Coastal Angler Magazine | April 2024 | North Central Florida/Nature Coast Edition

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Whether your vessel options are limited or you just want to spice up your inshore fshing experience, fshing from a kayak should not be overlooked as a possibility. When done correctly, it is some of the most exciting fshing. It can also be modifed for the extreme, or an entirely leisure day on the water.

Kayaking is how I fell in love with fshing. Of all the diferent ways I have gone about it, I have enjoyed them all. From packing a lunch and fshing my way to an island for a picnic and a swim, to drifing backcountry mangroves other vessels cannot access, to cruising dock lights at night, or deploying in

1,300 feet of water seeking yellowfn tuna of of the oil rigs, kayak fshing is versatile with endless possibilities.

Tis type of fshing can be dangerous, and its especially important to know your limitations and be overly prepared. Currents and wind change quickly and afect your return trip. Make sure to check tides and weather before venturing or drifing too far. Paddling against the current while battling the extreme heat can put you in a bad situation very quickly. Make sure to have a small anchor onboard as well. Obviously, this will come in handy for fshing, and it can also provide an opportunity to rest if exhaustion is getting the best of you.

Decking out your rig for fshing is an art form, and there are many ways to go about it. Prioritize having a cooler attached to the back over all else. You do not want to get dehydrated out there. Aferall, you are the motor of the vessel, and should be well maintained just like any other motor.

Afx everything to your kayak with the expectation of getting fipped. Of course, do everything to keep yourself from that situation, but things happen. Use dry-storage bags, and clip everything to the kayak itself. Most kayaks are designed to make this a straightforward process.

Fishing artifcials will simplify your set up, but sometimes afer all the paddling, its nice to relax and toss out some live bait. A bait bucket on a rope with shrimp, that can be tossed out between paddles, should be all you need. For more extreme fshing, modify a PVC pipe with holes drilled into it to hold live baitfsh.

Use common sense and check local regulations. Protect yourself from the sun during the day, be properly lit at night, and stay out of high-trafc boating areas and channels. You are also required to carry a PFD and a sound producing device, such as a whistle.

Once you have hit the full safety checklist, go out there and experience the possibilities that kayak fshing has to ofer. Fishing from a kayak will intensify the tug even with smaller fsh you hook up to, so hang on and enjoy the aquatic sleigh ride.

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Hybrid striped bass are the Franken-fsh of anglers’ dreams. Also known as wipers, sunshine bass and other names, they are hatchery-produced crossbreeds of white bass and striped bass. Tey are stocked into reservoirs across the country for angler enjoyment.

Central Georgia’s Lake Oconee is a hybrid hot spot. Georgia stocks hundreds of thousands of hybrids in the lake, and conventional anglers get afer them with live baits, jigging spoons, bucktails and trolling lures.

Capt. Wayne Moore, of Oconee on the Fly guide service, is probably the only guy you’ll see on Oconee waving a fy rod from his center console. While he admits conventional tactics are more efective, there are three situations when fy fshing is both productive and a boatload of fun.

Oconee is a 19,000-acre impoundment about an hour and a half drive east of Atlanta. Te lake backs up behind a pump-back dam that creates currents that are key to a good hybrid bite. Moore said there is ofen a good afernoon bite when the dam kicks on and hybrids move onto main-lake points to chase threadfn shad. Afer locating bait and fsh with electronics, Moore goes to work on them with 8-weight fy rods and intermediate sinktip lines. He fshes a cadence of fve short strips and a pause with a 2-inch long white/chartreuse Clouser on a 5-foot leader of 12- to 15-pound


When the bite is hot, a good angler might boat 8 to 10 fsh, and 4- to 6-pound hybrids are not uncommon. “A 6-pound hybrid is going to fght like a 10-pound striper,” Moore said.

A fy rod is also fun for the mid-lake morning bite. When the water starts moving, hybrids herd shad to the surface and blow up on them in a frenzy. Te action only lasts an hour, but the bite is consistent for two or three weeks during the May shad spawn.

With thousands of newly hatched shad in the water, Cowen’s Somethin’ Else, and Cowen’s Coyote are Moore’s go-to fies. Henry Cowen is a legendary angler and fy tier who developed patterns specifcally for striped bass in Georgia waters. His fies work just as well on hybrids.

Night fshing under the lights is another situation when Moore would rather use a fy rod.

“We don’t have a lot of lit docks here, but the

ones that are lit will be covered with fsh,” he said. Casts must be precise, and the fghts are technical, so Moore reserves night trips for experienced fy fshers.

“You better have that 15-pound leader. A 6-pound hybrid will give you a run for your money,” he said. “Tey’ll run you right back under that dock.”

With the May schooling bite approaching, it’s worth making plans to visit Oconee now…or try these tactics on your local hybrid reservoir.

Contact Wayne Moore at (404) 317-9556 or and check out Oconee on the Fly at

Cast Lures in a Mitzi Tournament


May 10th & 11th, 2024

Online Registration:

Captain’s Meeting

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Friday May 10th - 6pm to 7pm

Lines In: Saturday, May 11 - 7:30am

Lines Out: Saturday, May 11 - 3:30pm


Curly’s Cofee

Saturday, May 11th - 3:30pm to 6pm

Awards Banquet

Marathon Yacht Club

Saturday, May 11th - 7pm

Sunday Honor Our Moms

Always in our Hearts JB!

18th Annual Mother’s Day Dolphin Tournament


An Angler TournamentAngler Entry Fee is a Donation


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Trophy bass fshing in Alachua County was already good. With recently approved regulations intended to grow trophy bass, many anglers and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are hoping it will get even better.

Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake will both be managed under new regulations, which prohibit killing or possessing any black bass that is 20 inches or longer. Also, the new rules require the use of non-ofset circle hooks when fshing with natural baits longer than 3 inches in length. Te regulations are designed to allow trophy bass to remain in the lakes to grow larger and to minimize injury to fsh caught with natural baits. Bass ofen swallow live baits prior to the hook set, and circle hooks are designed so they are more likely than other hook styles to hook fsh in the lip, rather than in the gullet.

“Florida bass need to have the right genetics and waterbody conditions to grow for a long time,” said FWC Commissioner Gary Lester. “Orange Lake is unique, like in its fuctuations in water levels, that makes ideal conditions for bass to reach record sizes.”

Indeed, Orange Lake has established itself as one of the top trophy bass lakes in the state. It produces numerous 10-plus-pound largemouth bass every year, as documented by the Florida TrophyCatch program. Already in 2024, anglers have caught, released and reported eight 10-pluspounders to the program, and this fgure doesn’t include all the fsh caught by anglers who don’t participate in TrophyCatch. Te largest Orange Lake bass this year, so far, was a monster 13-pound, 4-ounce fsh caught by Luke Bolling on Feb. 15.

Lochloosa is not as much of a trophy bass factory as its sister lake, but it does pump out several 8- to 11-pounders for the Trophy Catch program each year. Both lakes are in Alachua County southwest of Gainesville.

Tese regulations changes support FWC’s eforts to grow larger trophy

bass across the state and allow bass in these lakes to reach their maximum growth potential.

For more information, visit
12-year-old Luke Bolling caught this 13-plus-pound Orange Lake bass in February.


In my years of fshing the Indian River Lagoon, some of my best fshing has been wading.

Tere’s nothing like being in the water with the fsh. It provides advantages you don’t have in a boat. Wading is the most silent and efective way to fsh shallow water. Tere are lots of places you can access the lagoon, and all of them have fsh.

WADERS : You need a pair of chest waders because of the changing water quality, and you can get a good pair for less than $100. Waders protect you from underwater obstacles as well as cold or dirty water. In Florida, neoprene waders are too hot for most of the year. I prefer vinyl waders. If it’s cold, you can wear jogging pants under them.

Waders come with boots attached or sof shoe, which require rubber boots to wear over them. Make sure you don’t get the boot size too small. Wading boots can be very uncomfortable if they are too tight. Wear socks and get a larger boot.

GEAR: I recommend a good spinning reel with a 9- or 10-foot rod for longer casting. I use braided line because it’s strong and the smaller diameter of the line is better for casting. I use 6to 10-pound braid most of the time with 2-foot fuorocarbon leader. I use a 25-pound leader but have used 20- to 40-pound leaders in diferent situations. Carry extra leaders and lures in case your line breaks.

My main lures are search lures for making lots of casts and covering wide areas of water quickly. My favorite lure is a ¼-ounce jig with a sof-plastic body. I use D.O.A. jigs with a chartreuse head rigged with a pearl white paddletail (D.O.A. Shad Tail). It swims but is not erratic, and it’s easy for fsh to locate by sight and vibration. Te other search lures I use are shallow-running crankbaits (Yo-Zuri Inshore in pearl white), topwater lures (Skitterwalk/Zara Spook or Chug Plug), and spoons (Johnson silver or gold). Te jig covers shallow and deep water and can be skipped under piers and mangroves.

WIND: Too much wind, and it’s too hard to fsh. Not enough wind, and the fsh are hard to catch. It’s easier to fsh with the wind at your back because you can cast farther. To get the right wind, you can fsh either the east side or the west side of the lagoon. Most of the time there is an easterly wind. If it’s too windy, fsh around the Stuart bridges, which almost completely block the wind.

LOCATIONS: I wade the southern Indian River Lagoon from Sebastian to Jupiter, mostly between Fort Pierce and Stuart. Here are my favorite spots:

West Side—Walton Road (intersection with Indian River Rd) and Walton Scrub; Midway Road and Old Fort Park in Fort Pierce; and both Stuart Bridges.

April Fishing Forecast:

There’s still a pompano bite on the beaches and in the lagoon. Jig from the bridges or wade while fan casting with jigs. Look for birds and bait to fnd bluefsh, jacks and ladyfsh. Snook will still be deep, but on warm days they will run the beach from the inlets and be around the deeper piers in the lagoon. Redfsh are around the deeper piers.

East Side—Bear Point then Blind Creek in Fort Pierce; North and South Herman’s Bay in St. Lucie; and both Stuart Bridges.

Richard L. Matteson is a long-time contributor to Coastal Angler Magazine who reports for the Stuart Rod and Reel Club.

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North Central Florida/Nature Coast

Cary & Lynn Crutchfield



April 2022, I began by expressing my sorrow for the horrors in Ukraine. I can’t believe that two years later, the horrors continue. My heart also breaks for the people of Israel and Gaza. Reminds me to count my blessings. I am so thankful that my Irish, Swiss, German, and Hungarian ancestors thought that the USA would be a good place to live!

As I write tonight in late March, Winter ended warmer than usual, and Spring has sprung. The trees are greening, wildflowers are blooming and boat traffic has increased. Recent rain put some water in the swamp and the river has risen a bit. (We are way overdue for a flood, but I won’t say that out loud.)

See page 2 for info on Dixie County’s Daddy Daughter Dance, sponsored by the Dixie County Rotary Club. This year’s theme, Dancing Through the Decades, sounds like fun. Our granddaughter, Secelia, can’t wait to go again.

See page 7 for Bubsie’s Bait & Tackle, in Steinhatchee (formerly Steinhatchee Bait & Tackle). Stop by and meet new owner, Anna.

See page 12 for some beautiful photos spotlighting Saltwater Builders. I want the two level one at the bottom of the page!

This month’s recipe, Shrimp Florentine over Angle Hair, page 2 is so fast, easy, yummy and perfect for guests.

As always, I am reminding you to get your Covid booster. People are still getting sick, and unvaccinated people are still dying. Covid is not gone.

As always, thank the business where you picked up this magazine. Thank our advertisers and writers. It takes a team.

Mother’s Day is next month. Maybe she would like a fishing trip with one of our guides?

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

North Central Florida

Nature Coast Staff


Cary Crutchfield EDITING &

Lynn Crutchfield DISTRIBUTION

Rosa Crisman



Noel Kuhn

Dr. Kevin McCarthy

Capt. Andrew Fagan

Capt. Jason Clark

Capt. Katie Jo Davis

Capt. Tommy Derringer

Capt. Jonathan Hamilton

Capt. Tony Johns

Capt. Pat McGriff

Capt. Brent Woodward

Photo by: Suwannee River Water Management District
INSIDE THIS ISSUE Local Fishing Forecasts Monthly Recipe
CONTACT INFORMATION 352-542-0356 APRIL 2024 EDITION Find Your Outdoors Here!


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.


• Angel hair pasta for two

Cook pasta, set aside and keep warm. Place flour in plastic bag. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to bag and shake gently. Melt a couple tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions to skillet and sauté for a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Melt more butter in skillet. Add floured shrimp to skillet and cook a couple minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add cream and spinach to skillet. Stir gently a couple minutes until spinach is soft. Fold in Parmesan and add more cream if too dry. Place equal amounts pasta on each plate. Spread creamed spinach over pasta and place shrimp on spinach. Add a little more Parmesan. Serve and enjoy.


• 12 Extra large Jumbo Shrimp, shelled and deveined

• Flour for dredging

• Salt and pepper

• 4 or 5 tablespoons butter

• 1 large garlic clove minced

• 3 green onions sliced

• 1/3 cup heavy cream

• ½ cup shaved Parmesan

• 9 ounces fresh Spinach (stems removed)

Thank you to The Crab Plant for the shrimp. Visit their Fresh Seafood Market or enjoy Cooked Seafood to go. You are welcome to sit at their table and view DIRECTIONS
Lynn Crutchfield, Co-Publisher Coastal


Deadheading on the Suwannee

hen my friend Cary and I boated the Suwannee River in 2008, among the many sights we saw, was several collections of formerly submerged pine trees neatly arranged on the banks. I learned that these thoroughly soaked logs were part of what loggers call “deadhead logging.” In the 19th and early 20th centuries, logging companies, many of them from the North, came to Florida to cut down thousands, maybe millions of trees in the forests and along the rivers. The term “deadhead logging” refers to the way that the small end of the logs float in the water like a head out of water.

Equipped only with axes, the loggers would cut down the trees and, if possible, topple them into our rivers – to be floated down to sawmills in places like Pensacola and Apalachicola. The loggers would clearcut vast acres of trees that would be cut into thousands of lumber boards for the building of many homes and businesses. The first photo here shows a raft full of fastened logs on the Suwannee. Connecting hundreds of cut trees made transporting them on the river relatively manageable.

But sometimes the logs came loose and either floated off by themselves or sank to the bottom of the river. Historians estimate that as many as ten percent of all the logs transported this way broke off. Those that sank to the bottom of the river would be preserved for over a hundred years because of the cool water and lack of oxygen. The second photo shows several cut logs that had floated onto the bank of the river. The third photo shows rafts of logs at Apalachicola in 1899. The fourth photo shows oxen pulling cypress logs out of the St. Johns River.

The stacks of logs lying along the bank of the river would later be hauled away by trucks to mills that would fashion them into very beautiful, expensive tabletops and mantels for fireplaces.

Skilled watermen, using specially

outfitted flatboats with two winches on one side of the boat, would use special sonar to find the sunken logs, winch them to the surface, tow them to particular places along the river, and later retrieve them with heavy trucks. I interviewed one of the workers from Dead Head Logging who told me that his company would buy permits from the state to retrieve such logs. Then skilled artisans would fashion the cut logs, some of which had lain on the bottom of the river for over a hundred years, into beautiful woodwork for furniture, paneling,

and flooring. The logs are famous for their strength, durability, and resistance to rot. Such wood in fact is worth up to ten times the value of ordinary wood. Loggers engaged in such dangerous work have to obtain permits from the State because the logs are located on what is called submerged, sovereign lands.

Kevin McCarthy, author of Suwannee River Guidebook (Pineapple Press, 2009), can be reached at

Cut logs on the same river Raft of logs on the Suwannee Oxen pulling cut logs from a river Rafts of logs at Apalachicola More logs waiting to be hauled away Logs pulled up along the Suwannee

Spring is in the air! I’ve been looking forward to warmer weather and higher water temperatures, as the fish become more aggressive on the inshore bite. Redfish schooling along rocky bars and points make for a fun day of catching!

Huge schools of black drum are making their way back in from offshore and are looking for the first shrimp that swims past their face. For these fish, I look for big tails flashing across the top of the water in deeper cuts where crabs will typically be.

The larger flounder will make their way near sandy bottom that has rock structure along the shoreline. A mud minnow swimming along the bottom will definitely attract their attention.

Large schools of trout have already started making their way into the shallower flats with grass and small bait fish on them. Larger live baits are a great choice to target these fish, such as pinfish.

Regardless of what you’re targeting for the day, I always suggest taking notes on a few things when fishing.

Number 1. What is the tide and where is it at currently on the tide table that these fish are actively eating?

Number 2. What is the water temperature? This is a key factor for where the fish will be staged as they too will get cold. After all, they are Florida fish.

Number 3. Are there smaller bait fish around the area that you are fishing? If so, chances are there are bigger fish not too far away.

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Hey anglers, are we all ready for spring? I know the trout are! I'm starting to see some decent sized females on the flats with roe, which means its spawning time!

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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.

When trout start to spawn, all those big girls will be on the flats, getting their bellies full, and that means, if you’re on the right flat, you're gonna have an amazing day. I've already placed my first spring gear order with Four Horsemen Tackle, C & M Custom Baits, and Salt Strong, to start getting all my go-to baits a few popping corks on the boat. I'll attach my Salt Strong referral link here, in case you want to try out some of their awesome baits. I use their Optimus Lime Slam Shady Paddletails. by/captjasonclark.

Now, with rigging for the spawn, I use 15 lb. braid on a 3000 reel. I use a Four Horsemen popping cork with a 2 to 3 foot leader, paired with 1/8 C & M Custom Baits jig head and topped off with a swim bait. I target them typically in 2 to 4 feet of water on the flats, and bounce around until I find the ones I want to catch.

I hope all this helps y'all this spring.

Until next month. Stay safe out there.

Capt. Jason Clark

In The Slot Fishing Charters 352-639-3209

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April is a great month for fishing the coastal waters around the Lower Suwannee River Estuary! About mid-March, the pelagic species start showing up and by April the mackerel run should be really good. The big question around Suwannee is, “What is the river doing?” If the river is high, and especially if it's rising fast, the mackerel are pushed further offshore. This condition affects the king mackerel more than the Spanish Mackerel. Currently the river is at a moderate level and stable, but this level can change quickly!

With the loss of seagrasses in the waters adjacent to the Lower Suwannee River Estuary, anglers are having to travel further and further to find grass that holds the bait, that the predator fish are looking for! Currently, the closest “good grass” is the Spotty Bottom. The once very productive Hedemon and Red Bank Reefs are now mostly sandbars. Gone are the rich grass beds that supported a thriving ecosystem! It's the same for the grass flats to the North of Red Banks. There used to be thousands of acres of grass flats; now only a random five or ten-acre patch. The only good thing I can say is that when you find the grass, you will find the fish!

When fishing the offshore grass, you will be fishing in waters from seven to18 feet in depth. In this deeper water, you will want to use heavier baits than when fishing on the grass flats that are 2 to 8 feet deep. On the shallower grass, I like to use a ¼, 5/16 or ⅜ jig head, then out in the deeper waters, I will start at ⅜ and go up to ¾ ounce. It just depends on the current and how fast I want my bait to get to the bottom. Many days you will find that the

mackerel are higher up in the water column, especially in the mornings and evenings. Whereas the trout and other species will be down closer to the bottom. For me, I really like a ⅜ or ½ ounce Offshore Angler Wire Keeper jig head combined with a FishBites Fight Club 5-inch Jerkbait. When fishing the grass flats, I find that the brighter colors seem to work the best, unless it's a drab overcast day. You will find that when using this combination, you will catch multiple fish on each bait, even with the toothy fish like trout and mackerel, unlike the other “scented baits”.

By the middle to the end of the month the sheepshead will be finishing up their offshore spawning activities and returning to their normal hangouts.

Inshore, the redfish will be up and moving, looking for a meal. They will be scattered from the creeks to Lone Cabbage Reef, the Pelican Bank and the McGriff Channel.

Until next time, y'all be safe and Catchemup!

Captain Tony Johns | 352-221-2510

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April can bring really good fishing to us in Homosassa. I love this time of the year. March and April are truly two of my favorite months of the year to fish. Well May also… I love the trout fishing in the spring. In my opinion, it’s some of the best trout fishing on the west coast. Trout will start bouncing in and out a little, but we should still have a strong inshore bite mixed with a little near shore action.

In April, we should start seeing trout transitioning from the inshore rocks to the nearshore rocks to spawn. Inshore, I like to target yellow bottom around the mouth of St. Martin, Little River, and Mason Creek. On the incoming tides using nose hooked jerk baits, preferably a DOA 5-inch CAL in glow nose hooked on a 3/0 J Hook. Offshore I like using 1/8-ounce DOA Jig heads in chartreuse, rigged with a watermelon red flake or glow MirrOLure Lil John. I like to make long drifts around structure. If I catch a keeper or two at the same time, I like to mark the spot on the GPS or “drop my jug” and then make another pass on that same line.

Red fishing will continue to get stronger on the outside points as our fish begin making their way out of the back waters. Incoming

tides outside rocky points, look for mullet jumping. I like live pin fish or shrimp. Gold spoons will work as well.

Keep a nose hooked jerk bait handy or a free lined pin fish and work outside points with good moving water for snook. Snook fishing seems to be pretty strong and should get better.

Near shore rocks will be holding plenty of table fare and rod bending action for everyone. Load up on shrimp and fish on a jig head for grunts, snapper, mackerel and be on the ready with a heavy rod for a Cobia.

From the Homosassa Guides Association: We have announced that we will be giving seven $1000 scholarships for graduating seniors. Scholarships are good for colleges, tech schools and trade schools. So if you know of anyone who would be interested, please have them reach out to us and get an application. You can reach out to me directly or email info@

As always, stay safe.

– Capt. Stump

Capt. Jonathan Hamilton 352-424-3260



What an absolute amazing time of year for fishing and for just being on the water in Northeast Florida. The weather (hopefully) is about as nice as it gets... The inshore fish (redfish, trout, flounder, drum, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, etc.) will be on the feed with the influx of baitfish (finger mullet and pogies). With warming air and water temps, the nearshore fishing should be firing up as well, with huge jacks, cobia, and maybe even a tripletail or two and even a tarpon, if things heat up fast enough.

Inshore the redfish will be chasing the finger mullet, and that means a top-water plug, especially at first and last light, will be the go-to lure of choice. Look for large concentrations of mullet or other baitfish and toss your top-water plugs around them. My go-to top-water plug for the last year has been the Berkley J-Walker; it just does that side to side “walk the dog” action so well, the redfish can’t refuse it! When the sun gets higher in the sky, I like to switch to a search bait. Some of my favorites are spoons, twitch baits, and one of my favorites, the good old paddle tail. The Elite Shiner made by Saltwater Assassin is the perfect subsurface lure for this time of year, as it mimics the bait fish perfectly. Of course, a popping cork with a shrimp or mud minnow will catch its fair share of reds this month as well.

April has always been a great “gator” trout month for me. A topwater plug will account for some of the bigger trout catches this month. The outgoing tide along the ICW banks should be loaded with trout, especially if the baitfish are around. Once the day heats up a bit, I like to fish a Saltwater Assassin jighead, paired with one of their soft plastic paddle tails for the trout. Use a twitch, twitch, pause method and most of the time they'll hit it on the pause. A free-lined live shrimp with a small pinch weight a few inches above it is a great was to catch some trout too.

The inlets will come alive with all kinds of fast hitting fish this month. Look for jacks, blues, ladyfish, and Spanish Macs to be on the feed around all the area inlets. Crankbaits, spoons, and just about anything that's moving fast through the water will catch these fish.

Nearshore, the cobia will be along the beaches following the manta rays. The magic water temp seems to be somewhere between the high 60s and low 70s. Pick a calm sunny day and have your shot at some of the most fun sight-fishing Northeast Florida has to offer. Also, be sure to bring a few live shrimp when hitting the beach, as there may be a few tripletail hanging around as well.


The pompano are here! The pompano are here! Thanks to El Nino, we had a mild winter and the big pompano showed up in mid-March. Right now, we are catching twenty inchers, up to five pounds. So, GO! Along with them, we have experienced a great winter of big whiting and even bigger bluefish. They are the biggest I have ever seen, and I have been fishing these beaches for 47 years. Ten to 15 pounders are caught every week!

If you want to land your personal best bluefish, then cut bait is your best bet. Whatever you catch in the surf, cut it up and throw it right back out. You can use any unregulated species such as whiting, ladyfish, spots, croakers or palometa. The big blues will also slam top water lures and Gotcha plugs.

There have also been nice slot redfish, black drum and even sheepshead in the first trough. We are catching all of these on pompano rigs, tipped with various

baits. You can never go wrong with fresh shrimp, live sand fleas, live clams or blue crab knuckles. On my last outing, we also caught a lot of fish on Fishbites clam flavor.

I am pleased to announce the Florida Surf Casters 20th Annual Surf Fishing Tournament. It will be held May 4th. The weigh-in will be held at Strike Zone Fishing in Jacksonville. There are adults and kids divisions. For all the details and to register, please visit www.

Springtime is a great time to get out and enjoy our beaches. It is also a great opportunity to score your personal best whiting, bluefish and pompano.

See you on the beach!

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

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April fishing is definitely not for the faint of heart, with windy rainy conditions and big tide swings, fishing can be hit or miss big time!

Inshore, it’s snook season and this warm weather has now definitely gotten them on the move and where we want them to be. The outer points and oyster bars will harbor plenty of baitfish, and it will do you good to put that cast net to work and get a few for yourself!

Finger mullet, mojarra, whitebait, and pinfish are the snooks primary diet this time of year any of the four will dramatically improve your success this snook season. I like to use a 4000 class spinning reel medium heavy rod, and 30 to 50 lb. leader with a trokar circle hook or a light jighead. Be patient and it will pay off!

Offshore the sheepshead spawn has drawn to an end and now mangrove snapper and hogfish will be the primary focus along with the occasional cobia. A live well full of different sized pinfish will surely improve your odds in landing the mango and cobia. Big live shrimp on a stout jighead or a fishfinder rig will take care of your hogfish.

Tight lines guys

Capt. Andrew Fagan

Instagram : Capt_redfishdrew EBB TIDE CHARTERS

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otta’ love April! Everything comes back: trees, flowers and most importantly FISH. Gulf water temperatures hold in the 70s and everything is hungry. Trout and reds perk up from the deeper grass beds and follow the shrimp up onto the shallow flats. Pinfish become active again and swarm everywhere you stop to fish. Pelagic bait migrates north from Tampa and the pelagic species of game fish follow, bringing Spanish Mackerel , cobia, blues, ladyfish and sharks, to mention a few, and they are all hungry. Almost any kind of live baits, synthetics or artificials will haul in fish, once you zero in on the bite.

Lately (Today is March 12th.) we have been catching fish on finesse baits like Assassin’s Lit’l P&V in the Laguna Shrimp pattern rigged up on Bert’s Jigs and Things, 1/16 ounce custom round head jigs built on a light wire Gamakatsu hook. Bert fished with me on a recent trip, and we had a blast, keeping 9 trout weighing in at 25.6 pounds, with only a 20.5 inch fish anchoring the string. We caught the majority of our keepers on Assassin’s 5-inch shads in Violet Moon and Stinky Pink pattern rigged up on a VMC Drop Dead 1/8 ounce swim bait rig in the 5/0 size. These fish were in two to three feet of water, and fed across the high tide that day, for one and a half hours after the top of the tide.

The very next day, I had Sam Shaw of Lake Park, Ga. and we caught only three of our ten keepers on the swim bait rig, then moved out to 4.5 feet of water and caught seven more on live shrimp under Back Bays, and while bouncing Assassin’s 5 Inch shads rigged on Assassin’s 1/8 oz. chartreuse flash jigheads. So, each day, more and more of our trout are awakening from a long winter’s nap. They are up-and-at’em as we used to say.

April will bring on the schools of pelagic whitebait, which should trigger the topwater stickbait bite along with the lipped jerkbait bite. I shall now present a challenge to anglers who love to throw stickbaits, and tell you to try a superior co-polymer fishing line and you will see a marked difference in your strike, to hookup ratio, versus using braid. I know...I know... you all think braid is superior to mono, but you are missing more topwater fish than you are catching. I use TrikFish x-rated co-polymer and my 12 pound test has an 8 pound diameter and is more abrasion resistant, and has a lower stretch than regular monofilament. But your braid has none, which translates to lost fish boat side, as they tear off the “too tight” braid.

Reds? yes siree! Bert and I caught five on L & S MirrOdines and two on Assassin’s 5-Inch shads. Start with a spoon, and keep on the move until you find some mullet.

Meanwhile, Let's Go Fishing!

Pat McGriff dba One More Cast guide service for 30 years!

cell: 850.838.7541


Hello, hope everybody has had a good start to spring. It’s definitely been a beautiful one! And the fish having been plentiful as well.

Redfish have showed up in droves. We are catching them on

just about anything we throw at them, but our main bait has been shrimp on the bottom. When we do this, we get a good mix of black drum and flounder.

Speaking of black drum, they showed up as well in schools as big as 200 fish around every point. It took all of maybe two weeks for about five commercial airboats to wipe out the population of schooling fish. Whether you agree with it or not, it is probably not a good thing.

Trout are finally starting to show up. We are catching the bigger girls as well as schooly size. We’ve been throwing mainly popping corks for them but moving in hardbaits and jigs. The biggest issue is we can find them in all depths.

Turkey season gave us a great start, and if y’all want to get out on the water, call, email, or reach out to us on one of our social media platforms. Speaking of, follow us on Facebook to keep up with our catches!

Till next time, keep it Reel Native!!


Capt. Pat with a trout caught on Assassin's 5 inch shad in Violet Moon Bert Deener of Waycross,Ga. with an overslot trout caught on Assassin's Lil P & V in Laguna Shrimp 3/7/24
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The second season of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Triple Treat Trowdown runs from March 1 to Sept. 29, and Triple Treat Club members have a chance to win an awesome fshing kayak bundle valued at more than $4,500.


Te Trowdown is a part of FWC’s Catch a Florida Memory, which is intended to enhance and increase participation in saltwater fshing. Te Triple Treat Club is for anglers who have achieved all three of Catch a Florida Memory’s recognition programs: Saltwater Grand Slam, Saltwater Reel Big Fish and Saltwater Life List 10 Fish Club. Anglers who reach Triple Treat Club status will be entered into a drawing for the kayak bundle afer the Trowdown season ends on Sept. 29. Anglers who are already in the Triple Treat Club will receive a drawing entry for each new recognition they earn during the challenge period.

“Building of of last year’s successful season, we are excited to announce Season 2 of Catch a Florida Memory’s Triple Treat Trowdown with an even bigger prize from our generous sponsors,” said Jessica McCawley, director of Marine Fisheries Management. “We encourage anglers to get out on the water, make Florida memories and help conserve fsheries by targeting a diversity of species.”

One lucky angler will be randomly drawn to win a top-of-the-line kayak fshing bundle valued at over $4,500. Tis bundle includes a Bonafde P127 kayak, a premium Mustad fshing gear bundle and kayak safety kit. Te award is made possible by Bonafde, Mustad and Russ Vorhis Insurance AgencyState Farm.

Find out how to qualify for the drawing at

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While working for his father’s transformer company, Deltona Transformers, in the 80s, Mike Prelec Sr. identifed an opportunity to provide a smarter battery charging solution to the bass fshing industry. Subsequently, Mike Sr. and the engineers at Deltran designed and built the global brand Deltran BatteryTender®, a leader in battery chargers and accessories.

Fast forward 40 years, and Mike Sr. parlayed his experience with electronics to test and scrutinize a new generation of high-quality, fast-charging lithium batteries. Mike established a central Florida test lab and began ordering samples from several overseas manufacturers. Even the platinumtier manufacturers provided varying quality in components, cells, boards and overall inconsistent construction. Several years later, with a select group of top-tier vendors, Florida Lithium was launched to provide bestin-class deep cycle-dual purpose (800 cranking amps) LifePO4 batteries that meet or exceed all Mercury requirements for lithium batteries. Today, Florida Lithium’s product line ranges from 12V, 36V and 48V batteries, providing versatile options for cranking, house electronics, or trolling motor applications. Teir DeLand warehouse is available for pickups Monday through Friday (by appointment only), and they ofer shipping nationwide. Florida Lithium also provides batteries and accessories to marine dealers, boat builders and marine service/repair shops throughout the Southeast.

Tere is no doubt you can fnd cheap lithium batteries on Amazon or other marketplaces, but when push comes to shove, some of those poorly constructed batteries will fail, leaving you with a very expensive paperweight and the inability to get anyone (stateside) on the phone. Florida Lithium’s customer support team actually speaks English, and in the event you reach their voicemail, a member of the team will respond in a timely manner.

Florida Lithium is proud to provide Florida-based customer service and technical support, coupled with a no-nonsense fx, repair or replace warranty. Lead-acid batteries are quickly becoming a thing of the past. If you are looking for a powerful, lightweight and reliable battery upgrade, Florida Lithium has you covered. Teir team is made up of Florida-based boaters and fsherman, and they understand what’s required to maximize your on-the-water experience.

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Jimmy Johnson Dishes on quEst foR tHE RINg

Jimmy Johnson’s Quest for the Ring Championship Fishing Week is an annual South Florida event that is renowned for a guaranteed milliondollar-plus purse. It’s the largest guaranteed prize for fshing in the world, so far as we are aware. Te “real prize” is the chance for one team to win diamond-studded Super Bowl-caliber rings that rival any awarded by the NFL.

Te event’s namesake is, of course, legendary Hall of Fame football coach Jimmy Johnson, who is now a fxture in the South Florida fshing community. I had a chance to sit down with Coach to pick his brain about the tournament.

Johnson grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas and loved saltwater from the get-go. “Daddy had a little14 foot wooden boat in Galveston,” he recalled. Johnson fshed as a child and developed a passion during his time as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

“I liked to get out in the boat early and fsh by myself,” he said. “I found fshing to be so peaceful as opposed to the stress of coaching pro football. I just love it. I have caught and released fve blue marlin by myself… but my favorite fsh is the wahoo because they just scream. I’ll fast troll with lures or slow troll with a ballyhoo and a cigar weight.”

Coach Johnson’s tournament started as a local Florida Keys event.

“Well, it started as a small tournament in the Keys centered around my restaurant, Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill,” he said. “Since bringing on the crew at Fish Hard Events, it has become the enormous experience it is today.”

Jimmy Johnson’s Quest for the Ring Championship Fishing Week, or JJFISHWEEK, includes the main event, the two-day Catch & Release ‘Quest for the Ring’ Championship, featuring a $1 million guaranteed purse; JJ’s National Sportfsh Tournament, for the meat fsh afcionados; and the inviteonly Hard Rock Invitational.

Tis year’s JJFISHWEEK concluded March 9 with an awards ceremony at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Coveted championship rings were awarded to Owner Sandra MacMillan, Capt. John Louis Dudas and Team Sandman, aboard a 63-foot Spencer, which earned them a cool $300,000. Tis marks Sandman’s third championship, having clinched the title in 2018 and 2020.

Obviously, the money and fshing are big-time, but Johnson likes how the event engages the fshing community and gives back. Tis year’s event raised more than $100,000 for the CI Foundation, which will be gifed to its charitable benefciaries.

“I love the people that it brings together,” he said. “We also have a number of charities that we support. My son has the Tranquil Shores Foundation, which is a drug and alcohol abuse center. He’s got a foundation for people who can’t aford treatment.”

Te next stop for Jimmy Johnson’s Quest for the Ring is an inaugural Atlantic City, New Jersey tournament July 14-20. Next year’s Florida event is slated for March 4-8, 2025. For more information

Scott Goodman is Co-publisher of Coastal Angler Magazine/Miami.

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As the seasons change, so should your fshing locations and tactics. In my quest to target larger trout and reds, I modify my approach slightly versus what I have been doing for the past three or four months. However, depending on the weather, spring can be a tricky time to fnd solid and repeatable patterns. With the water temperature swings, the fsh begin to move from winter to spring areas. But a slight cold front will send them right back to their winter patterns, and it will keep you on your toes.

Te frst major transition is from mud to a frmer sand bottom. In my area, the prominent structure will still be grass, but the base sediment will change. If your area structure is shell or rocks, you will still want to fnd harder sand. According to biologists, the primary reason for this is the winter forage, primarily mullet, fnd their food source in the mud during the colder months. We all know fsh follow the bait, and that is why we target trout and reds on sofer bottoms in the winter. As the water warms, the next generation of perch shrimp and other species hatch and will be found in structure with a frm bottom. In my area, that will be grass.

Now that we know where to fsh, let’s cover the how. In spring, staying tight to the cover is important. It is imperative for juvenile forage to stay in tight schools and intermingled in the structure for survival. Keeping your lure near the grass, shell, or wherever you are fshing will be critical to success. I target the borders where sand and grass meet. Each area will vary depending on if it is predominantly sand or grass. If it is mostly grass, I concentrate my eforts casting into the grass and working my lure into the sand, paying attention to the edge and giving the fsh time to fnd my lure at that intersection. On the other hand, if it is mostly sand, I will target the grass patches and once again the edge.

Spring allows us to utilize a wide range of lures. Sof plastics danced along the bottom or topwaters skated across the surface can both be efective, depending on the mood of the fsh. Tis will be determined by water temp and the passing of late-season cool fronts.

Whatever lure you decide to use, concentrate on the edges of the available cover to increase your odds of having a productive day. As always, take a kid fshing; you just might learn something.

Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures®, and the owner of

Bv: I l The Florida Key1l samoraaa canestis faceboo , nesfsh G @canesfish I


Spring is one of my favorite times of year for many species on the inshore menu, including red drum, snook and trout. I usually fsh at night for several reasons including my “day job,” which keeps me occupied for a vast majority of daylight hours. I guess I could become a weekend warrior, but I’ve noticed the best weather typically doesn’t occur on weekends. Tere’s an old saying that goes something like this: “You know what happens afer two days of really crappy weather?”


All joking aside, I believe the best bite for older, wiser, heavily pressured fsh is at night. Tey’re a little more at ease afer the sun goes down and the boat trafc lets up. Tis is when the big girls let their guard down and come back into shallower water to feed. Wherever you fnd shrimp and small mullet along the edges is a good place to take advantage of aggressively feeding redfsh, trout or snook afer dark. Te patterns are similar for all of them.

Just before dark is a good time to get situated to the rising or falling tide and the water clarity, which might be afected by

frequent rains this time of year. Get used to your surroundings and how fast the current is running. Keep the lights low, and allow your night vision to kick in as darkness settles.

Music on the boat is fun, but this is a situation when you’ll want to be quiet. Don’t play the radio loud or stomp around on the deck. Close your coolers and hatches quietly. Try not to talk are laugh too loud. Sound travels extremely well in the water, and when the rest of the world is quiet, the noise you make is even more startling to the fsh.

I don’t even use “spot lock” on the trolling motor at night in shallow water. I think fsh have learned to associate the sound of trolling motors with the presence of a boats and humans… just saying. Make your own choice here.

Color selection is a very important at night. Dark colors, especially with shrimp lures, work better at night, especially when there is a bright moon. It might sound crazy, but dark colors are silhouetted by the moonlight and are easier for fsh to see. Dark brown, purple and black can be extremely hot on nights with a full or nearly full moon.

I’m partial to shrimp imitations, and a lot of times I’ll suspend one under a glowin-the-dark cork for night fshing. Tat cork carries it along perfectly with the current and you can keep your eyes on where your bait is, which is one of the difculties of fshing at night.

If you’re like me and have a job that keeps you occupied during the day, consider fshing the second shif. You might be pleasantly surprised.

See more from Tim Barefoot at

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Cobia are robust, daring, and always up for a challenge. You know you’re in for some fun when you spot them cruising near the surface, sometimes in pairs or groups, hounding baitfsh like a wolfpack or drawn in by curiosity at the action around your boat. If you’re geared up and ready for them, a little fnesse will have you luring them in like a pro.

Location is key. When fshing for cobia in the backcountry here in the Florida Keys, we look for them to be around structures, wrecks and foating debris, ofen roaming the same areas in groups. Tey’re not pickiest eaters. Pitch a live bait out in front of them, and they’ll usually eat it, and we’ve also had great success with a Savage Gear RTF 3D Shrimp.

Te action when using these Savage Gear shrimps is a hard jerking lif, then letting your shrimp fall, mimicking a shrimp’s natural actions. For the battle, the optimal gear is at least a 4500 reel, but you really don’t need more than a 6500, and we always trust our Penn Authority and pair it with a medium/medium-light Carnage III Rod for maximum control and power.

Te most important thing to remember when hooking a cobia is to be ready, as it’s very common to spot “following” cobia. Tey ofen travel together and like to investigate what your hooked cobia is doing and eating. Tese “followers” can lead to an epic double header, but only if you have enough rods rigged and ready on the boat and hands to cast them.

Cobia are known for powerful runs, ofen scoping up and switching directions in a split second. Keep calm, adjust your drag, and let them exhaust themselves. Stay alert as you reel in your cobia, as they are known for sudden maneuvers, and will sometimes dart under the boat in a heartbeat. And the fght doesn’t end even afer you’ve gafed a cobia. Exercise caution when you bring them over the rail and onto the deck because they ofen cause havoc on the boat. It’s best to tire them out completely during the fght to minimize potential damage.

Since regulations frequently change with cobia, staying informed is important. One keeper cobia can feed a lot of people. Teir meat is known for its steak-like texture and delicate favor, perfect for a mouthwatering sear with butter and seasoning.

For the best shot at spotting a cobia, consider booking a full-day charter. Tis helps your chances to see one, and the timing should be pretty solid for in the upcoming weeks.

Book a charter at and follow their cobia adventures at “Bean Sportfshing TV” on YouTube.

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Along with blooms on the trees and frogspawn in the ponds, the annual rites of spring include an uptick in anglers reporting heavyweight catches.

A spate of recent record catches marks the transition to longer days, warmer weather and spring-spawning species putting on weight. In Indiana, an angler caught a monster 8-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth bass that crushed the existing state record by a pound. In Kentucky and Georgia, two anglers boated big yellow perch. Te Kentucky perch set a new state record, while the Georgia fsh earned the angler a tie for the heaviest perch ever caught in the Peach State.

In Indiana, angler Rex Remington caught his big pre-spawn smallie on March 3 at Monroe Reservoir. Te fsh was weighed on certifed scales in the presence of Indiana DNR ofcials before being released. Te new record was adopted a couple weeks later and is listed at 8 pounds, 4 ounces, beating a record that had stood since 1992. Te all-tackle world record smallmouth weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces. It was caught from Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee in 1955.

Smaller, but no-less-impressive, Lynn Bumgardner caught his 1.58-pound Kentuckyrecord yellow perch at Lake Barkley on March 2. It beat the existing 1.44-pound record caught in 2010. He was trolling grubs for crappie and knew

he had a heavy fsh when it hit, but he didn’t realize it was a potential record perch until it surfaced. Te fsh was 14.25 inches long.

Tey must grow perch bigger in Georgia. On Feb. 18, Emerson Mulhall caught a huge 16-inchlong, 2-pound, 9-ounce yellow perch that tied the existing state record set in 2013. Mulhall, who usually bass fshes at north Georgia’s Lake Burton was initially confused, because the fsh he’d hooked didn’t fght like a bass. When he realized it was a perch, his father convinced him to get of the lake and go get it weighed on certifed scales.

Te all-tackle world record yellow perch is reported by IGFA to have weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces. Tat fsh was caught in New Jersey in 1865.

For more record fsh, go to




In some parts of the country, the bass spawn is already coming to an end like it is down here in Florida. In others the post-spawn might not start up for another couple months. Regardless of your phase, this post-spawn fshing tip should help you dial in your fshery when the time is right for you.

One thing is the same for every fshery and every species of bass afer they spawn, they are hungry! Tis can create some awesome and fun fshing opportunities. Post-spawn bass have provided some of my best days on the water.

Typically, afer the largemouth bass spawn, there are other fsh that begin their spawn. I’m not a scientist, but I’m sure this has a lot to do with the specifc timing of why bass do their thing when they do. In most areas of the southern United States, bluegill and ofentimes shad start to spawn very shortly afer the bass fnish up. Afer a long couple weeks or months protecting eggs in the shallows, bass use every advantage they can to feed when these baitfsh group up, and this can make for some fun fshing.

Smallmouth bass and spotted bass in the post-spawn phase are very similar to largemouths when it comes to taking

advantage of bait schools. I have seen them group up and attack shad, perch and alewife schools and any other bait that is readily available. Typically, I do a lot of my searching for these things with my electronics and forward-facing sonar, which is a very helpful tool for learning fsh activity and seeing what’s going on under the surface of the water.

Most of the time you don’t necessarily need electronics. You can use clues visible to the naked eye to help you fnd this “feed” that is going on. Birds feeding on the water is an awesome sign of a feeding frenzy, and it’s one thing I always look for. Also, always keep your eyes peeled for fsh blowing up on the surface or shad fickering under the surface. Sometimes the very smallest clue can lead you to much larger picture. Birds standing on specifc banks, the sound of bluegill popping around vegetation, anything that clues you in to bait in the area usually means the bass aren’t very far away.

Hopefully this tip will help you when the fsh in your area get into the post-spawn feed. Find the bait, and you will fnd the bass!

I try to imitate the prevalent baitfsh with whatever kind of lure I’m throwing. For bluegill eaters, I will throw a frog or a swimjig in bluegill colors. For shad eaters, I will throw white or silver topwaters and crankbaits.

Always match the hatch if possible. Good luck out there this season, and tight lines!

Tyler Woolcott is a professional tournament angler and guide. Check out his website at

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With gag grouper closed until late summer for many of us, it is time to be out looking for red grouper to fll our tacos this spring and summer. Fortunately, they are aggressive eaters if you’re willing to make the extra efort to go to their feeding grounds. In general, to get to decentsized reds, you’ll need to head a bit farther out, with the best fshing being found in 80 feet or deeper, especially as the water warms. You are still looking for the same type of environment; Swiss cheese bottom, ledges and artifcial reefs can all hold good numbers of quality fsh.

Te tactics are the same and simple. Tey will eat dead or live bait in most cases. Tat said, I found a combination of the two to be the best bet. I like to start with “stinky bait.” Dropping some frozen squid or menhaden is a great way to get the bite going. Once the bite starts, which is usually quickly if they are around, I like to switch to palm-size live pinfsh to entice the bigger fsh. While dead bait and jigs will certainly get you keepers, the larger fsh are quicker to hit a live bait.

Rigs are simple. Circle hooks must be used with natural bait and 5/0 to 7/0 hooks will do the trick. I prefer to use about 2 feet of leader, then a swivel and my weight, and a knocker rig will also work. A minimum of 50-pound fuorocarbon leader is recommended, as they will run for a hole in the rocks once hooked. Keep a close eye on your leaders, as they tend to get chafed when the fshing is good.

Even though red grouper are typically smaller than gags, I still use my goto big grouper set up, as at these depths you could get a big gag or other sea monster. Fortunately, new lighter combos like the Accurate BV600 reel and 70H rod make a full day of fshing more fun and less fatiguing. Tese two-speed reels have a patented twin drag that will stop the hardiest of fsh, and with that winching power you can use a lighter more parabolic rods to handle the biggest of bottom fsh. Line is important too. Te lack of stretch in braid is a must for landing big grouper. A minimum of 65-pound test, and a metered braid like the Nomad Panderra 8x is great for knowing how close you are to the bottom. Moreover, these rods are sensitive enough to do double duty as trolling rods for kings, sails and mahi.

While they might not be quite as big as some of their cousins, red grouper are great table fare, and it is hard to turn down a grouper taco, no matter what variety it is.

Will Schmidt is a seasoned tournament angler who has been writing about fshing from more than two decades.

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