.  Since the tiebreaker went by earliest time weighed in, Bobby was in first place, and I was in third. The problem was that, as you might expect, one of the scales broke and they had to drive some distance to get another. I was still figuring that certainly someone at Econfina would have a larger trout….but after waiting over an hour to get the weights, their largest trout at that location was….would you like to guess? Yep, 4.45 pounds.  Three trout, all weighing exactly 4.45 pounds, from three different locations. When the dust had cleared,  sure enough, Bobby Cumbo had the winning trout. This was astonishing. I can’t remember a trout winning any major tournament that weighed less than 5 pounds in many years.  I sure wished my trout had eaten a nice 4 ounce pinfish just before taking on my plug, but that’s the way it goes. We had a great time, and I did win a nice cooler for my efforts.  The next day Doug and I decided to take his bay boat a few miles offshore to one of our cobia spots and corraled some live pinfish. There were plenty of cobia, and they were hungry. I had at least six pickups, and got cut off three times. At one point I had a pickup, set the hook, and felt something much smaller than a cobia…here are the before and after pictures of that fish, with the “after” including some crabmeat stuffing.




We had a great time, and I got a great dinner. All told, we caught some nice fish, but I have to say the fishing is still a little “late” this year. The large schools of whitebait are just showing up, and there are still areas of recovering grass and when there are temperature swings, the fishing will suffer for a day or two. However, things will continue to improve daily as the late spring/summer pattern begins. I’m looking forward to the next big tournament, the Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids tournament, which will be the first weekend in June. Tommy Thompson and I have donated a trip for the past few years, and my boat managed to catch the second largest redfish last year. It’s a huge tournament, with $30,000 in prizes and a raffle for a $70,000 Mirage boat donated by Ken Fickett, and all the moneys benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alachua County, so I’d love to see everyone get involved. Urban Meyer and a bunch of Florida Gator football players will be there, and tentatively I’ll be fishing with Noah Brindise, former Gator quarterback and NFL coach,  again this year. The website for the tournament can be found at:

Posted May 11, 2011 by grassflats in Steinhatchee, Tournaments

steinhatchee spring fishing events…and one big trout   2 comments

Although trout season is closed, catch-and-release is the way I usually fish anyway. With a forecast of low winds for today, Tommy Thompson and I planned to scout some areas for redfish in preparation for a redfish tournament next weekend as part of the Steinhatchee Fiddler Crab Festival. Turned out the tide forecast was pretty far off, and the forecast high of 2.3 feet was closer to 1.7 and we never were able to get into some of the creeks we were aiming for. Additionally the water continues in the 50 degree range, so fish just aren’t that active. We saw tons of large trout in some of our shallow flats and rocky areas but only two were biting, and this one is by far my best fish of the year (yes, I know it’s only February).  We only fished for three hours before the wind picked up and blew us off the water.

I’ve listed the major spring fishing events for Steinhatchee below. The spring is always the best time of the year to fish for a variety of species.  I will likely be adding some redfish tour dates, but this is what I have as of now.

Feb. 19: Fiddler Crab Festival/ Lots of Spots Redfish Tournament. Music Friday night, parade saturday, Sauce Boss at Fiddler’s Restaurant on Saturday night (reservations needed for Fiddler’s)

March: March Trout Madness at the Sea Hag Marina (largest trout weighed in at Sea Hag over the entire month of March wins a major prize.

April 16: Steinhatchee Community Tournament

April 30: Shands Fishing for Kids Saltwater Tournament

May 7: Perry Optimist Club Saltwater Tournament

May 28: Wildwood Athletic Club Tournament

June 3 and 4: Doug Johnson/Donny Young Reeling for Kids Tournament

June 18th: Steinhatchee Ladies’ Tournament

November TBA: Cabela’s Speckled Trout USA

Posted February 13, 2011 by grassflats in Tournaments, trout

reeling for kids…a great event   5 comments

I was glad I could fish the Reeling for Kids event this year, for the first time since the first tournament in 2005.  Two former Gator and NFL football players, Doug Johnson and Donnie Young, have sponsored this tournament to raise money for the Alachua County Boys and Girls Club, and have gotten a great response; it’s become the largest tournament in Steinhatchee.  This year was a tournament record, with over 100 boats fishing.

Tommy Thompson and I donated two days of trips to dignitaries and sponsors, and in exchange we get a free entry into the tournament. Such a deal! On Friday I had the great pleasure of taking Bill McQuillen, owner of McCallister’s Restaurants, and his friend Chris Spann. Because Bill is recovering from an illness, he mostly rode while Chris and I fished. We found a redfish early, in the 6 pound range, but it was clear it would take a special fish to place in this tournament. In order to be a tournament-grade fish, first the fish has to be legal…27 inches or less after the tail is pinched. Then there is a tremendous variation in weights. Only the particularly chunky fish who are near the top of the slot size are going to be competitive.  For instance, on day 1 of the tournament, Tommy caught a 26.75 inch redfish that weighed around 6.6 pounds. I was fishing a small crankbait and landed what looked to be a good fish…but he was 1/8 of an inch too long, and went back in the pond. Within minutes, Chris had a fine fish on that I knew would be competitive….he was a chunk.  I quickly measured him, to find he was only a little over 26 inches….but when I weighed him on the Boga grip, it showed over 7 pounds.  By way of comparison, in 2005 Brian Holt and I fished the initial Reeling for Kids tournament and won the big redfish with a weight of 6.9 pounds.

We continued to catch redfish, catching a total of 5. Because the tournament format was such that the best combination of a redfish, trout and Spanish mackeral would win the Inshore Masters title, we tried for trout next in some deeper water. The wind was sporty, and the water was choppier than I would have liked for my flats skiff. We tried fishing jigs, popping corks, and topwater plugs in water ranging from 8 to 2.5 feet and managed a number of smaller fish but couldn’t find that single good trout we needed. We ran to a nearshore bar and tried trolling spoons and plugs for a Spanish mackeral but caught only blue runners in the heavy chop. We fished hard until the mid-afternoon and headed in for the weigh-in. At the end of the first day, our redfish was in first place.  Several fish were disqualified for being too long. However, with so many entries, I was far from confident the fish would hold up through the second day.

On day 2 I took out Noah Brindise, former UF quarterback and Washington Redskins offensive coach. After several years of college coaching at ECU and UNLV,  Noah decided on a more stable lifestyle than a coaching career for his family, and works with a medical technology firm that provides structural support for orthopedic surgery, mostly sports injuries.  Noah doesn’t fish as much as he would like, but knew his way around the boat and quickly picked up the shallow-water fishing patterns we were using. Noah caught an early fish on a small crankbait, and the bite continued for much of the day. We ran to several different areas, not finding the big trout we wanted, but finding lots of excellent redfish. We ended with a total of 9 redfish, from 6.5 pounds to 9 pounds. In spite of the good number of fish, we never could find a legal fish that was better than our fish from the day before.

We were fishing both crankbaits and the classic redfish lure…a gold Johnson spoon. Spoons are hard to beat when targeting redfish; you can throw them a mile, and they have a large strong single hook which makes unhooking the fish much quicker than a small plug with multiple treble hooks. This time of  year, and throughout the summer, redfish caught on light tackle are at major risk. Unlike many fish, redfish will fight to the death. Getting them into the boat for pictures, weighing, and then resuscitating them at the time of release is essential to make sure they survive. I have spent 20 minutes trying to revive a fish, but it’s time well spent. When the bite decreased, we both noticed that something about the angler’s tobacco usage seemed to start the bite up again.

Again, the wind prevented us from going to the nearshore areas we need to get to in order to find the large trout and mackeral we needed, but we were having great fun and headed in for the weigh-in. As I glanced at the large board, I could immediately see I was bumped out of first place by a  friend and regular Steinhatchee fisherman, Mark Mcready, who found a freakish 8.3 pound 27 inch redfish that weighed more than a pound more than my first day leader. We did manage to hold onto second place, and with Bill and Chris’ approval we donated our winning check back to the Boys and Girls Clubs.

It was a great weekend, with lots of good people doing great things.  A shout-out to my good friend Captain Wiley Horton, who serves as the Tournament Master every year, and got me involved in the tournament the very first year.  Doug and Donnie commit an enormous amount of their own time and money for this event, and it started because Doug, who grew up in Gainesville, spent a lot of his time growing up at the Boy’s Club, and feels it contributed to his later success in life. This is his way to give back, and there isn’t a more pleasant caring host. Thanks to both Doug and Donnie for their efforts on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alachua County.

Doug Johnson, Chris Spann, Rick Davidson, and Donny Young

It’s April. Yay!   Leave a comment

Frankly, although we found some nice trout in February and March, the fishing has been as tough as the weather. When grouper season opened on April 1, I expected to see things change a bit around the old Sea Hag Marina. Took my buddy Doug Barrett out on Saturday, with a great forecast….5-10 knots. It was even less than that when we left the marina around 7:30 in a fairly dense fog and dead calm. We ran to the south, and the fog was dense enough to make things complicated even with a GPS. We had a few follows on plugs, but couldn’t get anything to take. We went to one of my favorite redfish places first, to find nothing. No mullet, no pinfish, no grass, and certainly no redfish. Very disappointing, so we ran further south to one of my favorite trout spots. Naturally, given that set-up, the first fish I caught was a redfish, a 6.5 pounder which was the first good red I’ve caught in several months.

Doug promptly followed with two five-pound trout in three casts. We were suitably impressed.

We continued to work the area. The fish were moving around a bit, but about ten minutes later I found this nice trout, followed by another redfish, this one multi-spotted.

The bite persisted for a while in the 67 degree water. Around 10 AM the tide slacked and the wind picked up considerably, which was NOT in the forecast. We continued to catch a few fish, ending with a total of around 7 trout, the smallest being 4.5 pounds, which is a fine day. Then the bite ended, and in spite of trying to track down some more fish in the area, it appeared they were gone. We came off the water around noon. All fish, even the redfish, were caught on Corkys (Oops. I forgot.  There are no more Corkys. Now they are “Paul Brown Lures”, available through Mirrolure).

Things were hopping at the Marina, especially at the cleaning table. Shane was cleaning fish until 11 on Friday night, and there’s no telling about Saturday. The sheepshead bite is very good right now, the offshore boats are back in business catching some fine grouper and amberjack, and everybody was having a great time. The bottom pictures are from Steve Hart’s trip. We’re hoping the Tiki Bar opens soon!

Posted April 4, 2010 by grassflats in redfish, Steinhatchee, Tournaments, trout