Coastal Angler Magazine | February 2022 | North Central Florida/Nature Coast Edition

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST EDITION

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LOCAL CATCH PHOTOS

GRASS FLAT

GATOR TROUT

CURRENT INTEL FROM AREA CAPTAINS PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL MACINNIS IG: @RSOCFISHING

VOLUME 27 • ISSUE 323

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM

F R A N C H I S E

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A V A I L A B L E

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ost folks associate the word “gators” with big scaly reptiles or a college mascot. Mention gators to a cadre of hardcore inshore anglers and you are likely to elicit fond memories of 30-plus-inch silver flanks speckled with black spots and gaping yellow mouths sporting a wicked pair of canine teeth. I’m talking about seatrout, big trophy trout that prompt some of us to wake up at 4 a.m. so we can be on the water throwing topwater plugs at first light. Big trout don’t act like their smaller brethren, and the techniques that hammer schoolies won’t work on bigger fish. Most gator trout are caught on shallow grass flats 1 ½ to 3 feet deep. Look for flats with dense grass mixed with a few sandy potholes that big trout use to ambush prey. The flat should also have a healthy supply of bait like mullet or pinfish, and it should be close to deeper water, so a wary old trout has a short escape route. During the hottest days of summer, big trout retreat to deeper water off the edge of a flat or seek out shade under mangroves or docks. During the coldest nights of winter, gator trout move into deep channels, canals and dredge holes where they can be targeted with sinking plugs and shrimp imitations worked slowly along the bottom. Seatrout see well in low light, unlike their prey items, like mullet. So, big trout feed best during low light. It is best to

By Paul MacInnis

SLING LURES for Grass Flat Gator Trout

fish early mornings, late evenings, on overcast days and at night. It may seem counter intuitive, but more trophy trout are caught on artificials than bait. Big trout are loners. Lures allow you to cover a lot of water, increasing your odds of intercepting bigger fish. About 80 percent of an adult seatrout’s diet is fish. With that in mind, large mullet-imitating lures are a good choice. The classic gator trout lure is a topwater “walk-the-dog” bait like the venerable Zara Spook. Of course, big swimbaits and shallowrunning plugs also work, along with soft plastic shrimp. A seatrout doesn’t grow to trophy size by being stupid. Big trout are wary and will evacuate a flat at the slightest indication of danger. Hull slaps and pressure waves from a drifting boat put wise old trout on high alert. It’s best to ditch the skiff and either wade or fish from a minimally invasive vessel like a kayak. It also helps to make long casts to get your lure in front of a fish before it detects your presence. Catching a true gator seatrout is not easy, and even when you do everything right there is still an element of luck involved. When you finally catch that trophy fish, handle with care and release her gently. A mature female seatrout can release over a million eggs during a spawn. Let her go to release her big-fish DNA into the gene pool.

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The Experts in Custom Rod Building Have Much to Share

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ud Hole Custom Tackle is the world’s largest supplier of rod building and tackle crafting goods and instruction. The heart of Mud Hole is its people, who strive for excellence and truly care about what they do. From leadership to customer service, and from product development to the warehouse floor, Mud Hole is comprised of passionate anglers and rod builders who use their own products every day and are eager to bring custom rod building to anglers everywhere. Established in the 1970s as a custom rod shop in New Jersey, and named after the famed Mud Hole trench at the outflow of the Hudson River, Mud Hole has truly humble, “tackle-shop” origins. Things really picked up in 1999, when the headquarters moved to Oviedo, Florida and the Internet made it easier to connect across the globe. Promoting the many benefits of custombuilt fishing equipment, Mud Hole Custom Tackle thrived and brought custom rod building to the masses. As interest in rod building grew and the industry flourished, Mud Hole dedicated itself to providing accessible DIY rod building instruction and resources to anyone who wanted to learn. Today, the Mud Hole YouTube channel hosts almost 500 videos with over 10 million views, and is followed by over 31,000 subscribers. From Rod Building

101 instructional videos to product reviews to Rod Recipes to Mud Hole TV episodes—where the team builds custom rods and puts them to the test against the most popular target species—Mud Hole provides the highest quality, most entertaining rod building content available. In addition to recorded video content, Mud Hole also hosts a live, streamed rod building show, Mud Hole Live, where hosts and guests share rod building techniques with an interactive, online audience. Who knew that custom rod building would hit the big time! Beyond making quality rod building content easily accessible to DIY audiences, Mud Hole also offers custom rod building classes with professional instructors. The workshops take place in the Mud Hole Education Center in Oviedo, Florida, in local markets across the U.S., and even online, in the comfort of your own home. A variety of topical classes are offered, from beginner workshops to application-specific builds, such as surf, fly, redfish and mahi rods. All classes include every component, supply, and all of the personal interaction needed to build high quality, custom fishing rods. Mud Hole also collaborates with schools and youth organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and 4-H to bring rod building to students through

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WHAT A TRIGGERS THE BITE? PHOTO COURTESY OF KNOCKIN TAIL LURES

By Capt. Michael Okruhlik

ction, color, profile, style, which is more important when fishing artificials inshore? I investigate this question more than the average fisherman does on each trip, because I manufacture lures. To prove my point, how many of you switch tactics or lures when the bite is hot? I do! Years ago, I would not change a thing while the bite was on. If I lost the last soft plastic of a particular color, I would dig through every compartment to find one more identical to what was working. I might even rig it upside-down or sideways to get that last soft plastic to stay on the hook for a few more bites. Designing and fine-tuning lures has driven me to fish differently and explore more frequently, even when the fish are biting. On a recent trip, I was trying a new design, even though I was more confident in one of my original designs for this scenario in these conditions. The bite was strong, I switched between two lures about every three fish just to see if there was a preference. I started with the new design in a green-back, clear-belly color and caught a fish on the first cast! I was feeling confident, since it was a new lure and a new color, but it took dozens of casts to catch a few more fish. I switched to my original design in a pearl color. Once again, fish on the first cast! It didn’t take long to land a few more, and I decided to switch back to the new design, only this time in the same pearl color. My intent was to see if color was what the fish were keying on. Although I caught fish on both lures, the original produced considerably more fish per cast. I kept switching to gain knowledge and validate my findings. Both lures were the same color and 5 inches long with very similar body size. The actions, however, were completely different. One was a paddle tail, while the other was a soft jerk- or twitch-bait style. The fish on this day undoubtedly preferred the erratic side-to-side action of the twitch bait. Although I attempted to work the swimbait more erratically, the paddle tail did not have the quick side-to-side action that triggered the strike. Both lures were rigged on the same weighted swimbait hook, and I used the same rod. In this scenario, the action and lure style were the keys to triggering the bite. Even if you’re catching fish, it is a good idea to change things up from time to time. The day before, in the same area, I caught an equal number of fish on both the abovementioned lures. Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures, Controlled Descent Lures, and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

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without taking up deck space. The new Outfitter ZX fishing version is still in design, but the regular Outfitter ZX can be transformed into a fishing machine with just a couple tweaks. A Humminbird Helix GPS fishfinder is standard on the Outfitter. With fishing chairs on the forward deck area, anglers have ample space to cast and catch. The shallow draft design of the pontoons allows the boat to maneuver in shallower conditions, taking anglers where the fish might be. Add the optional aerated live well, and fish can be kept alive. Stow some lawn chairs, extra ice chest and a grill on board and nose up to a nice sandy beach. It’s picnic time. Add a tent and sleeping bags, and the Outfitter ZX becomes an overnight on-the-beach hotel. The Outfitter ZX tritoon footprint starts at as a trailerable 8 1/2 feet wide and 20 feet long. For more floorspace and increased passenger capacity, there’s also an 8 ½-foot-wide and 24-foot-long deck model, which is also trailerable. Now the fun part starts, completing the layout for individual tastes and desires. Regardless of how you use your Outfitter ZX, you will look great on the water and you and your boat mates will have a whale of a time. Ask your favorite marina to offer the Outfitter ZX for your next rental. StyleCraft Boats are made in the USA in Alachua, Fla., and are available factory direct only. Follow StyleCraft Boats on Facebook and Instagram.

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I DO NOT FEEL THE NEED FOR SPEED (SOMETIMES)

fish) on as light tackle as possible. I like to slow it down, and use the correct tackle for the job, while getting baits down in the strike zone. While drifting or trolling, I like to use a jig when I need to get my baits down deeper where the mid-day fish are hanging out. A 4-ounce Squid Decoy Jig is a good option because it drifts and trolls well and can be fished with or without bait. Tipped with cigar minnow or sardine, Tim Barefoot the jig looks like a squid that has caught supper, and everything eats squid. his is a play off the famous line from the movie This is a wahoo bait that can be fished with fluorocarbon instead Top Gun, but it has a clear meaning when it comes to fishing for palegics. Are there times when I want to high-speed troll of wire or cable, simply because almost all wahoo strikes on squid are to locate areas with fish? YES. Are there times when I want to troll 6-7 knots to catch numbers of good fish when they are on or near the surface feeding? YES. With all that said, are there times to slow down and get baits down to where the fish are in the water column? YES, Definitely! intended to cut the back half the These times are typically squid off before consumption. after 10 or 10:30 a.m., when Predatory fish know that they the sun is high in the sky, and can easily eliminate a squid’s on, or around a full moon. The only defenses… tentacles and a first reason is obvious. Fish don’t biting beak. have Maui Jims, so they adjust A stinger hook in the the amount of light they need/ head of a live or frozen cigar want with water depth. This is minnow or sardine will do especially true with wahoo and the work. There is only one tuna. And the full moon thing… major problem with this setup. they stay up all night eating with Don’t let it get too close to the “big light” on. the bottom, or you’ll have a Have you ever noticed how the bite dies down after 10 or 11 in the morning? Have you ever noticed grouper or big snapper bite. I think we just got ’em on a technicality. If the days around a full moon are typically slow? These are not just a you are “trolling for wahoo” and let the bait get too close to the bottom coincidence. Granted, the planner rod (aka “the meat stick”) is the one and catch a grouper, oh well, I wasn’t using circle hooks. Just sayin’. that produces in the middle of the day, and at daylight for that matter, See more from Tim Barefoot at barefootcatsandtackle.com. and around the full moon, but I much prefer to catch these fish (any

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I DO NOT FEEL THE NEED FOR SPEED (SOMETIMES)

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Tim Barefoot

his is a play off the famous line from the movie Top Gun, but it has a clear meaning when it comes to fishing for palegics. Are there times when I want to highspeed troll to locate areas with fish? YES. Are there times when I want to troll 6-7 knots to catch numbers of good fish when they are on or near the surface feeding? YES. With all that said, are there times to slow down and get baits down to where the fish are in the water column? YES, Definitely! These times are typically after 10 or 10:30 a.m., when the sun is high in the sky, and on, or around a full moon. The first reason is obvious. Fish don’t have Maui Jims, so they adjust the amount of light they need/want with water depth. This is especially true with wahoo and tuna. And the full moon thing… they stay up all night eating with the “big light” on.

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n the cigar ill do y one setup. ose to have a lity. If ottom in’.

Have you ever noticed how the bite dies down after 10 or 11 in the morning? Have you ever noticed the days around a full moon are typically slow? These are not just a coincidence. Granted, the planner rod (aka “the meat stick”) is the one that produces in the middle of the day, and at daylight for that matter, and around the full moon, but I much prefer to catch these fish (any fish) on as light tackle as possible. I like to slow it down, and use the correct tackle for the job, while getting baits down in the strike zone.

While drifting or trolling, I like to use a jig when I need to get my baits down deeper where the mid-day fish are hanging out. A 4-ounce Squid Decoy Jig is a good option because it drifts and trolls well and can be fished with or without bait. Tipped with cigar minnow or sardine, the jig looks like a squid that has caught supper, and everything eats squid. This is a wahoo bait that can be fished with fluorocarbon instead of wire or cable, simply because almost all wahoo strikes on squid are intended to cut the back half the squid off before consumption. Predatory fish know that they can easily eliminate a squid’s only defenses… tentacles and a biting beak. A stinger hook in the head of a live or frozen cigar minnow or sardine will do the work. There is only one major problem with this setup. Don’t let it get too close to the bottom, or you’ll have a grouper or big snapper bite. I think we just got ’em on a technicality. If you are “trolling for wahoo” and let the bait get too close to the bottom and catch a grouper, oh well, I wasn’t using circle hooks. Just sayin’. See more from Tim Barefoot at barefootcatsandtackle.com.

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FLORIDA 9 LOCATION 3


PHOTO BY JAMES MARTINS

an empty pail and hold it vertically on the surface of a pool, pond or tub of water, and you can easily recreate this for yourself. Apply force to the pail, straight downward, until its rim is just under the surface. Water rushes in to fill the pail until it has reached full capacity. If there are objects on the surface or suspended in the water, they will accompany the inrush of water. What you have done is introduced a void into the water. This empty space must be filled if water is to adhere to its own principles. Essentially, a vacuum effect occurs in which both water and the objects it contains are pulled into the void. Fish generate a similar vacuum via the expansion of their mouths, and anything within range of that vacuum will be drawn inside. This form of attack is concentrated in the fish’s head, requiring little or no forward motion of the body. If the fish wants to swallow what it has trapped in its jaws, it will expel the water through its gill slits in a rapid jet. Between a closed mouth and the fish’s gill rakers, solid objects are trapped inside, where they can be directed down the fish’s throat. If the fish should decide it doesn’t want to swallow what it has in its mouth, it will simply open its jaws and let the water float out along with whatever else was inside. It is much like a terrestrial animal opening its mouth and drawing in a big breath of air. Any airborne particulate matter will be taken in with the breath. If something noxious is taken in—smoke, for example—it can be ejected by exhaling or coughing. The difference between fish and terrestrial animals is the comparative enormity of most fish mouths and the great density of water compared to air. While a vacuum may be of little benefit to land animals, it is extremely useful to fish. Most fish, therefore, employ this technique to some degree in their feeding. For the sake of efficiency and the surer capture of prey, predatory fish are likely to use this method in conjunction with a more traditional attack featuring forward motion of the body. When employed together, these techniques allow the fish to draw its prey closer and seize it with the most By John Saporito security. When swallowing prey whole, they will turn it in their mouth so that espite different designs among the many species, there is a it can be taken headfirst—scales, fins and other parts folding tight against the commonality in fish when it comes to the capture of prey, a special body to facilitate an easier passage down the throat. procedure making use of the physical properties of the water they John Saporito is a lifelong fisherman, writer, and student of the seas. live in. Visit him online at johnsaporito.com. When a fish suddenly opens its mouth underwater, a void is created. Take

HOW FISH EAT

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10 FLORIDA

FEBRUARY 2022

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COASTAL ANGLER North Central Florida/Nature Coast

FEBRUARY 2022 EDITION

Find Your Outdoors Here!

Cary & Lynn Crutchfield

North Central Florida Nature Coast Staff

ALACHUA, MARION, COLUMBIA, GILCHRIST, BRADFORD, DIXIE, LEVY, CITRUS

Cary Crutchfield

SALES

EDITING & PRODUCTION Lynn Crutchfield

FEBRUARY

DISTRIBUTION

s I write tonight late in January, we have just had our first really cold temps of the season. I have really enjoyed the unusually warm winter that we have had thus far this year. Cary likes to sight-fish at night, and the higher than usual temps have made it comfortable for him to be out on the water at night. Do you want to know what your property is worth? Call Ken Rembert at SVN and find out. See page 2. This month’s recipe, Lobster and Shrimp Newburg sounds so fancy. It is so easy, and comforting on a chilly February night. See page 2. Thank you C.C. I am an advocate for the Covid vaccine and have been since before it was even available. (Even Big bird agrees!) I am so angry about the massive loss of life (close to a million in the U.S. now). Most of these lives would not have been lost, if only these men, women and children were vaccinated. On Christmas Day, this senseless loss of life became very personal for me with the death of one of my closest, and dearest friends. Many times, I begged her to get the vaccine, but instead she chose to believe the internet lies. She was the most loving, giving, caring friend, and I miss her terribly. She was intelligent, educated, talented, healthy, busy and very productive. I am just one of many who love and need her. I was not surprised that she got Covid, but I never expected for her to die. If you have chosen to refuse vaccination, please reconsider. Your decision affects not just you, but all who love you. Again, let me remind you that our guides are the best in the business. If you need winter fishing advice, you have no farther to look than to our guides. Call them. Second only to catching fish, their favorite activity is talking about catching fish! How about a guided fishing trip for your Valentine? As always, please thank our advertisers, and the folks where you picked up the World’s Greatest FREE Fishing Magazine. Thank you John Freeze for the two waterscapes of this page. Stay smart. Wear your mask. Please get your vaccines; stay well and stay alive.

GRAPHIC ARTS & DESIGN

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Lynn Crutchfield Co-Publisher Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida/Nature Coast

Rosa Crisman

Kathleen Stemley

WEB DESIGN Kristi Williams

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Dr. Kevin McCarthy Bruce Butler John Freeze Noel Kuhn Capt. Jason Clark Capt. Katie Jo Davis Capt. Tommy Derringe Capt. Jonathan Hamilton Capt. James Kerr Capt. Tony Johns Capt. Pat McGriff Capt. Brent Woodard

CONTACT INFORMATION

crutch@coastalanglermagazine.com 352-542-0356 www.CoastalAnglerMag.com/NC-Florida

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Tide Charts Local Fishing Forecasts Monthly Recipe

Photo by: Suwannee River Water Management District


LOBSTER AND SHRIMP NEWBURG

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Thank you to The Crab Plant for the shrimp and lobster. Visit their Fresh Seafood Market or enjoy Cooked Seafood to go. You are welcome to sit at their table and view beautiful Kings Bay while you enjoy your delicious, freshly prepared meal, watching manatees, dolphins, pelicans and boats. Or, you can carry it home; your choice. Open Tues-Thurs 10:00-5:30, Fri-Sat 10:00-8:00. 201 NW 5th St. Crystal River 352-795-4700.

TIDES • North Central Florida Time Height

1Tu

2W

3Th

4F

5Sa

6Su

7M

12:59 AM 8:18 AM 2:49 PM 8:03 PM 1:49 AM 8:57 AM 3:20 PM 8:48 PM 2:37 AM 9:33 AM 3:49 PM 9:33 PM 3:24 AM 10:07 AM 4:17 PM 10:17 PM 4:11 AM 10:38 AM 4:45 PM 11:04 PM 5:00 AM 11:08 AM 5:14 PM 11:52 PM 5:53 AM 11:37 AM 5:47 PM

3.9 -1.3 2.8 0.8 3.9 -1.1 2.9 0.5 3.7 -0.8 2.9 0.4 3.5 -0.4 3.0 0.2 3.2 0.0 3.0 0.2 2.8 0.4 3.1 0.2 2.4 0.7 3.1

HERNANDO BEACH

FEBRUARY 2022

8Tu

Time Height

12:49 AM 6:57 AM 12:10 PM 6:26 PM 9W 1:59 AM 8:32 AM 12:56 PM 7:17 PM 10Th 3:22 AM 10:21 AM 2:15 PM 8:25 PM 11F 4:37 AM 11:44 AM 3:44 PM 9:38 PM 12Sa 5:37 AM 12:34 PM 4:56 PM 10:41 PM 13Su 6:23 AM 1:09 PM 5:53 PM 11:36 PM 14M 7:02 AM 1:38 PM 6:40 PM

0.2 2.1 1.1 3.0 0.3 1.9 1.4 3.0 0.2 1.9 1.6 2.9 0.0 2.1 1.7 3.0 -0.3 2.3 1.6 3.1 -0.5 2.5 1.4 3.2 -0.6 2.6 1.2

KINGS BAY

High Tide -20 min Low Tide 58 min

High Tide 2 hrs, 20 min Low Tide 3 hrs, 7 min

CRYSTAL RIVER

WITHLACOOCHEE ENT

High Tide 36 min Low Tide 1 hr, 30 min

High Tide 7 min Low Tide 55 min

CEDAR KEY

15Tu

Time Height

12:23 AM 7:35 AM 2:05 PM 7:21 PM 16W 1:05 AM 8:07 AM 2:30 PM 7:58 PM 17Th 1:44 AM 8:37 AM 2:53 PM 8:35 PM 18F 2:23 AM 9:08 AM 3:17 PM 9:13 PM 19Sa 3:04 AM 9:39 AM 3:42 PM 9:53 PM 20Su 3:48 AM 10:11 AM 4:09 PM 10:37 PM 21M 4:38 AM 10:44 AM 4:41 PM 11:27 PM

3.4 -0.7 2.7 1.0 3.5 -0.7 2.8 0.8 3.6 -0.6 2.9 0.5 3.5 -0.5 3.0 0.3 3.5 -0.3 3.1 0.2 3.3 -0.1 3.3 0.0 3.0 0.3 3.4 -0.1

Lynn Crutchfield, Co-Publisher Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida

Time Height

22Tu 5:35 AM 11:20 AM 5:18 PM 23W 12:27 AM 6:47 AM 12:01 PM 6:03 PM 24Th 1:43 AM 8:33 AM 12:59 PM 7:03 PM 25F 3:12 AM 10:31 AM 2:33 PM 8:24 PM 26Sa 4:35 AM 11:51 AM 4:03 PM 9:49 PM 27Su 5:42 AM 12:39 PM 5:16 PM 11:04 PM 28M 6:36 AM 1:14 PM 6:17 PM

2.7 0.7 3.4 -0.1 2.3 1.1 3.4 -0.1 2.1 1.5 3.4 -0.3 2.1 1.7 3.3 -0.5 2.4 1.7 3.4 -0.7 2.6 1.5 3.6 -0.8 2.8 1.1

HOMOSASSA RIVER ENT

HORSESHOE BEACH

SUWANNEE ENT

STEINHATCHEE RIVER ENT

High Tide 4 hr, 30 min Low Tide 5 hr, 41 min High Tide 6 min Low Tide 18 min

2 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

High Tide 12 min Low Tide 20 min

High Tide 2 min Low Tide 0 min

FEBRUARY 2022

COOKING DIRECTIONS

INGREDIENTS

In saucepan, melt the 2 • 2 tablespoons butter tablespoons butter. Stir in flour • 2 tablespoons alland ¼ teaspoon salt. Add milk purpose flour and cream all at once and stir till • ¾ cups milk thickened and bubbly. Cook and • ¾ cups lt. cream stir for one minute more. • 2 beaten egg yolks Gradually stir about 1 cup • 1 cooked medium of the hot mixture into beaten lobster egg yolks. Return all to pan • 10 large cooked shrimp and cook over low heat, stirring • 2 tablespoons dry constantly, just till mixture sherry bubbles. Remove from heat. Stir • ¼ cup Panko crumbs in lobster, shrimp and sherry. • 1 tablespoon grated Spoon into oven safe casserole. Parmesan Stir together breadcrumbs and • 2 tablespoons melted Parmesan. Add 2 tablespoons butter melted butter and mix well. Sprinkle crumb mixture over casserole. Bake in 400-degree oven about 10 minutes, or till lightly browned. (This recipe called for canned shrimp and lobster. (Yuk!) I peeled and deveined fresh shrimp and removed the meat from the lobster shell and cut into bite sized pieces. I placed shrimp and lobster on a sheet pan with a bit of oil and salt and pepper. I baked at 400 degrees for about three minutes.) COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

By

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FLORIDA WATERWAYS Three Abandoned Bridges over the Suwannee River

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t this time, when politicians and engineers are discussing which roads, tunnels, and bridges in this country should be repaired or replaced, some very old structures will probably not be on such a list, either because newer bridges have replaced the old ones or changing traffic routes have made such bridges obsolete. The Suwannee, one of North Florida’s watery treasures, winds its way for some 246 miles from South Georgia into the Gulf of Mexico. By Kevin McCarthy Along the way, boaters can see a dozen bridges, some of which are deteriorating from age and lack of use. One such bridge is the Hillman Bridge near the small town of Ellaville in Madison County. The truss bridge serviced a thriving lumber mill that was owned by George Drew, Florida’s governor from 1877 to 1881. The bridge was built as a federal aid project around 1925 and named after W.J. Hillman of Live Oak, the first chairman of the Florida State Road Department who had worked hard to have the bridge built. Officials voted to abandon the bridge in 1983 after an over-loaded truck plowed into one of the steel crossbeams and tore it loose. A new bridge replaced that one three years later, at which time the Florida Department of Natural Resources took over the bridge. Today only foot and bridge traffic is allowed on the older structure. The second bridge to be featured here is the Suwanee (notice the spelling) Springs Bridge near Live Oak. Dating back to 1931, the bridge was bypassed around 1971, when engineers rerouted Highway 129. Although closed to cars and trucks, the structure is open for bike traffic and pedestrians, some of whom have posted

The Hillman Bridge under construction

The same bridge today

The Suwanee Springs Bridge

reports of dancing on the bridge under the stars in romantic times. The bridge is very close to Suwan(n)ee Springs, a very popular site in the nineteenth century for those who wanted relief from gout, insomnia, kidney stones, malaria, rheumatism, and a host of other ailments. The place was so popular 150 years ago, that entrepreneurs built a nice hotel and eighteen small cottages, one of which still stands there. The third bridge is the most accessible since it rests in a park along the Suwannee River in the small town of Fanning Springs. Built in 1934 and replaced by a new structure in 1987, the structure, officially called the Benjamin Chaires Bridge after an early settler of Dixie County, was the southernmost crossing over the river. When it opened in the 1930s, local residents were so pleased at the ease it offered in crossing the river, that they staged a square dance on the bridge. When engineers built a new structure to replace it, they placed half of it in the nearby park as a lasting monument. It has some of the words to Stephen Foster’s famous song, “Way Down Upon the Suwannee River,” which became the state’s official song. These are just three of the great river’s historic bridges.

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

FEBRUARY 2022

The same bridge in the early 20th century

The Fanning Springs Bridge

A sign at that bridge

Kevin McCarthy, the author of Suwannee River Guidebook (2009 - available at amazon.com), can be reached at ceyhankevin@gmail.com. NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 3


KATIE JO’S NATURE COAST ADVENTURES

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ater temperatures are slowly cooling, despite the relatively warm winter we are experiencing along Florida's Nature Coast. February will have the water temperatures cool enough to find schooling redfish deeper in the creeks, warming along oyster beds. Casting a shrimp on a 4/0 circle hook will keep the bait from smacking the water, and help prevent catching the oysters. I barely move the shrimp and allow the redfish to find it and eat it. Another favorite technique is to use a medium sized mudminnow on a float, with only enough leaded to keep the bait from swimming into the rock. Locating a choke point on the outgoing tide, also creates the opportunity for fish to eat your bait as they move closer to the mouth, as the tide begins to recede. Another popular fish this time of

ENGLISH.BRAD@YAHOO.COM 24304 NW 182ND AVE. HIGH SPRINGS, FL 32643 4 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

FEBRUARY 2022

the year is sheepshead and they put up a good fight too. I use a 3/0 circle hook with a size 2 split shot to get and keep the bait on the bottom. I generally find these fish in deeper cuts, with a mix of rocky and sand bottoms. Sight-casting to these fish is a blast and they even make a tasty treat! Trout are remaining schooled up in deeper cuts between oyster bars and in deeper holes in the shallow grass areas. They will begin moving thicker into the deep holes inside the creeks as well. I enjoy using a 1/8 ounce jig head chartreuse in color with a large shrimp, while jigging it slowly across the bottom. This technique may even produce a surprising pompano or permit as well. Captain Katie Jo Davis www.fishcrystalriverflorida.com 772-882-8932 KD OUTDOORS FISHING CHARTERS

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


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FEBRUARY 2022

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 5


CEDAR KEY

420 Dock Street Cedar Key, FL 32625 352-543-5142 steamerscedarkey.com info@steamerscedarkey.com Like us on Facebook! We will cook your catch. We serve fresh local Cedar Key oysters and clams. Try our delicious Gator. We get it directly from the Gator Man himself.

Happy Hour Monday-Friday 3pm-7pm 2-4-1 Wells 1/2 Price Wine $2.50 Bud Light, Miller Lite, Yuengling

SIGNS BANNERS Copies Fax

Forms Letterhead We also offer apparel and promotional items. Envelopes Business Cards Brochures Newsletters & More Invitations Come see us at our new location between Wedding & Graduation McDonalds and NAPA - 1517 North Young Blvd. 6 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

FEBRUARY 2022

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ey everyone, I hope y'all are enjoying this unusually warm winter. It's crazy to say the least. The thought that I'm still fishing the flats to catch fish, vs fishing the creek system, just blows my mind. (Usually by this time of year, the water temp has dropped enough to push most fish into the creeks). Well not much has changed since last month when it comes to our year round residents of redfish and trout, but we do have sheepshead moving in on some near-by structures, and they are always fun to go after. I rig for sheepshead two different ways; the first is just a basic knocker rig with a size 1 circle hook tipped with a piece of shrimp, or

a whole fiddler crab. The second is a sheepshead jighead, made by Captains Choice Tackle. These jigs are made just for sheepshead, and all you have to do is tie one on, bait it, and you're good to go! The Rusty Hook bait/gift shop In cedar key carries them, and they work great!! Well y'all, until next month, stay safe out there. Capt. Jason Clark In The Slot Fishing Charters 352-639-3209 www.intheslotfishing.com

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ello everybody! I hope your January was a good one. Mine was busier than usual, so I’m not complaining about our mild winter. It has definitely kept the people coming into town to look for fish. Redfish have been on fire, and I don’t see it doing anything but getting better from here on out. Obviously, we’re going to have our slower moments when the harder fronts hit, but try to get out three to four days after a nasty front. They might be in a different spot, but they’re willing to chew. I’ve definitely noticed that if you can get out there with a lighter line, lighter baits, and finesse the fish, they will eat a little better for you. Speckled trout have been doing pretty good as well and have been hanging in their usual spot, as we haven’t had really a good enough cold spell to put them in the creeks. You can tell the fish definitely want to be in there, as they're staging near the creek mouths. I’m also starting to see some sand trout show up. You can usually find these guys in deeper channels and sandy potholes. With the speckled trout, I like to remind everybody that we need to start letting the bigger ones go. I’m making it a rule on my boat, that we don’t keep any trout over 24 inches; we have to protect the resource! Hope everybody has a great February; don’t hesitate to call with any questions or bookings. Until next time, keep it Reel Native!

Boat with someone you can trust.

Hugh Cain Allstate 800-882-9304

Captain Brent Woodard Reel Native Fishing Charters ReelNativeFishing.com 352-284-5514

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Based on coverage selected. Subject to terms, conditions, availability & qualifications. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co. © 2015 Allstate Insurance Co.

FEBRUARY 2022

15066848

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HORSESHOE BEACH

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 7


8 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

FEBRUARY 2022

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


HOMOSASSA

KEATON BEACH

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ebruary on the Nature Coast can be one of our coldest months of the year! However, with December and January being unseasonably warm thus far, I feel like our fish haven’t really made that big winter transition. If February brings some really cold weather, look for awesome fishing in the main rivers for trout, redfish, black drum, mangrove snapper, snook, jacks, and tarpon. This can be one of the only times of the year that you can target so many species in the comfort of the river, and it’s wind protecting banks. All species can be targeted with live shrimp. I like to fish shrimp on a jig head this time of the year at the rocky bends and deep holes. Mirror deans and soft plastics can produce a snook bite. If the weather stays mild or warm, look for the hard bottom areas around the creek mouths with rock grass for trout. For my fly fishing guys and gals, this is a great time to sight-fish for redfish. The water is usually clearer, and the bait is a little more scarce. That being said, these fish will go quite a while without feeding. Gurglers can be too enticing for these laid-up fish and they can’t resist chasing one down and crushing at the surface! Lots of fun! The near shore rocks will produce great table fare with the sheephead spawn firing up. Most of your shallow water grouper rocks will

hold nice sized sheephead. Fish for sheephead with shrimp on a knocker rig. Pay attention to your wind and tide forecast this time of the year. Hard east winds with winter time lows can produce some very treacherous conditions. February 27th will be our Annual Homosassa Guides Assoc. Fish Fry at MacRaes of Homosassa. This is where we all get together and cook our famous shore lunch land side! If you are looking for something to do, or a great organization to support, we would love to see you out there. If you can’t make it and would like to donate or learn more about what we do, feel free to reach out to me or to the Homosassa Guides Association at www. homosassaguidesassociation.com. Capt. Stump Jonathan Hamilton 352-403-2073 www.captainjhamilton.com

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

Brittany Wendt of Tifton, Ga. with a fine winter trout 1/1/22

inter has arrived with the last front (Note: today is January 14) as our water temps crashed to 54 to 55 degrees, depending on who you asked. The large concentrations of trout, which had chosen to stage up in front of the major creeks to the north of Keaton, have either dispersed or scurried into the creeks. When the Gulf water temps get below 60 degrees, usually most of February, the fishing becomes tough unless you are on the third day of a warming trend, approaching 60 degrees again, or find fish up the major creeks in holes or up on the bars in the warmer afternoons. Fish the Northeast banks, as the sun crossing and setting in the southwest, will warm those banks first. If you can get in the creeks before high tides, look for the fiddler crab holes on the banks, as they will designate which areas are the warmest, and also provide some better red fishing, as reds love to eat fiddlers. Speaking of which, not bad bait either if you know where and how to dig them up. I recommend even the most diehard artificial-only anglers take some live shrimp with them this time of year. If for no other reason to hunt with, to try to discover which creeks are holding fish and how deep they want the presentation. Once found (with bait) you can then cross over to artificials, and see if they cooperate. I prefer sizes #14 and #17 MirrOdines in the trout and # 808 and the 750SBG patterns if I am fishing creeks, also the Catch Jrs. in 808, #11 and GLO . No need to FEBRUARY 2022

Cathy Nicely with a good trout caught 1/1 /22

throw whopper-sized baits at fish which have such slow metabolisms now. Dumb down the pound test on your reels and catch more wintertime trout and reds in the clear water. Save the braid for the bars and fish the creeks with Monofilament or Fluorocarbon if you must. Reds are much easier than trout now, as they can withstand colder water temps and still be active. Almost any of your synthetics will take winter reds like Fishbites Fight Club and original FishBites tabs either bounced on very light jigheads or under an Original Cajun Thunder. Oh, and don’t forsake your weedless spoons like Flats Intruder HEX and Original in 1/8 oz. and 1/4 ounce in Copper and Gold. Meanwhile, Let's Go Fishing! Pat McGriff dba One More Cast guide service for 30 years! www.onemorecast.net onemorecast@gtcom.net | cell: 850.838.7541

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 9


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10 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

FEBRUARY 2022

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


CRYSTAL RIVER

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ello from Crystal River, and hopefully you’ve been staying warm. The fishing here has stayed pretty good, even with the colder temps. This winter has been pretty mild. The cooler weather can make fishing challenging at times. When the temps drop, fish are seeking warmer waters and slow

down. They don’t feed as much because they are saving all their energy for staying warm. When targeting fish this time of year, you have to slow everything down; patients is key. For redfish, I use a long shank hook with a shrimp. I tend to stay away from jigs. With the lower clear water, the redfish can be really spooky, so I go as light as I can. I even drop down the leader to 12 to 15 lbs. Also, this is a great time to do sight fishing with the clear water. There’s nothing more rewarding as fisherman, than sight fishing reds. It’s one the coolest things, to see a fish, target it, and watch it eat your bait/lure. The trout have been pretty good on the warmer days. I use live and artificial when targeting them. For the artificial side Mirrordines and DOA Jerkbaits are always good choice. Until next month Capt. James Kerr 352-362-6893 Citrusfishingchaters.com

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ell Forest Anglers, we ended up getting some more cool weather after all. After an unusually warm Holiday Season, it was starting to look like November's cool weather would be the only “winter-like" conditions we'd see, and I can assure you the bass population started thinking the same darn thing. While most of us figured we'd get at least one more cold snap before the spring season "officially" began; quite a few trophy size largemouth (old-timer's) decided to jump the gun (same as last year), and finished their spawning ritual before the new year even began. Note: I said "quite a few", not "ALL". When I saw our warm extended forecast in December, a checklist of lakes popped into my head. I took a few hours from each day to do a bit of scouting, with a touch of sunset casting to top it off, of course. I checked a dozen or so areas. All were clear water lakes, making it easier to scan areas quicker, especially through dense grass and deep water hydrilla beds, which is where the biggest bass tend to spawn. Take note of any brush you find (fallen trees, branches, etc.), so you know where to go first when you return . All fish love brush! Scouting has become a ritual I look forward to, more and more each year, especially while the bass spawn is at its peak. Don't get me wrong, pitchin' a creature bait, just slightly passed a perfect white sand bed (2 to 4 foot circle, with vegetation surrounding) and slowly twitch it back to the edge, so you don't spook "Big Momma"! She's locked on. You give the bait a tiny hop, and she whips around, nose to lure! Get ready, if you can give that lure the lightest twitch, with your adrenaline at Full Throttle, and be ready to slam that rod back the millisecond after. "Alright, 3,2,1,!!!" Having said all that, just getting out there and looking around, as much as possible, is the most important part. Reason being, the info I get will

basically tell me everything I need to know for the rest of the year. Just use what you've seen/ experienced, factor in the conditions ahead, and you'll know where, when, and how to have the best fishing experience EVER, IN HISTORY! Okay, that was a bit over the top; but it is the goal, right? Now, for those anglers who like the idea of scouting around, but don't have the time to search an entire lake, I'm going to let you in on a secret, a big one! In the majority of lakes, bass spawn on the north side! Yep, it's true. So, now that you know (You're welcome.) can you you do me one small favor, please? Handle these big 'ole girls with care when snapping a quick picture, and release them as quickly as possible. The "Trophy Catch Program" actually pays you for doing that! There are loads of prizes, and last year's winner earned himself a $40,000 Phoenix Bass Boat! So grab your heavy duty rods, and good luck! I'll see you out there. John Freeze Kayak Fishing and Nature Tours OurNationalForrest@gmail.com 352-216-5798

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 11


TALES FROM THE TUPPERWARE NAVY

W

elcome back yak fans, January ended with a great bite, and let’s hope the trend continues. The only time I want to hear the word “front”, is standing in a hotel lobby. (So I don't lose you completely, that's what the manager would say to call a bellhop, as if that happens anymore.) What I'm saying is, uneventful weather, should equal some very eventful fishing. Reds are showing up in good sized schools of 15 to 30 fish, and large trout are coming in on the high tide. I know I've always talked about the bite being on the lower turn of the tide, but the other day, around Raccoon Point on the high turn of the tide to outgoing, the trout bite was awesome working the spook (top water lure). Around the edges of small grass islands and points, I was getting nailed on almost every cast, all in the 18-to23-inch range. Heddon just came out with a new Spook Jr. with a metallic blue top, silver bottom and red throat, and right now, the fish are loving it! This is probably due to all the bait moving around right now. I was actually having a Spookoff against my trusty Zara in bone, till a blue fish took the line under the boat and broke my carrot stix. For some reason, they don't like being bent double. God, I hate that sound, so at that point, the blue spook won by default. The day had pretty much started that way; first a snook took off with my bone spook (I always carry a spare.) and then I lost my scissors (first time in over three years). Then, a large trout got tangled in

12 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

FEBRUARY 2022

the net and sunk a treble hook in my finger! Of course, we all love yanking those out with the pliers. Then, the broken rod, and I’m wondering why I’m still happy (more or less) and I guess it was because the trout bite it was awesome. “Momma said there'd be days like this,” but the rods being warranted, the trouts in the freezer and my fingers healing. Gotta remember to replace the spook and my scissors! The bite north of Bayport and around Rocky Creek have been good, pre-fished with my friend P.J. on the outgoing to low, and we both got a slam. Hey, a double slam in Hernando County ain't bad, and modestly of course, I picked the spots. As a guide of many years, all I have to say is now if I could only do that every time. (Laughing) Anyway, back to fishing. Large reds are back in the inside creeks and bays. My problem has been finding one small enough to keep. Most have been 29 to 32 inches, but understand, I’m not complaining. I've had a couple of epic battles, trying to paddle with one hand and follow him around points, oysters, and creeks on ten lb. test braid, and that is probably at the end of the day, the broken rod, sore finger, etc. etc. seemed minor. I mean that few minutes of utter terror, and then winning the battle, is why we do what we do! That’s it! Bruce Bruce Butler | "Stumbling Gypsy" (352) 428-5347 Bruce@IndianBayOutfitters.com Web: www.IndianBayOutfitters.com

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Captain Tony with an over slot snook, caught on the last day of 2020.

he month of February can be a challenge to predict, especially when we are having a very warm winter! With water temps warmer the first week of January, than they were the first week of December, you know things are upside down! But guess what, this is not the first time this has happened! I remember in 1999 going into 2000, we had a warm fall followed by an unusually warm December, January and February, like what we are experiencing now. What does this mean for the angler? Well to start with, forget about the “normal” February patterns you like to fish! Instead, think about where you might find fish closer to the end of March. Fish do not have a calendar that they go by! Their seasons (calendar) are controlled primarily by two things, the temperature of the water and the number of hours of daylight per day, the photoperiod. With the Winter Solstice occurring on December 21st, the days have been getting longer since then. Couple that with increasing water temps, and the aquatic critters begin their spring season earlier in the year than what we consider to be “normal”. Some food for thought: When we say something is not normal, how then have we determined what is “normal”? While we are talking about the warmer than “normal” average water temps, we have had for the last 10 years or so, lets also talk about snook. The common snook (centropomus undecimalis), is classified as a subtropical species that does not tolerate cold water temps. The lower lethal limit of water temperature is 48.2°-57.2° F (9°-14° C) for juveniles and 42.8°-53.6° F (6°12° C) for adults. (Florida Museum, Michelle Press) If you have fished the Lower Suwannee River Estuary for very long, you know that in the past, many times

Looking forward to springtime trout fishing! Jason Thomas with a nice “over 20 inch” trout that was released.

we have experienced water temps within the “lethal limits”. I have personally seen water temps in the low 40s to upper 30s, but not in over 10 years now! Fifteen years ago, it was unheard of to catch a snook, north of Cedar Key. Now here around the Lower Suwannee River we are catching enough of them that they are becoming a targeted species. Is this a good thing? I am not sure, while I enjoy the ability to catch snook here at “home”, I also know that the snook is a top predator and will be competing for food with the “native” predator fish like the speckled trout and redfish. I have even had a couple freshwater fishermen ask the question, “How many bluegill does a mature snook eat”? I don’t know the answer to that question, but common sense tells us there will be more eaten when you add a new top predator to environment! Only time will tell, and we don’t determine the length of that time! Until next time be safe and Catchemup! Captain Tony Johns | 352-221-2510 www.lowersuwanneriverfishing.com Instagram: captaintonyjohns Facebook: Lower Suwannee River Fishing Adventures or Captain Tony Johns

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ST. AUGUSTINE

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t’s my favorite time of the year! Sight-fishing time! This month typically gets chilly, and that means clearer water. The colder it gets, the clearer the water will be (The colder water will kill off the algae that makes our waters so murky much of the year). So far, we’ve once again had a warmer than average winter, but I’m holding out hope for a few good cold snaps. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like being cold, but I’ll throw on a couple extra layers if it means the water clears up. Another plus from the cooler weather, is just about all our inshore gamefish will school up. Clear water, schooled up redfish and trout, and not many boats on the water, does it get any better? Slot-sized (and some over-slot) redfish will be schooled up this month. Finding the larger schools of fish can be tough at times, but if you know where to start, it can make things much easier. I like to look for areas on the flats that have just enough water for the reds to swim in. If the flat dries up, you’ll want to look on the edges or any nearby troughs. You can bet that if a large flat just about dries up at low tide, all the fish that live there will be in the spots holding just enough water for them to swim in. Those shallow areas will warm up on sunny days, creating an ideal place for the redfish to hang out and warm up a bit. If you find the redfish at low tide, you might want to wait for the tide to come back in and follow the fish back up onto the flat to see where they like to go. You can be a real flats fishing “ninja” once you pattern wintertime schooled-up reds.

My go-to lure for wintertime sight fishing is the Saltwater Assassin Elite Shiner paddle tail. I like to pair it with either a 1/8oz Saltwater Assassin jighead or weedless hook. I really like the Elite shiner because of its small, thin profile. It doesn’t make much splash when entering the water and that’s important to stay lightweight if possible, because sometimes with clearer water comes spookier fish. Using a light setup will allow you to make less splash when the lure enters the water, thus allowing you to cast closer to the fish without spooking him. If you are casting to a school of fish, lead them by as much as you can. If your bait or lure lands too close to just one fish, you may spook the whole school. We’ll also be targeting black drum, sheepshead, and trout. If you find a nice warm spot up on the flats this time of year, you may just run into some big laid-up trout. The smaller schooling trout will be thick in the deeper creek holes. The drum and sheepshead can be found in the same creek holes, especially on the lower tide stages. If you’re targeting the trout, use a rig that allows you to fish in the middle of the water column. If you’re looking to get the drum and sheepies, go to the bottom with fiddler crabs or shrimp. Be sure to check out our Daily Fishing Reports @ www.InshoreAdventures.net Capt. Tommy Derringer www.InshoreAdventures.net 904-377-3734

16 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

FEBRUARY 2022

SURF & PIER

F

ebruary is usually our slowest month for Pier and Surf. With that said, this year may be different. This January turned out to be one of the warmest ever, resulting in great catches of whiting and pompano that stuck around N E Florida longer than normal. So this month, could be very productive if the water stays at 64 degrees or warmer. During this cooler month, I downsize my baits and hooks. Normally, my go-to hook is an Eagle Claw L197 2/0 circle hook. Now, I drop down two sizes to a #1. When it comes to bait size, nothing larger than one inch long. Since the sand fleas have buried down deep, their number one forage is clams. To match the hatch, I get my bait from the seafood market. I get the biggest live clams, and they are often called chowder or Quahog clams. If the clams are really big, you can get three baits from each. To help keep them on the hook use bait thread, a thin elastic thread that you simply wrap around the shank of the hook, then around the clam. No knots! It is a wonderful product. My favorite one is Atlas-Mike’s Miracle Thread.

Fresh dead or freshly killed shrimp, works almost as well as clams. Just remember to downsize them. I usually get three baits out of one medium shrimp. I first remove the horn and cut off the head for bait #1. Then I cut off the fan, and next cut the tail in half for two more baits. Fishbites also makes excellent bait alone, or as an addition to clams and shrimp. My go-to is E-Z Flea. I cut into ¾ inch long piece, then with scissors, I round off the corners to help mimic the shape of a sand flea. Every little advantage helps when it comes to fooling these fish! I’m hoping you can all get out and enjoy a warm Florida winter day on the beach. If you see four wheels and a flag, stop by and say, “Hello”. Noel Kuhn 43 years of surf fishing experience, surf fishing guide and long distance casting coach. Founding member of Florida Surf Casters club. 904-945-0660 www.TheSurfAngler.com

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By Capt. Quinlyn Haddon

Fishing the bay side may not even be a second choice this month, with the abundance of cobia, snapper, mackerel and the other usual suspects that frequent our shallow-water wrecks. However, if the weather allows, fishing the Atlantic side is advisable. Snapper and amberjack are a viable option, while being near an excellent pelagic fishery. Wahoo and king mackerel will be cruising the reef, along with sailfish, tuna and the occasional mahi. Mahi may be few and far between in February, but they will likely be much larger than summer schoolies. On the reef, incredible tailing conditions occur this time of year, which pushes migrating species to the surface. Once in a lifetime sightings can be had, but the most notable species affected by this anomaly is sailfish. On days like these, we target sailfish by cruising waves along the reef and looking for fish swimming on the surface. Sailfish appear black in the water, and on sunny days you can see them several waves ahead, leaving ample time to set up a pitch bait for sight casting. In the beginning of winter, when sailfish season begins on the reef, ballyhoo are extremely abundant, and the challenge is to get the fish to choose your bait out of the rest. This time of year, when bait is more scarce, your bug-eyed, red-nosed bait might actually have a chance at coming across as appealing to these hungry travelers. Tailing conditions in Marathon are caused by an east wind that opposes the current of the Gulf Stream. Migrating fish are traveling against the current, and heavy wind creates waves that push in the direction they are going. By swimming on the surface, to the point where their tails even breach, they use the force of the wind to surf the waves. It gives them a little break. It is a breathtaking experience to see these fish with such clarity, as if they are in a rolling aquarium. For obvious reasons, this type of fishing requires some heart to brave the he coldest month of the year may shut off a lot of fisheries around waves, and possibly some Dramamine. If you are prone to seasickness, take the country, but the Florida Keys thrive throughout the month of Dramamine the night before. This allows time for it to get into your system February. and eliminates the uncomfortable drowsiness that occurs from taking it the While the Keys are not immune to seasonal cold fronts, the temperatures morning of your trip. remain significantly higher than the rest of the country and provide the Capt. Quinlyn Haddon, of Blue Magic Charters, can be reached at versatility of being able to duck onto the bay side if waters on the Atlantic (504) 920-6342. Check out her social media: @captainquinlyn. side get too sporty.

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n the South, bass are making their transition to prepare for the spawn. This time of year can present an awesome opportunity, with large groups of fish ready to feed before they head to the shallows to do their business. One of the best ways to catch bass is to locate a large group of feeding fish with electronics and put them in the boat. This time of year is my favorite time to do it. Bass group up, stage on certain things in a little bit deeper water near spawning areas and feed heavily. This scenario presents some very fun fishing days! The first thing you need is a fish finding unit with side-scan capabilities and a little bit of patience. Finding the perfect spot sometimes isn’t easy, but when you do find it, it can be extremely rewarding. The first step is to identify a general area in a lake where bass will eventually go to spawn. After that, you want to look for a transition area with structure that bass will stage on and feed before they

JUNE 20202022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM FEBRUARY COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

move up to spawn. For most of the country, a transition area can be anything from deeper water with structure, points, or even deep banks leading near the spawning grounds. Here in Florida, we look for submerged grass clumps or edges, brushpiles, and even shell bars in a bit deeper water near spawning areas. This habitat provides bass with an ambush point to feed heavily and an easy route to spawning grounds when they are ready. Side scan is very helpful in for finding these things, as you can see the bottom 150 feet or more on each side of your boat at idle speeds. This allows you to cover a ton of water and eliminate a lot of the guesswork. With some trial and error, you can actually see fish with this technology as well! I know this technology is expensive and takes some time to learn and understand. However, if you can get your hands on it and learn how to us it, your understanding of where these fish move, live, and feed will grow exponentially. The best way to learn is to get out on the water and find that special area for yourself. Content and video on the Internet helps if you get stuck in a technological bind or aren’t quite sure what you are seeing on your screen. You can always reach out to me on social media with questions. I’d love to help in any way I can. Tyler Woolcott is a professional tournament angler and guide. Check out his website at www.tylerwoolcottfishing.com.

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n the South, bass are making their transition to prepare for the spawn. This time of year can present an awesome opportunity, with large groups of fish ready to feed before they head to the shallows to do their business. One of the best ways to catch bass is to locate a large group of feeding fish with electronics and put them in the boat. This time of year is my favorite time to do it. Bass group up, stage on certain things in a little bit deeper water near spawning areas and feed heavily. This scenario presents some very fun fishing days! The first thing you need is a fish finding unit with side-scan capabilities and a little bit of patience. Finding the perfect spot sometimes isn’t easy, but when you do find it, it can be extremely rewarding. SAFE FOR THE The first step is to identify a general area in a lake where bass ENVIRONMENT will eventually go to spawn. After that, you want to look for a transition area with structure that bass will stage on and feed before Our Polyurethane they move up to spawn. For most Fills voids of the country, a transition area can Seals cracks Strengthens soilsbe anything from deeper water with structure, points, or even deep banks leading near the spawning grounds. Here in Florida, we look for submerged grass clumps or edges, brushpiles, and even shell bars in a bit deeper water near spawning areas. This habitat Free Estimates Competitive Pricing provides bass with anofambush Free 2nd Opinions Serving All Floridapoint to feed heavily and an easy route to spawning grounds when they are ready. Side scan is very helpful in for finding these things, as you can see the bottom 150 feet or more on each side of your boat at idle speeds. This allows you to cover a ton of water and eliminate a lot of the guesswork. With some trial and error, you can actually see fish with this technology as well! I know this technology is expensive and takes some time to learn and understand. However, if you can get your hands on it and learn how to us it, your understanding of where these fish move, live, and feed will grow exponentially. The best way to learn is to get out on the water and find that special area for yourself. Content and video on the Internet helps if you get stuck in a technological bind or aren’t quite sure what you are seeing on your screen. You can always reach out to me on social media with questions. I’d love to help in any way I can.

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ebruary is one of the coolest months for surf fishing, and it’s one of the best for cool-water fish. Mackerel, jack, bluefish and ladyfish are coolwater fish that are very active this month. February is also one of the best months for table fare like large pompano, whiting and croaker. The schooling predator fish mentioned above are active chasing bait in the morning around daybreak and in the evening. They are shallow in the morning around the first breakers and running the trough, a deep cut along the shoreline under the closest breakers. Any shiny, fast-moving lure will produce strikes. I prefer small crocodile-style spoons (1-ounce) in the morning, a shallow-running crankbait, if there are no weeds, or small jigs (4-inch pearl white with a 3/8-ounce chartreuse jig head). Schooling mackerel and bluefish will cut your line, so use a heavy 40-pound mono or fluoro leader tied onto braid. Whether it’s early morning or not, you need to find bait to be successful. Look for birds feeding. On any beach, there will usually be some schools of bait. They might be 100 yards away or a half a mile. Walk the beach and look for dark spots in the water and small splashes on top. Although birds will be feeding on large schools of bait, they may not see smaller schools. Make long search casts past the bait and use a fast, steady retrieve to pull the lure through the bait. The action can be fast and furious as long as you are around bait and feeding fish. All the cool-water predator fish will take live bait and cut bait. Greenies and live shrimp work as well as cut ladyfish and frozen shrimp. If it gets cold, try beach fishing with waders. Numbers of pompano have been reported along many of the beach accesses in the Treasure Coast area, including Bathtub Beach and Middle Cove up to the Ft. Pierce Inlet. February is one of the best months for large 3- to 5-pound pompano. Pompano beach fishing is an art in itself and requires longer fishing rods as well as triple rigs baited with sand fleas or FishBites (red or pink). One of the easiest ways to catch pompano is to fish the lagoon bridges (Jensen Beach Causeway/Stuart Bridge if you are in Martin county) with pompano jigs (pink) on moving tides. The whiting bite has been very good this winter with small pieces of frozen shrimp. Cast just past the shoreline breakers. When fishing live or cut bait on the beach, make sure you reel in pompano or whiting fast or your fish might be shark bait. The best table-fare beaches have deeper water. The best times are when high tide is moving in or out. The weeds have been much better on the beach and the water is clear. Richard Matteson is a long-time contributor to Coastal Angler Magazine who reports from the Stuart Rod and Reel Club. Contact him at (336) 414-3440.

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CATCH SMALLMOUTHS IN THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTH CAROLINA

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By Capt. James McManus

ere in the western North Carolina mountains, we get a lot of visitors. Snowbirds are what we call people who come here from up north to enjoy our milder climate. One snowbird most fishermen cherish is the smallmouth bass. We are at the southern end of their natural range, and almost all of our watersheds contain some. Smallies have characteristics that endear them to anglers. They are aggressive, eat year-round, grow to respectable size and when hooked spend as much time out of the water as in.

You can find these beauties in most of our sizeable rivers. River fish seem to be more active in summer. I think it’s linked to terrestrial food items being more available. Floating area rivers like the Tuckasegee, Little Tennessee, Hiwassee and French Broad will keep you in fish regardless of your preferred method. For fly guys, any minnow or crawdad imitation will draw strikes, and in warmer weather nymphs and hoppers get their attention. Poppers and sliders can be lots of fun, just remember river smallies tend to be smaller than their lake buds. I spend more time chasing lake fish. There is less competition from other anglers, and average size is much better. Winter and early spring are the best seasons, in my opinion, only because the females are chock-full of eggs. It is when we catch our largest fish of the year. Many methods produce, and I throw a lot of jigs and jerkbaits. Lake fish have a variety of forage, so anything resembling threadfin shad, blueback herring or crawdads fits their menu. Dropshot, Shaky head and wacky-rigged worms all catch fish. Average depth for smallies year-round is 45 feet, or so. However, our clear mountain lakes allow them to identify prey up on the surface. Don’t shy from throwing topwater just because you mark fish deep. Especially when they are feeding up pre- and postspawn, you’ll find smallmouths on rock or gravel, where they love to eat little lobsters. They also suspend in open water to chase shad, but this is more of a warm-water behavior. On Lake Fontana, my home lake, we troll a good bit, and it’s not unusual to find them suspended at 45 feet over 200 feet of water. I should note that while we still have good smallmouth fishing, invasive spotted bass have forced their way into smallie enclaves. For this reason, we never kill a smallmouth. If you like to eat fish, take all the spotted bass you want; they are better eating anyway. Smallies and spots use the same spawning areas and hybridize. While not good genetically, it produces a fish that has that hybrid vigor, hence the name “meanmouth.” Markings and coloration make the smallmouth one of the prettiest of all fish. We should try hard to preserve them so our kids have the thrill of fighting one of the gamest fish around. Captain James McManus owns 153 charters out of Sylva, N.C. Call him at (828) 421-8125. James fishing McManus/Instagram.

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