Coastal Angler Magazine | January 2023 | North Central Florida/Nature Coast Edition

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SPACE COAST

CHASING BAITBALLS

Winter is the best time to sh,” said Capt. Chris Cameron, “the only problem is the weather.”

Capt. Cameron is owner/operator of Fired Up Fishing Charters out of Cocoa Beach, Fla. He said it was tough to nd good weather windows this November and early December, but that o shore shing is primed to re o like a Space Coast rocket whenever conditions stabilize.

Winter on Florida’s Atlantic Coast can be spectacular because of all the migratory species that push down to overwinter in milder temperatures. King sh, cobia, black n tuna, sail sh and others are all hunting the reefs about 18 miles o Port Canaveral. e key to the shery is menhaden.

“ is time of year, you get these huge baitballs,” said Capt. Cameron, “and there are all these sh following the bait around. You nd sh where you nd ‘bunka’ congregating on the reefs.”

Cameron is a transplant from Long Island, New York, and even a er more than two decades living and shing Florida’s east coast, he still refers to menhaden as “bunka,” which is Yankee dialect for bunker, which is what they call pogies up where boats are winterized this time of year.

“On good days, when you can get o shore and the water is clean, we might catch a limit of kings, a couple cobia, a couple black ns and hopefully a sail sh,” Cameron said. Even with 2022’s tightening of cobia regs, that’s a fun and delicious mixed bag to ll the freezer.

At places like Pelican Reef and 8A Reef, where depths range from 75 to 85 feet, Cameron nds the bait and then goes to work slow trolling live baits on double-hook stinger rigs and 20-pound line and tackle. He said he pulls baits at about 1 knot, which allows them to swim along naturally.

“ e thing with slow trolling is you never know what you’re going to get,” said Cameron. “It could be a big king, a sail sh, a cobia or a shark.”

Pitch rods are kept ready in case a cobia shows up on the surface. Cameron said he’s learned from experience not to over-stimulate cruising cobia by throwing multiple lines at once. Usually, clients can convince cobia to bite with a one-two punch. ey keep a squid-tipped bucktail ready for a quick cast. If that doesn’t draw a strike, it allows time to slap a live bait on the second rig, which is a simple 5/0 circle hook.

Shrimp boats are another option Cameron seeks out this time of year. Although chasing them can be a bit of a time gamble, since they are usually 25 miles o shore over 200 feet of water, they can be extremely productive.

“If you see a shrimp boat o in the distance or spot one on the radar, it’s almost always worth a shot,” Cameron said. “When they dump their bycatch in the morning, it pulls everything up.”

Fishing shrimp boats can be short-lived, but

it can also provide fast action for the same species that come o the reef. For this bite, Cameron beefs up to 6500 spinning gear and 50-pound braid and 50-pound mono leaders. He keeps four pitch rods ready, two with bucktails and two with live baits, because the bite can turn into sight shing

in a hurry. Meanwhile, he’ll search with freelined pogies on a knocker rig.

Contact Capt. Chris Cameron and Fired Up Fishing Charters through their website at redupcharters.com.

Winter’s cold fronts consolidate wahoo to their preferred temperature ranges across their range. is makes them easier to target than at any other time of year. e following is a short list of very good destinations for wintertime wahoo.

San Salvador, Bahamas: Way out in the Atlantic in the southern Bahamas, the waters o San Salvador hold one of the best wahoo sheries in the world. Peak wahoo season is December through April, when hordes of ’hoos migrate to the area’s warm waters. e island might just be the

best place on the planet for a shot at a triple-digit wahoo, and the right conditions can yield fast action for 50-pounders, as well.

Within a short 10-mile run o the island, a seamount rises to 180 feet from 4,000 feet of water. is hump is a well-known feature, where wahoo congregate to feed on schools of small tuna. e remoteness of San Salvador keeps shing pressure in check, but it also makes this one of those bucketlist trips you plan ahead for.

Galveston, Texas: O shore humps out of Galveston, Texas also lay claim to some of the best wahoo shing in the world, and every winter anglers connect with giants. is shery, however, is reserved for anglers with the gumption to make 100-mile overnight runs to features like East and West Flower Gardens to catch the morning bite.

Windows of good weather and big, fast boats are a requirement to reach the shing grounds at the edge of the Continental shelf, where wahoo pile up with bait sh on steep depth changes of rock structure.

Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina: O the South Carolina coast, cooling water temperatures con ne wahoo to the warm water at the edge of the Gulf Stream. is makes them much easier to target than when they are spread out in summer.

Depth changes and structure at the edge of the Continental Shelf, combined with warm 70 to 80 degree waters of the Gulf Stream can be found 50 or 60 miles o the coast. ese structures hold bait sh in the temperature range where wahoo are comfortable. Covering lots of water with high-speed spreads trolls up the best wahoo of the year, every year.

Venice, Lousiana: It seems everything o shore of Louisiana is about the oil rigs, and in wintertime the oil rigs are all about wahoo. e key to nding wahoo on the rigs is nding the right temperature range, and the magic number is 60 degrees. Wahoo congregate and feed around the rigs where there is bait and water temperatures of at least 60 degrees.

One of the great things about Venice is there are deep-water rigs relatively close to shore at just 15 or 20 miles, which means it’s possible to nd a good weather window and go. e Louisiana coast also boasts some of the best catch rates for wahoo in the world, and 50- to 60-pound sh are the norm.

6 NATIONAL JANUARY 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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GO GROCERY SHOPPING IN JANUARY

With grouper season over, it’s time to switch gears and concentrate on other species. is is the time of year to size down and go for the snappers. Depending on water temps, it’s also a good idea to keep a light line out for any pelagics that swim by.

I love yellowtail and a mangrove snappers, but I really like jolt heads, trigger sh, pinkies, black seabass and hog snapper. I treat bottom shing like I’m going (organic) grocery shopping. First and foremost, I don’t shop on every aisle of the grocery store. I go down the aisles that contain the items I really want. e best groceries come from di erent places on the bottom and from di erent depths.

Farther north up the Atlantic coast there are a lot of beeliners (vermilion snapper) taking the place of yellowtails. In this mix will be trigger sh, which I absolutely love! Beeliners and trigger sh have one thing in common: the largest ones of the school stay higher in the water column. is is why I like to sh a level-wind reel versus a spinning reel with small circle hooks for this style of snapper shing. I start dropping one “strip” of the reel

at a time until I get down to the sh. A “strip” is the distance of raising the rod up with your thumb o the spool, and putting your thumb back on the spool. Simply let your thumb o the spool and let it fall in 10-foot “strips” while raising the rod tip upwards. Count the strips it takes to get down to the bites. Four strips will be approximately 40 feet deep. Note where you feel the rst bite. is will usually be the largest triggers and beeliners in the school. If you stop getting bites or you’re only catching smaller sh, let this same tackle go deeper or all the way to the bottom. is is where you’ll catch the jolt heads, black sea bass, mangroves and hogs.

I use a two-hook “chicken rig” made of 50-pound uoro with small circle hooks and a 3-ounce bank sinker. I bait it with small pieces of squid. A small 2- or 3-ounce jig works with the same tackle as the weight instead of a bank sinker. is is especially e ective on large triggers. Just replace the treble hooks or single

J hooks on the back of the jig with small circle hooks and tip with a small piece of squid.

I could go on and on about this style of shing. e limits are pretty good and the reward comes at the table. It is a good time of year to take youngsters out, because this style of shing produces lots of action, and it’s not heavy-duty grouper shing. Little ones love a trip to the “organic grocery store.”

See more from Tim Barefoot at www.barefootcatsandtackle.com and check out a video explaining this style of shing at https://bit.ly/3YcVzV1.

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GIANTS CATCH HEADWATERS

Wprivileged to guide clients there. We have broken many personal bests, and I get goosebumps every morning I launch the boat because I know the quality of sh.

Headwaters Lake is a 10,000-acre manmade lake in Indian River County adjacent to the well-known Stick Marsh and Farm 13. Prior to ooding the land, the FWC and the St. Johns River Management District created habitat with numerous underwater structures, ooded timber, vegetation and 30-foot-deep pits. ere were already existing ponds and pits on the property that contained resident bass, and nearly a million Florida strain bass were stocked along with bluegill, redear sun sh and crappie. ere are thousands of acres of submerged vegetation, mostly hydrilla, along with acres of cattails, spatterdock pads and hyacinth mats that are super fun to sh.

In central Florida, January and February are primetime, when bass are in full prespawn mode and waves of females move up to the ats to spawn. Air and water temperatures drop considerably a er cold fronts. Severe cold fronts a ect the ckle Florida strain bass, but not for long. Usually two days post front, conditions warm up and sh eat well again. ese weather changes transition bass and bait sh from summer patterns into fall and winter staging areas. ey feed heavily on shad and other forage and stage near the spawning ats.

When full moons and 60-degree water temps coincide, bass move onto the ats. ey spawn in waves. Spawning sh select isolated hydrilla clumps, reeds and the bases of pad stems to fan out beds. Hard sand bottom is key. Use sonar to locate hard bottom or stick your rod tip into the water to feel the bottom. If your rod tip pushes into mud, keep moving until you nd sand and then search for isolated cover.

My other primary focus is staging areas. Staging sh eat well and are plump as they congregate to wait for prime conditions to move up and spawn. New sh constantly come and go using the same areas, so they are extremely productive this time of year.

Ditches and canals on Headwaters are highways that bass and bait sh utilize to stage. e intersections and mouths of these canals are high percentage areas to locate schools of sh. Find a canal with nearby ats as well as pits or deeper water for bass to retreat to, and you will nd sh. ey stage on tapering drop o s, mouths of intersections, deep ditches and on main-lake points to ambush bait. I target staging sh with 6- to 8-inch paddletails, glidebaits, Rat-L-Traps, jerkbaits, chatterbaits, prop baits, Whopper Ploppers, spinnerbaits, stick worms and speed worms.

Contact Capt. Ricky Congero through his website at www.blackcloud shing.com or call him at (407) 693-6153.

2 FLORIDA JANUARY 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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FLORIDA BANS HARVEST OF SHORTFIN MAKOS

The FWC banned recreational harvest of Atlantic short n mako sharks by setting the recreational bag limit at zero during its Nov. 30-Dec. 1 commission meeting. e previous bag limit for recreational anglers was one mako per angler per day, with a limit of two sharks per boat. In a press release, FWC indicated the rule would make regulations in Florida waters consistent with federal regulations and address over shing of short n makos in support of U.S. and international e orts to manage the species. Commercial harvest of short n mako is already prohibited in state and federal waters.

For more information, visit MyFWC.com.

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JANUARY

As I write tonight, late December 2022, we are finally getting some cooler temps. I don’t like cold-cold (below freezing) but a little cooler this time of the year is very welcome. Obviously, due to lack of rain north of us, my river is very low. It consists mostly of spring water right now. Also, I am not seeing very many anglers.

This month’s recipe, Sheet Pan Shrimp with Asparagus and Potatoes, a complete meal on a foil-lined sheet pan. This dish would be great for guests. You can place everything on your sheet pan and keep in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook, and then, enjoy dinner in only 10 minutes. I wish that I had thought to add sliced green onions and/or parsley to the potatoes. Next time, I will try grouper, or chicken. See page 2.

Winter fishing can be a challenge, but if anyone can help you, it is our NCF/NC guides. In our FREE magazine, they share very helpful information. If you need more help, or want to schedule a guided trip, give them a call. They love hearing from you!

It is with a heavy heart, that I share with you that Covid has claimed the life of another dear, dear friend. After his second bout with Covid, he suffered from “Long Covid” for months. Early on Monday morning, he was having severe difficulty breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was on a ventilator until it was removed on Thursday night, and he died. He was not vaccinated. Prior to Covid, he was very healthy. What are the unvaccinated afraid of? Why are they risking hospitalization or death. Thank you, John Freeze for the scenic photos on this page.

Stay smart. Stay well. Get your vaccines and stay alive!

May 2023 be the best year of your life! Enjoy every precious day.

Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida/Nature Coast

Capt. Brent Woodward

ALACHUA,
MARION, COLUMBIA, GILCHRIST, BRADFORD, DIXIE, LEVY, CITRUS
Photo by: Suwannee River Water Management District
North Central Florida/Nature Coast COASTAL ANGLER
INSIDE THIS ISSUE Tide Charts Local Fishing Forecasts Monthly Recipe North Central Florida Nature Coast Staff SALES Cary Crutchfield EDITING & PRODUCTION Lynn Crutchfield DISTRIBUTION Rosa Crisman GRAPHIC ARTS & DESIGN Kathleen Stemley CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Noel Kuhn Dr. Kevin McCarthy Capt. Jason Clark Capt. Katie Jo Davis Capt. Tommy Derringer Capt. Andrew Fagan Capt. Jonathan Hamilton Capt. Tony Johns Capt. James Kerr Capt. Pat McGriff
CONTACT INFORMATION
JANUARY 2023 EDITION Find Your Outdoors Here!
crutch@coastalanglermagazine.com 352-542-0356

SHEET PAN SHRIMP WITH ASPARAGUS AND BABY POTATOES

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.

COOKING DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover and cook until tender.

Rince and dry shrimp and place on foil lined sheet pan. (Foil is your friend!)

Break the tough bottom ends off the asparagus. Rinse and dry the tops and add to sheet pan.

Drain potatoes. Let cool a few minutes and place on sheet pan. With heel of your hand, smoosh the potatoes flat.

Drizzle olive oil over all, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the minced garlic and lemon juice over the shrimp. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the shrimp and the asparagus. Sprinkle panko over the shrimp and potatoes. (At this point, you can add any seasoning that you like, such as red pepper flakes.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and asparagus is crisp tender.

Serve the asparagus and potatoes with a little butter. Add more Parmesan if you like and place the sliced egg over the asparagus.

This dish is about as fast and easy as it gets, and clean-up is almost nonexistent!

INGREDIENTS

• Extra Large Jumbo Shrimp shelled and deveined (6 to 8 per serving)

• Asparagus (1/2 pound per serving)

• Baby Red Potatoes (2 per serving)

• Salt and Pepper

• Olive Oil

• Garlic minced

• Lemon Juice

• Parmesan Cheese grated

• Panko Crumbs

• Butter

• Hard boiled eggs sliced

2 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST JANUARY 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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 beautiful Kings Bay while you enjoy your delicious, Lynn Crutchfield, Co-Publisher Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida
YOUR BAIT & TACKLE SHOP HERE Call Lynn at 352-542-0356 CAPTAINS COVE OUTFITTERS 39 West Hwy 40 Inglis, FL 352-447-5610 www.CaptainsCoveOutfitters.com DW&D BAIT HOUSE 12831 Whiddon Ave Cedar Key, FL 352-543-6109 352-222-9383 44 TACKLE CO. 1522 US 41 North Inverness, FL 34453 352.726.6100 www.44Tackle.com OCKLAWAHA BAIT & TACKLE 13600 East CR 25 Ocklawaha, FL 32179 352-816-5853 STARKE LANDSCAPE I 469 S Walnut (US Hwy 30 I) Starke, FL 3209 I 904-964-3 I I 2 www.StarkeLandscape.com BAIT & TACKLE IN NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

Extinct Fish That Are Found Again FLORIDA WATERWAYS

Having spent over five years living and working in the Middle East/Holy Land, I have been very interested in Biblical personages (Moses, Abraham), events (the parting of the Red Sea, apparitions), and miracles (the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the burning bush), etc. I’ve studied some of these carefully, for example the story of Lazarus: did he really die? Where did he go while he was “dead”? How did he end up in Cyprus? Could he have gone to Marseille in France?

Imagine my surprise, when I discovered that scientists have given the term “Lazarus taxon” to an organism that reappears after everyone thought it had become extinct. For example, the fish termed “Latimeria,” which was thought to have gone extinct seventy million years ago was caught by chance in 1938. One can say then, that such species have temporarily disappeared from the fossil record, maybe for as long as millions of years, but then reappear without much change in appearance.

Some of those extinct fish are pictured here, for example, the Liopleurodon. Notice the scale model of such a fish next to that of a scuba diver. Can you imagine coming upon such a monster while you were swimming off Daytona Beach? Those fish lived over 150 million years ago in the seas that covered modern-day England and France.

Another extinct fish species is the Doryaspis, a jawless fish that lived some 400 million years ago. Fossils of the species have been found in northern Norway. This was a relatively small fish, measuring only about fifteen centimeters long, but its long, thin, sharp snout, resembling a unicorn in some ways, might have been used to stir up sediment on the bottom of

the sea, sediment that might reveal organic material that could be sucked into the jawless mouth.

Another very large extinct fish was the Rhizodus, which was found in Europe and could reach eighteen feet or more. It lived some 300 million years ago and is known for its long teeth and fangs. The two fangs in front of its mouth would be as long as eight inches. This large predator resided in freshwater lakes and swamps and fed on small amphibians and other fish, but some scientists think it could lunge at prey on the shore, the way that modern-day crocodiles hunt.

The fifth image shows a computer-

generated illustration of the extinct Pliosaur Kronosaurus attacking the extinct fish Dapedius. The bigger fish, which lived about one hundred million years ago, could be as long as thirty feet.

Finally, the last picture is of a fossilized fish that I have on my wall. I bought it in New Mexico. It may be several million years old. Fortunately, it was not as big as some of the extinct fish from long ago.

Kevin McCarthy, the author of North Florida Waterways (2013 - available at amazon.com), can be reached at ceyhankevin@gmail.com.

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM JANUARY 2023 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 3
The Rhizodus had long teeth and fangs. The scale model of a Liopleurodon A computer-generated picture of a Liopleurodon The Doryaspis was a jawless fish. My fossilized fish A picture of a Pliosaur Kronosaurus attacking a Dapedius

KATIE JO’S NATURE COAST ADVENTURES

Now that the gag grouper season is closed along Florida’s Nature Coast, a great fish to target is large sheepshead during the spawn. The fish are schooled along rock piles and ledges and make for a fun day of fishing!

I use a SM Custom jig that lays perfectly on the bottom with a medium sized shrimp. I like the heaviest jig they make which is a 1 & 1/4 ounce 3/0 hook and 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

January is also a great time for creek fishing for redfish, trout and black drum. I like to use a 3/0 circle hook with a small split shot halfway

of the 30 lb. leader, to make a longer cast to oyster beds where the redfish will be warming. I look for trout and black drum in the deeper holes of the creeks where there is kelp grass.

As I write these reports every month, I realize how incredible our fishery really is. No matter the time of the year, there is always something to catch! Captain Katie Jo KD OUTDOORS FiSHING CHARTERS www.fishcrystalriverflorida.com 772–882-8932

4 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST JANUARY 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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Hey everyone, I hope you all had a great Christmas! I know my family did. We added a new addition to the family in the form of our first daughter.

Now, let's talk about this awesome bite. With the higher than normal water temps we have been experiencing, you can still find plenty of trout on the flats. I've seen my most action in 3 to 4 feet of water on a moving tide. I've been pairing 4 Horsemen popping corks with c&m custom baits paddle tails (You can find them on Etsy.) Granny Smith and Seaglass have been my colors of choice.

The sheepshead are moving in as well. You can find them around most of the nearshore structure and around plenty of inshore structure. Fiddler crabs and small circle hook are a deadly combination for them.

Now, the redfish have pretty much made the transition to the creeks. We've been fishing them early morning with top water and soft plastics when we have the right tides for it.

Now get out there and have some fun and I'll see you on the water.

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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CEDAR KEY Capt. Jenny Specializing in backcountry/ inshore fishing on the Nature Coast. 352-817-0357 • nativerootscharters.com

It's hard to believe it's the end of another year! 2022 has been a good year in many ways, but it also presented us with many challenges! My prayers are for a Safe, Happy and Prosperous 2023 for all of us!

The fishing in December around the Lower Suwannee River Estuary has been hit n miss, to say the least! With abnormally high temperatures during November, and the first part of December, we currently have water temps 10 degrees higher than normal! This means, that your "regular winter" fishing spots probably have not been as productive as you expected.

I have taken a look at the long-range weather forecasts, and till the end of January, they are only predicting cooler weather, with no real cold temps or freezes. So, look more to your Fall and Spring fishing patterns, and best baits to come up with a plan for fishing in January!

The redfish and black drum will be the most consistent species to catch inshore. Right after a cold/cool front comes through (even the mild ones) the change in water temps will push the fish into the deeper waters of the creeks and rivers. The best bait will be a natural bait like live/fresh shrimp or crab and cut mullet. Fished in the deeper rocky/oyster holes with a very slow to extra slow presentation, you will have success!

If you prefer artificial baits, then I go to a FishBites Butt Kicker Paddle Tail on a ¼ -5/16-ounce jig head, tipped with a piece of the FishBites Fast Release EZ Strip Baits. The fast release formula adds a little extra scent to help trigger the bite when the fish are colder and more lethargic. The key on many days will be a slow to slower presentation!

The speckled trout that had schooled up a few weeks ago, have scattered

again! The warm days and increasing water temps have the fish confused! You will still find a few nice trout in the creeks, but they have scattered and not bunched up like a "normal" December. I have had success using the FishBites 5 inch Brawler Jerkbait, fished with a jig head or weighted hook--the more current, the heavier the weight. The lighter natural colors have been catching the larger fish for me. I have also started dying the tails on some of my baits for that added contrast!

(Contact me for info)

I want to thank all of you for checking out my articles each month! I enjoy sharing what I have learned, and I learn something new every day I spend on the water! If you ever have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I would like to hear from all of you!

Until next time, be safe, Tightlines 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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SUWANNEE
John, from the Atlanta area with a nice Lower Suwannee River Estuary redfish.
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John’s fishing buddy, Scott, also from the Atlanta area, with a very nice sheepshead!
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This time of year, the early bird doesn't always get the worm... January is one of my favorite months to fish (especially for redfish) and being able to sleep in a little longer than usual can be nice. There's no need to get on the water super early this month, as the fish will be chewing better after the sun gets up and the fish and water start to warm up a bit. A mid-day low tide this time of year can be a Northeast Florida “sight-fisherman’s” dream come true. Redfish will be schooled up, and with clear water throughout a lot of the region, it should be gameon this month. Look for flats with dark colored bottoms and creeks with an abundance of oyster bars. Typically, the water can be clear right now, especially around the lower tide stage, so you'll be able to see the fish. If the water is quite gin clear, you can also locate the reds by looking for "muds" or small fleeing baitfish and shrimp. Don't worry if you don't own a super shallow water skiff, these fish are still accessible. Most decent sized creeks in the area have small "flats" on their banks on extreme winter low tides. Slowly use the trolling motor, to work as far back as possible in the creeks, while eyeing the banks for cruising reds. One very important piece of equipment (Probably the most important!) for this time of year and sight-fishing in general is a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I prefer a pair of Bajio Sunglasses with varying lens colors, depending on conditions. If it’s bright and sunny, a darker, green mirror (amber tint) lens will work well. When there is lower light like first

thing in the morning or under cloudy conditions, I like a rose mirror (Yellow tint) lens. You'll be surprised how much of difference a good lens can make. The quicker you can spot the fish, the easier it is to catch them. My favorite baits this month are small soft plastics like a Saltwater Assassin Paddle tail or a live shrimp both paired with an 1/8-ounce Saltwater Assassin jighead. The reason I prefer the 1/8 ounce or even a 1/16-ounce jig is they make less splash when cast, and with the clear water we have right now, our reds can get a little spooky. This is also a great time of year to bust out the long (fly) rod. Many a redfish and even a few sheepshead will fall to small shrimp and crab flies. Being able to see the fish before you cast makes fly fishing that much more exciting and rewarding.

Black drum should be a good bet this month in the deeper creek and ICW holes. Fresh dead shrimp or sometimes even better, a fiddler crab fished on the bottom, will do the trick. Speaking of fiddler crabs, the sheepshead bite should continue to be good through the next few months. Target area bridges and pilings with fiddlers, oyster crabs, or small shrimp. If you're feeling a little sportier, look for sheepies on the flats feeding on oyster bars. It seems like sometimes every oyster bar you pass this time of year will have a few munching away, just waiting to be caught. Have a safe and Happy New Year!

Capt. Tommy Derringer www.InshoreAdventures.net 904-377-3734

What

an awesome December we had! While writing this article, it is mid-December, and the surf temperature is still 67 degrees! The surf has been on fire. The whiting bite has finally returned to Northeast Florida. Along with the plentiful big whiting, we have been catching slot redfish, spotted sea trout, bluefish, flounder, sheepshead. black drum and a few pompanos. The storm, NICOLE, pushed a lot of cooler water all the way down to Daytona. If you want to catch a limit of pompano or an acrobatic blacktip, head south!

For the next three colder months, your success in the surf will be predicated by number one, water temperature. When our water drops below 60, the bite will shut down. Our quarry will either head south or offshore. They are looking for that 65 to 75 temperature range. My go- to internet tool this time of year is www.Marine.Rutgers.edu. The picture I have included is of satellite imagery. There are usually a dozen images every day. All we need is cloudless skies to find the sweet spot. Just look for where powder blue meets dark blue.

My other three favorite apps are “Windy” for wind speed, “My Radar” for up to the minute weather conditions, and “Magic Seaweed” for wave conditions. All of these tools have really helped me, especially on road trips down south. First I find the right

temperature, and then clean water. Those two things are key to filling your cooler and getting your string stretched.

I thought I had tried every bait and tackle combo, ever known of for the surf. Nope, I was wrong! Huge thanks to Spencer Brogden of Jacksonville Beach for this tip. He has had great success with this technique for fishing one lightweight seven-foot rod. This works best in a runout near shore, especially when you do not have a lot of cross current. Meaning north to south, or vice versa. All you need is a small #4 L042 wide bend hook by Eagle Claw, two feet of light leader 10 to 20 lb. swivel, and a one-ounce egg sinker. Then, hook your LIVE shrimp right under the horn. Pitch it into the run out and hold on! Whiting, drum and redfish should just go ahead a jump in to your cooler!

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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SURF & PIER
ST. AUGUSTINE

HOMOSASSA

Hello form Crystal River and hope everyone has enjoyed the warmth. This past December was one of the warmest ever!

With cooler weather, the fishing can be challenging at times, as the temps drop. I focus on fishing areas that have warmth and outgoing tides. Good areas to focus on are hard bottom, rocky points, mud or long shorelines that receive direct sunlight. All these areas will be just a bit warmer, and fish will seek it.

Outgoing tide is my preferred, when the temps drop. When the tide is in turning, it’s making the water warmer, especially if it’s shallow. The fish can be a little more active with the warmer water going out. When the tide comes in from the gulf, it’s coolers, so the fish tend to seek warmer waters/areas rather than feed.

I plan my trips around the fronts and slow it down.

Red fishing has been good. We’ve been fishing them shallow and doing a lot of sight fishing. My preferred bait is shrimp on a light jig or cut mullet. Mirrodines and Little Jon’s are always a good choice.

Trout have been good also we’ve been fishing them shallow mainly on artificial. Jerk baits and little Jon’s have been the go-to for me.

Capt. James Kerr 352-362-6893

Citrusfishingchaters.com

Happy

New Year! I can’t believe we are already in 2023. Crazy how fast this past year went by. 2022 was a great year for me and my family. I appreciate everyone who fished and hunted with me this past year and I look forward to this year being even better!

January can be a fun month to get out on the water and catch some good table fare. Cold fronts should start dropping down more frequently. The east winds and winter low tides can make for some tricky days on the water, but those conditions can make for good fishing in the river, and you don’t have to burn much gas!

With the Gulf temperatures cooling, look for the main rivers to produce good fishing for the next couple months. For snook, try straight jigs with Mirror Lure Lil Johns, DOA 5.5 CAL in glow and Mirror Dines for good bites along deep rocky points with good moving water. These fish will sometimes find good ambush points and be there in numbers as well. These same spots will also produce nice catches of snapper, drum, redfish and sometimes trout. Fishing with live shrimp rigged on a jig head or a knocker rig will keep the rods bent. Also, look for big schools of Jacks in the river. You won’t miss their aggressive top water action! There will be some trout in the rivers, while some trout I believe, go offshore in the winter months. The ones who do stay

inshore, will transition from the river to the river and creek mouths based on water temperatures. So, if its mild, try the yellow hard bottom areas around the creek mouths. Popping cork rigs or J hooked DOA Cal will produce bites. If it’s really cold, then look for trout in the main river concentrating around deeper holes.

In between cold fronts, those “blue bird days”, can make for great sight fishing for reds. I like to target flats close by the creek mouths of St Martins, Little River and Mason Creek. Small low profile bait fish flies will do the job. I like top water flies as well this time of the year.

Even though grouper season is now closed, the nearshore rocks should start seeing sheepshead move in from offshore and bring great eats to the table. Shrimp on a jig head will be your go-to. Remember to pay attention to your wind forecasts and tide tables. This time of the year is very treacherous in our region.

I like to reiterate that this time of the year, we see a lot more boat/ fishing traffic in the river, and there is a reason why. Its good this time of the year, but please be courteous to boaters who are on the hook fishing. You are responsible for your wake. I hate to see boating mishaps that really could have been avoided…

Stump 352-403-2073 www.captainjhamilton.com

12 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST JANUARY 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
CRYSTAL
RIVER

January is here, and the start of true winter here in Florida, is finally upon us. January through March has to be my favorite time of year for targeting two species, redfish and sheepshead. Inshore, the tides have become slow moving, with not much incoming, and huge long drawn out, outgoing tides that leave the flats and bays desolate and dry, with the fish having to scramble to find what they need to survive. The redfish and trout push, as far back as you can take a boat, and even further if you brace enough to walk by foot. The term “fish in a barrel” definitely comes into play this time of year. A simple love shrimp and a jighead is all you need, and a few floats if you’d like to see where your bait is, but other than that, redfishing in the winter is that simple. Find water--find fish! Offshore and nearshore, the mangrove snapper, hogfish and sheepshead bite will really pick up the colder it gets. With the decreasing water temperatures, the fish come further nearshore, and can be had on close inshore rockpiles in as little as 5 to 10 feet deep. A light action rod and some 20 lb. fluorocarbon and some live shrimp on a jighead is all you need to catch a mess of fish. Simple fishing and patience definitely pays off this time of year! Tight lines everyone!!

Capt. Andrew Fagan

Instagram : Capt_redfishdrew EBB TIDE CHARTERS

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KEATON BEACH

Well, what a strange trip/s this/these has/have been. Our trout don’t know if they are riding a bicycle or going to Cincinnati. (as my old friend Gus Poulos used to say)

We catch a limit doing one thing, this trip, then the next day Nope--something altogether different. We have been catching fish on MirrOdines (MR27 in NP, PFSBG, BKGCH, EC ) , MiirOglass (EC, GBG & 808), Catch Jrs (11,) . Paul Brown Devils, 98, 91, 09 Soft Dines (08), and on Assassin’s Salty Snacks in Molting , Pink Ghost, Golden Bream, and Watermelon Red) , 5 inch Shads (Stinky Pink, Pink Ghost, Laguna Shrimp, Alewife, and Goldfish)

Colors have changed daily, but keep trying and you will hit the right one soon enough. Some trout are near the creeks but not in them. (This may well change by printing as I understand we are due some cold weather coming soon.). When they go in the creeks ,“downsize” your baits for more action. Try MR14’s instead of 27s Soft Dines in size #19 instead of #24. You get the idea? Creeks notoriously have smaller baitfish in them than the open Gulf, so “Match the Hatch” and use smaller offerings.

We have been sans a breeze for weeks and just can’t get any fronts coming through which bring three good effects we are missing, W-i-n-d, color in the water and colder water temps to bunch up the trout.

Redfish have been holding tight to the creek mouths and just outside them, but tougher to get to of late with the low water on the moon tides. Spoons and live shrimp have caught most reds on my boat, but again they were better before this full moon. We shall see what the New Year has to give us--more warm weather--or winter may finally show up.

Meanwhile, Let's Go Fishing!

Pat McGriff dba One More Cast guide service for 30 years! www.onemorecast.net onemorecast@gtcom.net

Ihope

everyone has had a happy new year. Once again, January can just be one of those months, where are you either win or lose when it comes to fishing, or hunting for that matter.

If the winter stays on trend in the trout bite, is it gonna be fabulous. November and December, we have been catching lemons just about every trip, but the best part is, you can literally catch these fish however you want to top water, suspended baits or just a regular shrimp in cork.

For redfish, I would usually tell you to target in the creek, and if we get some colder weather, that’s where you should go, but as of now when I’m writing, the water temperature is 73°, and the

redfish have been in the regular fall pattern. The fish have yet to see a need to get deep in the creeks, because the water temperature has not dropped enough yet. So just remember, if it does, then target the creeks for both of the species

Duck season has been going very well for us as well, even with these warm temperatures, the birds still come down in groves, so if you’d like to book us for a fishing or a hunting trip, give us a call.

Don’t forget, we also do gift cards. So until next time, keep it Reel native!!!!

Reel Native Fishing Charters ReelNativeFishing.com 352-284-5514

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Matt Williams with a 40 inch redfish landed November 25 in 10 feet of water on 12 lb. test TrikFish X-rated Co-Polymer line. Debbie Barstow and Matt Williams of Woodstock, Ga. with a “double” on reds in 2.5 feet of water 11/25/22 Debbie Barstow, again, this time with the day’s best trout 11/26/22 Wes Shiver of Albany, Ga. with a 14.5 inch black sea bass caught on a Laguna Shrimp Sea shad in 10 feet of water (His largest-to-date)12/9/222 Captain Brent Woodard
HORSESHOE BEACH
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Sailfish

IT’S SEASON

inSouthFlorida

their anal n. ese long skinny sh are built for speed and can reach max speeds of about 70 mph.

Atlantic sail sh participate in seasonal migrations along the coast of America. Some sh will stay where they are, but most move northward in spring and south during the winter. is is due to the bait schools following the cold cycles. As soon as it gets hotter up north, they migrate. Once winter sets in, they return to Florida. Sail sh spend most of their time in warm surface waters of the epipelagic zone of the ocean. ey make frequent nearshore forays and congregate where water temperatures are in the 70 to 80 degree range.

ey begin spawning in spring, and this can occur as early as May or all the way into the fall. Like many other pelagic sh, sail sh use a process called external fertilization, or broadcast spawning. Males release sperm and females release eggs into the water current. Each female can produce about 4.5 million eggs. Once the sail sh hatch at around an eighth of an inch, they grow rapidly to about 6 pounds within a month. eir growth slows once they reach about 4 feet in length.

Capt. Charlie Stuve put me on my rst sail sh. He runs Native Guide Fishing Charters out of Jupiter, Fla., and sail sh are a favorite winter target for his clients.

“I suggest live baiting,” said Capt. Charlie. “Goggle eyes are the most popular bait, but other baits work, as well. Kite shing is preferable with goggle eyes, but I also do well slow bump-trolling edges. Live thread n herring, Spanish sardines and pilchards are my favorites while dri ing on a color change.

Now that the cold has set in and will be here for a bit, we once again change focus on what we are catching. Most larger sh tend to slow down during winter months since it takes more energy out of them; however, this is not the case for sail sh. As long as you are brave enough to venture into the rough winter seas, you’ll be sure to get on the bite.

Sail sh are the sleek and slender member of the bill sh family. eir name comes from the extremely large dorsal n that extends over almost their entire back. ey also have long pelvic ns, which stretch almost to

“Depths can vary, so don’t use yesterdays information because conditions constantly change. Sometimes when the bite is slow, I like to bottom sh and y a kite downwind. at way you stay busy with the bottom action and when you least expect it you have a sail sh on your kite.”

e IGFA world record for Atlantic sail sh weighed 142 pounds, 6 ounces and was caught in Lobito Angola in 2014.

Emily Rose Hanzlik holds 56 IGFA world records in various categories. She hails from West Palm Beach, where she has a part time Bow n Guide Service as well as shing classes for Jr. Anglers. Find her on Social Media @emilyhanzlikoutdoors.

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Photo courtesy of Capt. Charlie Stuve, @nativeguidejupiter
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The FWC approved rules to help conserve Gulf striped bass in Wakulla County’s lower Ochlockonee River at the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 commission meeting.

FWC research has identi ed high rates of recreational harvest of brood sh (breeding sized) Gulf striped bass, and sta proposed rule language to change the harvest length limit. e bag limit of three sh per day for striped bass will remain in e ect. e proposed change to the length limit would change from 18 inches minimum size to no minimum size with only one sh allowed over 24 inches. Gulf striped bass populations are dependent on stock enhancement via hatchery production and protection of these larger-sized striped bass is necessary for the continued survival of the species.

“ is rule change is a positive step for Gulf striped bass, an important sport sh in Florida,” said FWC Commissioner Gary Lester. “We appreciate sta working with stakeholders on these ongoing conservation e orts for the future of this shery.”

Sta held public meetings with local anglers to discuss research and management options for this shery at Lake Talquin in May 2022 and an additional meeting in November to discuss the rule language. Anglers were supportive of using regulation changes as a management tool. Further stakeholder engagement will occur on this rule.

Email Christopher.Paxton@MyFWC.com with questions, or visit the striped bass pro le on MyFWC.com.

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NEW HOOK DESIGN ALLOWS FISH TO RELEASE THEMSELVES

Researchers have designed and tested a new style of hook that takes catch-and-release to a whole new level. ese “bite-shortened” hooks are intended to allow sh to “release themselves” without being handled by the angler.

Dr. Holden Harris, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida’s Nature Coast Biological Station, was the mastermind behind the study. In his write up on Hook Line & Science, a North Carolina Sea Grant blog, he promoted the bene ts of e cient de-hooking and minimal handling of caught sh to considerably improve chances of survival for released sh. e hook he tested is a modi ed jig, which researchers clipped at the point, so that this “bite” portion of the hook—the business end— was reduced in length from 15 mm to 10 mm. e simple modi cation just clipped the barb and vertical length beyond the bend of the hook before it was re-sharpened. Harris tested it against a standard jighead as well as a jighead with the barb led down on 150 spotted seatrout. ey went shing with all three jigheads, reeled in the sh and then allowed the sh to op around boat-side until they either did or did not come unhooked.

“We found promising results for the bite-

shortened modi ed hook, which enabled anglers to land 91 percent of hooked spotted seatrout and then release 87 percent of those sh without direct handling,” Harris wrote. “In comparison, the self-release success rates were 47 percent using barbless hooks and 20 percent using standard, unmodi ed hooks.”

Additionally, Harris found that smaller seatrout were able to “self-release” at higher rates than larger ones.

Coastal Angler contributor and seatrout-on-

arti cials guru Michael Okruhlik has written on his use of barbless hooks when targeting pods of trout crashing bait. He said the ability to quickly and safely release sh without taking them out of the water allows him to get back in the action faster.

Maybe anglers would use a hook designed to let sh come unbuttoned?

For a video of this hook modi cation, see https://youtu.be/VC23oNikyc8

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Amonster gold sh aptly named “Carrot” has been making the rounds on social media recently a er the sh was caught from a trophy carp lake in Champagne, France. UK angler Andy Hackett caught the nearly 70-pound bright orange sh from Bluewater Lakes, a heavily managed, privately owned pay-to-play shery that boasts of carp weighing heavier than 90 pounds.

Carrot seems to be somewhat of pet, but not the type you’d keep in a sh bowl. She is a crossbreed between leather carp and koi, and was stocked in the lake 15 years ago to give anglers an interesting sh to pursue.

“I always knew e Carrot was in there but never thought I would catch it,” said Hackett. It took him 25 minutes to reel in pot-bellied carp, which o cially weighed an astounding 67.4 pounds.

Carp caught at Bluewater Lakes are handled very carefully with a strict catch-and-release policy.

For more record sh, visit coastalanglermag.com.

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TIPS FROM A PRO

THROW A LIPLESS CRANKBAIT FOR WINTER BASS

Some cold but very fun shing days are ahead, and a Trapstyle bait is my absolute favorite way to sh this time of year. Typically sh group up in winter, and whether that be bait sh or bass, there are opportunities that make lipless crankbaits absolutely deadly!

rowing a lipless crank around areas where sh are chasing bait or where they are grouped up has caught lots of bass and some big ones. Even casting this bait as a search bait can work wonders. ere are so many options for lipless cranks that it can get confusing. I’ve experimented plenty, so I hope this article helps.

Traps range from ¼ oz. up to 1 oz. in weight, and every size can be used di erently. I pick sizes depending on the depth I’m shing or the depth of the structure, and I also consider the natural bait that is prevalent in the area. If you’re shing shallow or around tiny bait sh, a ¼-oz. size will be the best bet. A ½-oz. is usually my goto. It’s great for the mid-range depths of 5 to 10 feet, and it imitates a range of bait sh sizes.

A ¾-oz. is a bit bigger, and I don’t throw it as much, but it certainly has its place in 10 to 20-foot depths.

Remember, you can always vary your retrieve to get these baits higher or lower in the water column.

Color is another key factor. Ninety percent of the time, I sh a bait sh color. Whether it’s a shad, shiner or bluegill pattern, natural colors always work for me. I also throw orange or red a lot in winter. ese colors imitate craw sh, and they work where craw sh are prevalent. Match your bait color to the forage in the lake.

e last factor for lipless baits is sound related. ey come in silent, multi-rattle or single-knocker versions. I go silent for very clear water and heavily pressured sh, when appearing natural is important. e multi-rattle baits make a lot of noise, and the commotion draws strikes. My go-to, though, is the one-knocker style. is sound is unique and a little deeper pitched. I feel like sh, over the years, have become accustomed to the loud versions. I nd the single-knocker gets a few more bites in most situations.

With treble hooks, rod selection is important. You just reel into the sh when you get a bite, and this means your rod needs a solid backbone to drive those hooks and also a good amount of tip for keeping sh on during the ght. My go-to rod is a 13 Fishing Omen Black 7’4 Medium Heavy Moderate. e 13 Fishing Concept A 7:5:1 is a perfect reel for this application. I sh 15- to 20-lb. Seaguar Invizx line, depending on the structure I’m shing.

I hope these Trap tips help you put a few more sh in your boat this winter!

Tyler Woolcott is a professional tournament angler and guide. Check out his website at www.tylerwoolcott shing.com.

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RECORD LONGFIN TUNA LANDED OFF NEW JERSEY

ANew Jersey angler eked out a new state record for albacore (long n) tuna in October when he boated a 78-pound, 2.4-ounce long n that bested the previous 1984 record by 3.4 ounces.

Matthew Florio, of Brick, N.J., is a commercial scalloper and he was shing with the rest of his scalloping crew aboard the Luna Sea at the east elbow of Hudson Canyon, the largest known underwater canyon o the east coast of the U.S. ey were at least 75 miles o shore and chunking for yellow n tuna, which is a technique that involves cutting up a bunch of butter sh and throwing them overboard before following up with hooked chunks of butter sh. e crew was already having a good day with yellow ns when Matthew hooked into his big albacore. He battled it in with a Kevin Bogan 30 Stand Up rod and a Penn 30 reel loaded with 60-pound mono lament. e sh measured 48 and 3/8 inches long and had a girth of 37 inches. e previous record was a 77-pound, 15-ounce long n caught in 1984 by Dr. S. Scannapiego in Spencer Canyon.

For more record sh, see coastalanglermag.com.

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DO BIG LURES = BIG FISH?

Now that Jack Frost has bay temperatures thoroughly chilled, only diehard lure chuckers will be found stalking the ats. Most of us have one thing in mind this time of year, catching a trophy trout. Here is how I approach my quest for that dirty 30-incher.

When water temperature stabilizes in the COLD range, all the migratory forage ees for warmer pastures. e bays are le with larger mullet as the primary food source for prized speckled trout. is is the time of year that I pull out my larger lures. is could be a longer length, a wider pro le, or both. is doesn’t have to be a 12-inch lure that is no fun to cast all day, but I do upsize from my typical 3- and 4-inch lures that I use most of the year. We have all seen a 25-inch trout with a 15-inch mullet in its belly, so they will eat something huge, but giant baits aren’t as fun to sh.

My con dence lures this time of the year are typically a 4-inch wide-pro le slow-sinking lure or a 5-inch bulky body paddletail. Since plastisol is buoyant, the bulky lure will have a slower sink rate, which I prefer under most conditions. e

slower sink allows for dual bene ts this time of year. Logically, the slower sink rate matches the slower mood of a cold sh. Also, I spend a lot of time targeting sh over shallow grass in knee-deep water. A slower sink rate keeps my lure in the strike zone longer before it disappears into the grass.

weedless hook. Depending on the conditions, I might go weightless or with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jighead. e weedless version keeps me out of the grass, it lessens the opportunity for my cold, less-dexterous hands to be impaled by a hook, and most of all, it does less damage to the trophy sh that I am targeting.

Areas I target will be near deeper water, have so er bottom, have visible forage, structure and hopefully be lowertra c areas. While planning trips, I take into consideration moon phase, current conditions and recent conditions when determining where to sh.

I have never caught a trophy trout by accident. I don’t know if that is lucky or unlucky, but every trout I have landed over 27 inches was on a day when I set out speci cally targeting larger sh. Case in point, if you want to catch trophy trout consistently, you must make the e ort to target them, sh where they live and be attentive to details. I know numerous anglers have caught large trout with no e ort, but most don’t catch two.

The Return of a

I t my 5-inch rattling paddletail with a

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

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