Archive for the ‘trout’ Category
Between travel, home construction, music festivals and meetings, I’ve been a bad blogger. But with cooler weather, more fishing takes place, although not necessarily more catching. Earlier this year, the Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids tournament was a huge success, in spite of some dicey weather. I was pleased to again get the opportunity to fish with Noah Brindise and his guests from Arthrex, including a former student Mike Moser, from the Sports Medicine group in UF Orthopedics. We caught a good number of fish, including this trout that was almost five pounds, and Mike caught this fine redfish….but as usual during this tournament, the nice redfish we caught were all over slot. This is by far my favorite tournament of the year, for a great cause, and I’m ready for next year already.
Later in the summer I had a fun trip with Mark and Sarah. Mark is an Ebola researcher from Maryland and his friend Sarah recently moved to Gainesville. Mark warned me that Sarah had not fished a lot, so I did something I haven’t done in about five years….bought some live shrimp. Sarah managed one trout on a shrimp before we both tired of dealing with ravenous pinfish, so I taught her how to throw a plug. About five minutes later she managed this fine redfish on a topwater, and later this fine trout. Mark also found a nice redfish and asked if there was something we could find so that Sarah would have something pull hard on her line….amazing how easy it is to find 40 pound stingrays when you’re fishing with cut bait. Forty-five minutes later she had her fill. A great trip, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again this winter.
In early September, in spite of heavy boat traffic from scalloping and lots of floating grass, we could usually find some redfish. Here’s a pair that Tommy Thompson and I found, along with a nice trout that Doug Barrett caught, all on topwaters.
I’ve had visits from several old friends, some from NC, Tennessee, and that distressed area of the US, Destin. Lark and Tom, old friends from my Nashville days, helped me hunt. Fishing was tough, but they did catch enough for one dinner….a small keeper redfish and a nice flounder. And my old high school friend Joe Jacobs came for a day to find things just as tough, catching this inshore gag grouper and a variety of fish, but not what we were looking for.
Most recently the fishing in Steinhatchee has been confusingly slow, for a month that historically is one of our best months of the year. The water has been very clear, although the floating grass has stayed around longer than usual to torture plug fishermen like me. We did have a minor red tide episode, but it fairly rapidly left the area. The migration of baitfish seems to be delayed, and there are a lot fewer mullet than I’m used to seeing this time of year. Hopefully things will swing around now that there is some consistent lowering of the water temperatures.
After months of tannin-stained water and massive quantities of floating grass, the waters around Steinhatchee have returned to the clear productive state of normality. The fishing has been excellent, both offshore and inshore. Somewhat atypically, trout have been moving into the Steinhatchee River in the absence of a major cold snap, and not surprisingly, nobody has complained yet. Silver (sand) trout have been everywhere, including in the river and at one of the recent hotspots near the Bird Rack north of Steinhatchee. One captain with a large party wanting a fish fry brought in 160 pounds of silver trout. On a brief trip with Capt. Tommy Thompson and Doug Barrett, we took several nice trout on topwater plugs near Rock Point over mixed grass and sand potholes. The next week I took Tommy and old friend Capt. John Peyton out for another reconnoitering. While we didn’t find any redfish on our early drifts, we managed to find some excellent upper-slot fish using topwater plugs south of Dallus Creek, again in an area of potholes.
We moved offshore as the tide dropped and found some large Spanish mackerel, several nice flounder and a good number of silver trout with the occasional speckled trout. There were schools of white bait scattered over a quarter-mile square area being attacked by mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish. The fishing was so good that I convinced my son Sidney and his girlfriend, Lee Ferinden, to come out for a trip. Fishing has never been Sid’s cup of tea, but he was excited to give it a try after a number of years. Both he and Lee re-learned how to cast. Again, we couldn’t find any redfish in the early morning flood tide, but as we moved out we again found large schools of whitebait. Returning to an area west of the Bird Rack at Big Grass Island, we found silver and speckled trout, at times catching fish on every cast. We also came across some giant Spanish mackerel which somehow were unable to get their teeth through the 25 pound fluorocarbon leader. The largest was over 5.5 pounds and looked like a small kingfish coming to the boat.
As I mentioned, we had reports of some trout being caught in the river. We noticed several boats landing lots of small silver trout, but some nice speckled trout have made it into the river as well; Chase Norwood, the son of Sea Hag owner/operator Charlie Norwood nailed this gator trolling a Mirrolure in the river.
I really had a great time with Lee and Sid, and I was glad we managed to catch a few fish as well. While ordinarily I don’t keep fish, we ended up keeping around 20 pounds of trout and mackerel filets to grill. The water temperature throughout the day ranged from the low to the mid-60s. Water was clear just about everywhere and we could see the bottom over 10 foot creek beds. Unfortunately the floating grass continued to make plug fishing challenging, but that is improving as well.Looking forward to a long holiday weekend to get in some more water time. As the water temps continue to cool down, the trout fishing could improve dramatically as the larger fish begin to school. That will be “Corky time” for us, time to fish my favorite cold-water lure, the Paul Brown Corky Devil from Mirrolure. Can’t wait for that cold weather!
I’ve had a few trips that I haven’t really had time to report so I thought I’d combine a few. Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to take several folks out for a fun trip, and we got to use Doug Barrett’s Gulfshore 20 (more about that later). We took Drs. Fred Alt and Rob Hromas out to try and find some redfish and trout. Fred was visiting from Harvard and Rob is the chair of medicine at UF and both are experienced fisherman; in fact, Fred is a licensed headboat captain in Massachusetts. We had a tough day, but managed a few nice fish, including this nice redfish that Fred managed on a topwater and Rob caught several trout including this very reasonable specimen. We brought all our fish with us for a great fresh fish dinner at Fiddler’s Restaurant. There is nobody that grills redfish like Chef Jim Hunt.
After picking up my very own Young Gulfshore, I had the great opportunity to take out well-known kayak angler John Donohue (JD). Living in Venice, Florida, JD represent Hobie Kayaks and writes for several national magazines including Coastal Angler. I first met him last year at a Hobie sponsored event in Jensen Beach that I described in a previous post. He was invited up to speak at the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club about kayak fishing and we took a few days to break in the new boat. He and I have similar fishing styles (except that I use a boat) in that we love fishing topwater plugs more than anything else, and with the warming waters we were hoping for a good topwater bite. We got to the Sea Hag Marina around 1 PM and hit the water, first time in the new boat. We found some nice trout south of the river, with one excellent 5 pound trout that managed to escape when JD put him in the water to make sure he was doing well in preparation for a picture. He was doing well enough to escape. We found several other nice trout, fishing both topwaters and suspending lures. JD represents Sebile Lures and they were very effective in finding some nice fish. I was using the Paul Brown Devil and the Mirrolure Mirrominnow. The trout pictured below wasn’t spectacular but it was the first fish caught on the new boat so we documented it. There was a vicious seabreeze that sent us back in a little earlier than anticipated, but we were looking forward to the next morning with a great forecast.
Thursday morning was glassy with a early morning low tide. We worked our way into some oyster bars and rock clusters that were exposed and surrounded by mullet and whitebait. it looked like topwater heaven, and we started finding some fine fish. I managed a nice 25 inch red, shortly followed by JD’s tournament fish (27 inches, 6.7 pounds).
We also found some very nice trout, also on topwaters.
As the tide flooded in we tried several other locations south of the river but other than scaring away a 30 pound cobia that swam right up to the boat, we didn’t find much else and came in around noon so that JD could drive back to Venice. It was a great couple of days with a fine fisherman and I hope we can get him back up to Steinhatchee for a few more trips.
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.
Had great trips with two folks this weekend. On Sunday I fished with old friend Richard McDavid, who has been out of action for a while due to severe eye injury. Richard is a long-time member of the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club and is one of the great barbecuers of all time. We went out for a trip on Saturday and fished some flats early in the morning with topwater plugs. We found a good number of slot-sized fish but never could find any large ones.
We caught several limits of keeper trout, all on topwaters and the occasional fish caught on suspending plugs (I was using a Mirrodine XL, Richard a suspending Bomber). After the tide came in we ran to several redfish spots and caught some nice fish on the strong incoming tide.
We ended the day with ten keeper trout and many smaller ones, and five redfish.
On Monday I took out Kay Eoff, a retired physicist at UF. Kay suffered a hand injury recently but he assured me he would be able to fish. We left the marina around 9 and fished the same flats as the day before, but slightly further along in the tide. Kay fishes with baitcasters and all day used two lures: a cork and jig rig with an amber tail and a silver Sprite spoon with a single hook on it. I was fishing a Super Spook Jr. and we both found several really nice trout, with the largest being five pounds, the second largest 4.5. We also caught a number of smaller fish which were released. As we had our limit of over-20 inch trout, Kay was ready to try some redfish and the water was high enough to run to some of our structure spots. We found a number of redfish around some offshore rock bars; most were small, but we found one six pounder and a five pounder with the smaller fish. By now the tide was flooding and the seabreeze was blowing at least 15 knots so we tried one of the creeks to get out of the wind and strong tidal current, but there was nobody home. Turned out to be a fine day and Kay got some fish to take home.
The grass is still slow in filling in on some of the shallower flats, and pinfish are just starting to show up in good numbers, which will draw the larger fish into some of the shallower areas. I would say we’re about 2 to 3 weeks behind because of the very cold winter that killed back more grass than usual. But things are getting better every weekend.
That’s what Leonardo da Vinci said. Herbert Hoover said “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.” Whenever I hear the word “simplicity” I think of one person: Jeff Evans. I’ve known Jeff for about eight years or so. I met him through a friend, Brian Holt, who like Jeff, is a registered nurse. Jeff and Brian worked in the Williston Hospital but Jeff really wanted to fish more, so he and his wife Debbie moved to Steinhatchee. In the time I’ve known him, Jeff, always fishing with Debbie, has won twice as many local tournaments as anyone I can think of. I know of at least three times when I had the lead in a tournament when I saw Jeff’s truck pull up for the weigh-in and I knew I was about to be bounced. In the last two weeks, Jeff and Debbie won the Carabelle Redfish/Trout Shootout, including the first place overall as a team, largest redfish (7.6 lbs.), and largest trout (5.2 lbs.). Yesterday Jeff won the Steinhatchee Community Tournament with a 7.75 lb. redfish and a 6.4 lb. trout, pictured below. These two tournaments provided Jeff and Debbie over $5000 in prize money. In other words, Jeff and Debbie Evans are amazing at finding huge inshore fish.
So….how do they do it? Winning that kind of prize money, they must have high-powered equipment, great electronics and high-end tackle. Nope, not really. Jeff and Debbie fish, and always have, from a canoe. Debbie uses a Zebco reel. From my perspective, the only change I’ve seen in how they fish is that they added a little kicker to their canoe. They access the gulf from primitive ramps that no full-sized boat can use, paddle or power out to the mouth, and usually fish within an easy paddle’s distance from the creek mouth. And ordinarily they only use one kind of bait….fresh pinfish filets. They move with the tide and seem to know exactly where the big fish are and how they move. I consider this amazing. Having expensive tackle and a nice flats skiff, and fishing the same area for about ten years, I have yet to catch a trout as large as the one he caught yesterday. He catches 6 to 7 pound trout on a regular basis.
I remember about three years ago Tommy Thompson and I were fishing with Roland Martin in the Mel Tillis Tournament. I knew where Jeff was going to fish and it just so happened the tides allowed us to get there first. He would have beaten us there, launching on a small primitive ramp, but on his way to the ramp his trailer went off the road and it took him a while to get it out. As we were fishing on the spot, I saw Jeff and Debbie come out of a nearby creek and paddle out about a quarter-mile away and drop their anchor, which is an old piece of rusty metal. We fished the area for an hour or so, I caught one nice redfish, and we moved on to catch a Spanish mackeral and a trout that ended up finishing third overall. However, after we left Jeff and Debbie paddled over to our spot, waited patiently and caught the largest and second largest redfish in the tournament (winning much more money than we did) from the same spot.
There’s something wonderfully poetic about a beat-up canoe and a Zebco and a metal chunk for an anchor (which is next to Jeff’s hand in the picture below) whupping up on fancy boats with jack plates and trim tabs and $500 rods and reels. I am ALWAYS rooting for Jeff to win (except, of course, if I’m in the tournament). Jeff also happens to be very soft-spoken, modest and a super-nice guy. Debbie is the more boisterous of the two, usually laughing and the life of the party. One of the most amazing pair of fishermen I’ve ever known.
The last two weekends have marked the arrival of a consistent spring fishery in the Steinhatchee waters. Fishing with Capt. Tommy Thompson both weekends, we found a great selection of large trout and redfish, in spite of the fact that the grassflats are regrowing slowly after the frigid winter. Areas of rock and grass hold pinfish, crabs and other immature baitfish that attract predators, and some of our usual areas are still lacking in pinfish. In spite of that, going exploring is a great way to keep tabs on the progression of the seagrasses and baitfish.
The trout bite right now is the spring pattern. There are large numbers of keeper-sized trout being taken on cork rigs south of Steinhatchee at the Pepperfish Keys and on the deeper flats in 3 to 8 feet of water. But this is the time of year when larger trout, which are usually solitary and not in schools, move in shallow water in early morning. Shallow water doesn’t provide as much cover for schools of baitfish, with no excape route downward. Fishing topwater plugs in 2.5 feet of water on two successive weekends, we found a good number of 4.5 to 5 pound fish.
Redfish have also begun their spring antics. While the large schools are still widely scattered, we found several smaller schools of slot-sized fish and a few larger ones, taken on topwaters and on simple jigs with soft tails.
Captain Thompson has begun working on some short videos for a variety of uses, and a brief one about redfish (with an excellent cast) can be found here:
This is a great time to hit the water. A number of local and regional tournaments are coming up. Take this opportunity to get out in some great weather before it gets too hot to think and the scallop boats are thicker than no see’ums.