Coastal Angler Magazine | December 2022 | North Central Florida Nature Coast Edition

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TROUT TIPS FOR Wintertime

Trout like cold water, but there’s no denying the slow down that occurs on most wintertime trout fisheries. When water temps fall into the low 40s and below, insect life and other food sources are less prevalent. Trout metabolisms slow and they go into energy-conservation mode. They are content to hover near the bottom out of heavy current and feed only when an easy opportunity arises.

That said, fish still need to eat, and intrepid anglers will find joy in the seclusion of a wintertime trout stream. Here are some tips to raise the odds of a great wintertime trout trip. Dress warmly, wade carefully and savor the taste of the ice you suck from your rod guides.

1) Choose Destinations Wisely: Winter is not the time to explore high-elevation brook trout streams. Instead, float a tailwater, where water temps are consistent year-round, or go to lower elevation streams that are a bit warmer. For a target-rich environment, try out a delayed-harvest fishery. They are stocked heavily through the cooler months.

2) Fish Warm Spells: Two or three days of consistently warmer weather are primetime in terms of winter trout fishing. Everything in the stream, from the trout to the bugs and baitfish they eat, perks up.

By the same logic, the best bite is usually during the warmest part of the day. Sun warms the shallows, bringing out the tiny little midges, black stoneflies and blue-winged olives that are wintertime staples. Even if the action is subsurface, trout will take advantage of easy feeding opportunities.

3) Fish Meticulously: Unless trout are visibly rising, subsurface is the way to go. Turn your attention away from the riffles where rainbows pop dry flies in spring, and look to the deeper, slower runs. Pick them apart with nymph rigs. Keep in mind that most winter food items will be small, but fish a variety of sizes and patterns at the same time and cover every inch of each run vertically and horizontally. The idea is to hit a fish in the nose, and this is best achieved fishing slowly and carefully.

If you want to tempt a giant trout, it’s a good time to dead drift a big streamer with the same meticulous patience. Don’t hesitate to fish a heavy streamer deep under an indicator. Sometimes a big mouthful is enough to convince a lock-jawed bruiser to eat.

4) Fish Safely: Flooding your waders can kill you when it’s frigid. During cold snaps, consider fishing near the truck, where a quick jog can put you in a heated cab if you get wet. If you do go into the backcountry, take a dry-bag with fire-starting equipment, a towel and a change of clothes.

Wherever you fish, wade carefully, avoid stepping on frozen-over rocks, kick any snow off your boots before entering the water and avoid taking chances like wading deep water or heavy flows.

Nick Carter is the author of “Flyfisher’s Guide to North Carolina & Georgia.” Contact him at nsc8957@gmail.com.

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Berkeley County is a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts, sports buffs, adventure seekers, and water lovers. From exemplary fishing for striped bass, or a trophy largemouth bass, to our hiking trails and water activities, along with scenic outdoors where you can catch a glimpse of white tail deer and gators, Berkeley County has activities to fit all visitors and families. Learn more about Berkeley County at: exploreberkeleycounty.com

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Peacock Bass Luxury

Next stop Manaus, Brazil! It all started when my good friend Capt. Johnny Stabile called.

J: I know what you’re going to say before I even ask.

G: What is it?

J: Do you want to go Peacock fishing in Brazil?

G: When?

J: We would leave 13 days after our Alaska trip.

Of course, my response was, “Ok, sounds great!”

That would give me just enough time to get back from Alaska, fulfill orders for my business, and get things ready to head south. We flew out of Miami, and with a layover in Panama City, Panama met up with several other fishermen on the expedition. After a very long night of traveling, we finally landed in Brazil and hopped on a quick seaplane ride to the Rio Matupiri for six and a half days of non-stop fishing!

We stayed aboard the Amazon Legend with a very accommodating crew of 14. We ate like kings and fished hard. Our typical day of fishing consisted of getting up before the sun for a quick breakfast and loading into skiffs to spend the day zipping around to the guide’s best fishing spots. We threw a variety of lures, mostly topwaters like big choppers and walking baits. Johnny’s favorites of the trip were a Rebel Jumping Minnow and a Borboleta Woodstock 10.5 cm. He wore out the peacock bass on that Jumping Minnow. I threw bucktail jigs, and they produced the largest number of fish, but for Johnny it was all about the BIG’UNS!

Johnny loves to fly fish, so one special thing about fishing in Brazil for him was catching several nice fish on the fly rod with easy-to-tie flies that he made myself. These fish are so much more aggressive than the peacock bass you find in south Florida. For a little perspective, we caught more than 350 peacocks and more than 50 piranha along with several other exotic species. The average peacock was 2 to 3 pounds, and Johnny’s biggest weighed more than 8 pounds. One person in our party caught a big peacock that pulled the scales to nearly 14 pounds.

After a long morning of non-stop action, sometimes we would take a quick lunch break and hide in the shade of a tree for a wonderful shore lunch. The guides packed everything for remote meals on land, where they cooked native fare on an open fire. While they cooked, we relaxed in hammocks with

plenty of cold drinks and the opportunity for a quick nap before lunch was served. Many of the fish we caught contributed to these lunches, and there were also steaks and chicken available with all the fixins. Homemade salsa and native seasonings complimented the meals perfectly. After a relaxing lunch, it was back on the skiff and back in the action!

After afternoons of fishing, we indulged in fivestar dining and the most important part of the trip, air conditioning! The crew made up our rooms, did our laundry and prepared dinner every evening. Specialty cocktails were also provided, if that’s your fancy, but Johnny’s favorite was the freshly squeezed juices. He’s already looking forward to the passion fruit juice when we return next year!

Johnny shot some great video of our trip. Check it out in the December edition of The Angler Video Magazine

If you are interested in a Brazilian fishing adventure, e-mail Johnny at captain@ SFLFishingCharters.com or Gary at gary@purgeright.com.

By Capt. Johnny Stabile and Gary Turner

For as long as I can remember, offshore bottom fishing is what we look forward to during the last half of November and the entire month of December. The week of Christmas has always been considered the apex of the bottom-fishing year.

You can see the move of the big snappers marching offshore on the edge of the colder water. This will pile big snapper and other bottomdwelling species up on certain staging areas, along with a clean water temperature line that also stacks up the kings and wahoo. Keep a light line bait out while you’re bottom fishing. There is no telling what you’ll catch and on what baits.

Of course, I love a pinfish, grass grunts or sailors choice for grouper and snapper baits for more than one reason. 1) They get bites from the target species; and 2) they eliminate most of the trash bites from grunts, pinkies and sea bass.

Yes, I love a live bait on a jig, but don’t ever forget that a big grouper also loves a big chunk of cut bait. We have seen a huge uptick in amberjack and almaco jacks in the past few

years for some reason. This is an excellent bait source! I like to keep one of the first, smaller, amberjacks that come up just for this cut-bait option. The big chunks of cut bait do

of my bottom-fishing strategy. This is also the reason I take a couple boxes of squid on every trip. I start every new post-up on a ledge or live bottom area with everyone firing down whole squid every drop. I don’t care what they are catching. It’s usually grunts, pinkies or seabass, but what is really happening on the bottom is the squid are being ripped to shreds and small pieces are swirling around and creating a chum slick. After several volleys of whole squid, I change it up to live pinfish, grass grunts or other live baits on a jig.

Grouper and big snapper see the live bait as a smaller fish that was grabbed by a crab while feeding on small pieces of squid. It’s a winning technique that has been very successful for me and other Decoy Jig users for years now. It is also new to the fish, tackle-wise.

two things. They get bites and they also create a “chum slick” on the bottom right where you are fishing. When the cut bait gets pecked at, all the small pieces of flesh swirl around as it’s being eaten.

This is one of the most important aspects

The beauty of this cold water line moving farther offshore with every cold front creates opportunity for a variety of species. You never know; keep firing down cut bait and setting the hook on “strange feeling bites,” and you might even catch a big deep-water lobster like the one in the video below.

Check out some awesome bottom fishing videos at https://youtu.be/w1YmT6M0ObQ.

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LIMITED GOLIATH GROUPER HARVEST OPENS MARCH 1

grouper for the table.

e harvest will be very limited and tightly regulated, and permits will be issued by random drawing of applicants who applied during the Oct. 15-30 deadline. e cost to apply was $10 plus fees and permit at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

Details for this limited, highly regulated harvest include:

• Total recreational harvest of up to 200 goliath per year, with a maximum of 50 from Everglades National Park.

• A goliath harvest permit and tag, issued via a random-draw lottery ($150 for residents, $500 for non-residents, plus fees) are required to participate. Permits and tags are non-transferable and no exemptions apply.

• A limit of one sh per person per open season with permit and tag.

• An open season from March 1 through May 31.

• Hook-and-line as the only allowable gear.

• A slot limit of 24-36 inches total length.

• Post-harvest requirements including proper application of the tag, reporting harvest data and submitting a n clip for genetic analysis.

• Harvest will be permitted in all state waters except those of Martin County south through the Atlantic coast of the Keys, all of the St. Lucie River and its tributaries, and Dry Tortugas National Park.

• Harvest will continue to be prohibited in federal waters.

“ e highly regulated, limited take of goliath grouper is an exciting and unique opportunity to provide access to this resource a er decades of closure, and we believe limited access is sustainable,” said FWC Commissioner Robert Spottswood. “We also look forward to collecting the post-harvest data to help guide future management decisions for this species.”

In October, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opened the application process for recreational harvest of goliath grouper in Florida state waters. Harvest of the species was banned when the shery collapsed, and the 2023 spring season will be the rst time since 1990 that recreational anglers will have an opportunity to keep a goliath

is opportunity is intended to provide additional access to this shery while balancing the values of various stakeholder groups. Adult goliath grouper will continue to be prohibited from harvest statewide as well as goliath in heavy dive ecotourism areas. is limited harvest is not intended to address shing depredation concerns.

For more information about the goliath grouper harvest permit and details on the permit lottery and eligibility requirements, visit FWC’s Goliath Grouper Harvest Permit webpage.

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’Tis e Season for Gulf Coast Hogfish

With their oddly shaped mouths and a diet made up of crustaceans and mollusks, hog sh were once thought to be a species too di cult to target with rod and reel. All that changed over the last decade or so, as captains gured out how to speci cally target these delicious and beautiful bottom-feeders.

Wintertime is the best time to target hog sh on the Gulf Coast. From late November into March, they congregate on nearshore reefs and ledges to spawn, which makes them a great option in a season when rough weather can prohibit long runs to deep water.

Hog sh are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means they are all born female and change into males as they age. A single male will tend a harem of numerous females, which means nding good hog sh bottom can result in quick limits of ve sh per angler, but few of them will be large mature males. ere is a 14-inch minimum size limit in Florida, and hog sh of 18 or 20 inches are considered very good sh.

is time of year, dozens of hog sh can be found congregating together on reefs, rockpiles, and hardbottom in 50 to 75 feet of water. In most places, this can be found inside of 20 miles o shore. A prominent ledge with lots of growth is prime hog sh habitat. ey like to hover around reefs and use their long snouts to

probe cracks or root in the sand for critters like sand eas, crabs and snails.

Once you nd them, the secret to catching hog sh is pretty simple. Like just about anything else that swims, they are suckers for shrimp. Big live shrimp, fresh dead shrimp and even stinky thawed shrimp are irresistible. Just leave it right on the bottom, where a hog sh is likely to nd it while rummaging around in the sand. e rigs used to catch hog sh are also pretty simple. A knocker rig with a 1- or 2-ounce slip-sinker right up against a 1/0 circle hook will keep that shrimp right on the bottom. A half or 1-ounce circle-hook jig head will do the same thing. Some successful captains swear by hogballs, which are painted weights tethered to a hook by a small chain.

Regardless of the rig, you don’t need to go too light because hog sh aren’t particularly leader shy. A 5000 series reel with a comparable rod and 25-pound braid to a 30-pound leader is enough to haul even the largest hog sh up from depth. e trickiest part of catching hog sh is getting a good hook-set. You’ll want a little bit of slack in the line, which allows them

to pull that shrimp into their snout. Typically, you might feel or see a subtle rst bump, which will be followed by a second bump as they actually take the bait. Allow the sh to pull the line tight before reeling down and swinging the rod to drive the hook home.

For more information, go to coastalanglermag.com.

PhotoS courtesy of Capt. Quinlyn Haddon
By CAM Sta
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A mackerel’s ability to slice through line as if they were wielding a set of Ginsu knives leaves many anglers frustrated a er losing tackle. But if you target these speedsters with the right equipment, they can make for a fun day of action packed shing.

I like light spinning like a GLoomis GLX PR844 with a 2500 Stradic or an 8-weight NRX y rod with a Nautilus NVG 8/9 with Scienti c Angler sinking line. Chances are anything less than 30-lb. mono will be shredded immediately, so it is imperative to use wire leader when mackerel are around. Even then, they are known for hitting the line at the swivel connection from wire to mono, so it’s best to have several rigs ready. Also, make sure your swivels are black and not silver, these guys like shiny things. All that said, a spoon or a small jig rigged on wire will usually last a while.

Best of all, once mackerel move in, they are typically found right in the passes to within a few miles of the beach. I nd the sh o shore tend to be larger, so I like to target them. A 3-pound mack will make a blistering rst run that is reminiscent of a bone sh, and they are much less spooky than bones. e easiest way to nd them is to look for birds working. at’s a tell-tale sign. Reefs and good hard bottoms that hold bait are great places to search, as well. ese types of spots can be trolled or chummed to keep the action close to the boat. A standard chum bag will bring the school well within casting range for both conventional and y shermen. Just throw out something shiny, move it fast and you’ll hook up quickly.

Mackerel get a bad rap as table fare, as they are oily and can be strong tasting. at oiliness makes them perfect for smoking, and that, too, could not be easier. Simply llet the sh, leaving the skin on. Salt them liberally and let them rest in the refrigerator for about an hour. Rinse the salt o and add some Cajun seasoning to the sh and smoke over indirect heat at 250 degrees for about two hours. It is done when it akes easily o the skin. Smoked mackerel tastes great on its own in a salad or rice bowl, and it’s fantastic when made into sh spread.

As the water temperatures drop this time of year, bait sh shows up in force. Pods of bait sh are followed closely by schools Spanish mackerel. is o en-overlooked speedster is viewed as nuisance by some anglers, but mackerel are a blast on light tackle and y rods if you gear up correctly.

If you are looking for some hot action with minimal work, grab some wire and enjoy the return of the mack.

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

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TIPS FROM A PRO

JERKBAITS AND BAITFISH

Ajerkbait is a good idea whenever bait sh are plentiful. A jerkbait’s natural movement, size and resemblance to what the sh are already eating make this bait deadly.

ere are many scenarios I would consider good times to throw a jerkbait. One of the best situations you can encounter is when sh are actively feeding on bait sh and schooling. When bass are doing this, throwing a natural-bait sh-colored, shallowdiving jerkbait is an awesome way to replicate a dying bait sh. It at out gets bit, even when you can’t nd anything else they will touch.

Another awesome way to use a jerkbait is to blind cast in areas where bass are staged up and feeding. If you can identify bait sh already in an area, this makes the scenario even better. A lot of times this pattern sets up along grass lines, rip-rap banks and in pockets close to areas bass use to spawn. Depending on water clarity, I like a naturalcolored jerkbait or one with a little bit of chartreuse. Use a shallow or deep-diving jarkbait to match the depth you’re targeting.

Jerkbaits are also a great option for bass that are suspended with bait. Typically these sh are less pressured because they are harder to nd. You’ll need to spend some time searching with your electronics, but nding

this scenario and knowing how to target the bass can line up as some of the most fun shing you can imagine.

is can happen anywhere, but typically it occurs on points and pockets where sh can ambush the bait easier.

I use forward sonar a er I locate an active area and use the jerkbait to imitate the bait these sh are chasing in the water column. Typically, a shallow-diving jerkbait like a 13 Fishing Loco Special will work absolute wonders if you can get a sh to see it amongst the other bait sh.

Picking colors can get a bit confusing, as there are so many di erent options. I keep this decision as simple as possible and use only two di erent colors… ever. 13 Fishing makes a lot of natural colors as well as colors that stand out in dirty water. My go-to color is Casper Shad; it’s one of the most natural shad patterns you can get. Another color they make that is awesome in stained water is Neon Disco Shad.

With jerkbaits, I like a shorter rod, something between a 6’10” and a 7’. Actionwise, I like a medium-fast, which allows the sh to get the bait when you feel them hit it. e 13 Fishing Omen Black 6’10” MF is absolutely perfect. Reel selection doesn’t need to be too complicated. A 7:0:1 ratio allows you to work the bait and pick up line at the perfect pace. For line, I like 10- to 12-poundtest, and Seaguar Invizx uorocarbon is a very good line for the job.

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

12 FLORIDA DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

North Central Florida/Nature Coast

Cary & Lynn Crutchfield

DECEMBER

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la and Merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, we wish you Happy Holidays of your choice. I love December and the holidays and am so very grateful for the vaccine that has enabled us to get back to normal holiday activities. We will, however, only be in close contact with others who are also vaccinated. Christmas 2022 will certainly be an improvement over Christmas 2020 and 2021. If everyone gets vaccinated, maybe by Christmas 2023, Covid will be only a sad memory. While you are getting your Covid booster, you can get your flu shot in your other arm. The flu is also a killer. Stay smart, stay safe and stay alive.

Introducing Capt. Jenny, guiding the Nature Coast. See page 4 for her contact info. See page 7 for info on ordering Dr. Kevin McCarthy’s Christmas book, Christmas in Florida. Great gift idea!

Under new ownership, and back in the magazine, Dan’s Clam Stand. See page 13. December’s recipe, page 2, Fried Rice with Sauteed Shrimp, is a quick and easy dish for busy December nights.

Have you thought about gifting your favorite fisherman/woman, a guided fishing trip with one of our knowledgeable, experienced (and fun!) guides? It would be a much-appreciated gift for your special fisherperson. Let me know who you choose and send photos!

As always, please thank the folks at the business where you picked up the world’s greatest FREE fishing magazine, and don’t forget to visit our advertising partners.

Again, we wish you a safe and happy 2022 holiday season, hopefully spending some time on the water with your loved ones.

See you next year.

ALACHUA,
MARION, COLUMBIA, GILCHRIST, BRADFORD, DIXIE, LEVY, CITRUS
Photo by: Suwannee River Water Management District
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
Freeze Noel
CONTACT INFORMATION crutch@coastalanglermagazine.com
DECEMBER 2022 EDITION Find Your Outdoors Here!
John
Kuhn Dr. Kevin McCarthy Capt. Tommy Derringer Capt. Andrew Fagan Capt. Jonathan Hamilton Capt. Tony Johns Capt. James Kerr Capt. Pat McGriff Capt. Brent Woodward
352-542-0356
Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida/Nature Coast

FRIED RICE WITH SAUTEED SHRIMP (SERVES 4)

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

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan* over medium-high heat until melted. Add egg, and cook until scrambled, stirring occasionally. Remove egg, and transfer to a separate plate. Add an additional 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add carrots, onion, broccoli, chopped bock choi, mushrooms and garlic. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion and carrots are soft. Increase heat to high, add in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, and stir until melted.

Immediately add the rice, white part of green onions, soy sauce and oyster sauce (if using), and stir until combined. Continue sautéing for an additional 3 minutes to fry the rice, stirring occasionally. (I like to let the rice rest for a bit between stirs so that it can crisp up on the bottom.)

In a separate sauté pan melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 2 tablespoons oil. Heat to medium. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to pan. Sauté until pink, about 2 minutes per side.

Plate the fried rice and divide shrimp between plates

Garnish with chopped green parts of green onions and parsley.

INGREDIENTS

• 5 tablespoons butter, divided

• 2 large eggs, whisked

• 2 medium carrots, diced

• 1 small white onion, diced

• 1 cup chopped broccoli flowerets

• 1 cup sliced porta bella mushrooms

• 2 cups chopped bock choi

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• salt and black pepper,

• 4 scallions, white and green separated and sliced,

• 3 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste

• 2 teaspoons oyster sauce (optional)

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

• ¼ cup chopped parsley

2 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM TIDES • North Central Florida DECEMBER 2022 CEDAR KEY Time Height Time Height Time Height Time Height 1Th 1:31 AM 1.3 7:20 AM 2.9 2:18 PM 0.7 8:51 PM 2.8 2F 3:01 AM 1.0 9:09 AM 2.7 3:25 PM 1.0 9:41 PM 3.0 3Sa 4:18 AM 0.5 10:40 AM 2.8 4:23 PM 1.2 10:25 PM 3.2 4Su 5:20 AM 0.0 11:50 AM 2.9 5:13 PM 1.3 11:04 PM 3.5 5M 6:11 AM -0.4 12:44 PM 3.0 5:57 PM 1.3 11:41 PM 3.6 6Tu 6:54 AM -0.6 1:28 PM 3.0 6:37 PM 1.4 7W 12:15 AM 3.7 7:32 AM -0.8 2:07 PM 3.0 7:14 PM 1.4 8Th 12:48 AM 3.8 8:07 AM -0.8 2:42 PM 3.0 7:49 PM 1.4 9F 1:20 AM 3.8 8:40 AM -0.8 3:17 PM 3.0 8:24 PM 1.4 10Sa 1:53 AM 3.7 9:12 AM -0.7 3:51 PM 2.9 8:58 PM 1.4 11Su 2:26 AM 3.6 9:44 AM -0.6 4:25 PM 2.9 9:34 PM 1.4 12M 3:02 AM 3.5 10:17 AM -0.4 4:58 PM 2.8 10:13 PM 1.4 13Tu 3:42 AM 3.4 10:52 AM -0.2 5:32 PM 2.8 10:56 PM 1.3 14W 4:27 AM 3.2 11:31 AM 0.0 6:09 PM 2.7 11:47 PM 1.3 15Th 5:21 AM 2.9 12:14 PM 0.3 6:51 PM 2.7 16F 12:50 AM 1.2 6:29 AM 2.6 1:07 PM 0.5 7:41 PM 2.8 17Sa 2:07 AM 1.0 7:59 AM 2.4 2:11 PM 0.8 8:35 PM 2.9 18Su 3:24 AM 0.6 9:36 AM 2.4 3:17 PM 1.0 9:26 PM 3.1 19M 4:29 AM 0.1 10:58 AM 2.6 4:18 PM 1.2 10:13 PM 3.4 20Tu 5:27 AM -0.4 12:06 PM 2.8 5:15 PM 1.3 10:58 PM 3.6 21W 6:20 AM -0.9 1:04 PM 2.9 6:08 PM 1.3 11:42 PM 3.8 22Th 7:09 AM -1.2 1:55 PM 3.0 6:57 PM 1.4 23F 12:27 AM 4.0 7:56 AM -1.5 2:43 PM 3.0 7:43 PM 1.4 24Sa 1:13 AM 4.1 8:42 AM -1.5 3:29 PM 3.0 8:28 PM 1.3 25Su 2:01 AM 4.1 9:29 AM -1.4 4:13 PM 2.9 9:15 PM 1.2 26M 2:50 AM 4.0 10:14 AM -1.1 4:54 PM 2.8 10:04 PM 1.1 27Tu 3:44 AM 3.7 11:00 AM -0.7 5:32 PM 2.7 10:59 PM 0.9 28W 4:43 AM 3.4 11:45 AM -0.2 6:11 PM 2.7 11:59 PM 0.8 29Th 5:48 AM 2.9 12:30 PM 0.3 6:52 PM 2.7 30F 1:10 AM 0.7 7:07 AM 2.5 1:21 PM 0.8 7:40 PM 2.8 31Sa 2:34
HERNANDO BEACH High Tide -20 min Low Tide 58 min KINGS BAY High Tide 2 hrs, 20 min Low Tide 3 hrs, 7 min
RIVER ENT High Tide 4 hr, 30 min Low Tide 5 hr, 41 min
High Tide 12 min Low Tide 20 min CRYSTAL RIVER High Tide 36 min Low Tide 1 hr, 30 min WITHLACOOCHEE ENT High Tide 7 min Low Tide 55 min SUWANNEE ENT High Tide 6 min Low Tide 18 min STEINHATCHEE RIVER ENT High Tide 2 min Low Tide 0 min
AM 0.4 8:51 AM 2.2 2:21 PM 1.1 8:27 PM 3.0
HOMOSASSA
HORSESHOE BEACH
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

Fish Gargoyles FLORIDA WATERWAYS

Fish have played many roles in our lives, from food to pets to religious symbols, etc. One oftenoverlooked role has been that of a gargoyle on buildings in Europe and this country, especially on churches. A gargoyle is a carved figure with a spout, often high on the building near the roof, with the spout carrying water away from the roof and far enough away from the building, so as not to cause erosion or staining problems. Such a “creature” then prevents rainwater from running down the masonry walls of the building and eroding the mortar.

Such gargoyles can be in the shape of a dragon or mythical creature or bird or even a fish. They are usually carved very high on the churches and therefore difficult to see from the ground, but closeup pictures indicate what care the carvers took, knowing full well that, even if people on the ground could not clearly make out the features, at least God could know what care the carvers took.

The length of the gargoyle would determine how far the water fell away from the building. In fact, architects might insert a metal pipe in the mouth of the gargoyle to make sure that the water was dispersed away from the church walls. Some clever masons might caricature local people, for example a lawyer or unliked public official, knowing full well that the height of the creature would prevent people on the ground from seeing the carving clearly. Interestingly, Washington Cathedral in our nation’s capital has at least one gargoyle or grotesque in the form of a “crooked politician.”

Because of their association with water, fish are a natural choice for the makers of gargoyles, and, in fact, one can find

some clever “fish gargoyles” in use today. Although many of the more famous gargoyles in use in Europe were meant to scare people into believing that such creatures can protect the churches from evil spirits, the fish gargoyles that I have found tend to be more playful. The use of such gargoyles in fountains has nothing to do with warding off evil or reminding people to be more religious. Instead, the designers have used such figures as emphasizing the carefree nature of fish.

In the past I have written about the use of fish symbols on gravestones or as athletic mascots or as symbols on our county seals, even as signs on restaurant bathrooms, e.g. “buoys” and “gulls.” Maybe you have your own favorite use of fish in our culture.

Kevin McCarthy, the author of guidebooks to the St. Johns River, the Suwannee, the Hillsborough, and the Caloosahatchee, can be reached at ceyhankevin@gmail.com.

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM DECEMBER 2022 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 3
A fish gargoyle with a spout A fish-eating gargoyle A fish gargoyle in a Russian lake A similar one from Spain A fish gargoyle from Germany A fish gargoyle that is part of a fountain

December has always been a tricky month for anglers, no matter what species you’re targeting. A reliable technique/secret spot can work great one week, and then be useless the next. Usually that happens a few days before weather conditions are about to change.

One reason the bite gets tough (or easy) this time of year is; fish group up during the colder months, which can make them harder to find. A simple, budget friendly fish-finder will help keep track of depth and bottom structure; but it's not essential. Crappie ("specks") are most anglers' target during the winter. They taste amazing, and are a lot of fun to catch. Plus, when specks are actively feeding, the bite can be non-stop. A basic rule of thumb is- "The colder it gets, the slower you fish".

Most people know that downsizing is important this time of year. However, tying on a smaller lure isn't the only change you need to make. Downsizing means changing everything. From the rods (lighter/ sensitive) to the reels (smooth drag is a must) and the line on your spool; these are all key factors. Remember, the smallest changes often make the biggest difference.

Slow-trolling minnows and crappie jigs, along mid to deep-water "ledges", is a great way to search for groups of fish, while also catching scattered fish along the way. If you get snagged on something, that's

actually a good thing. Brush piles are like gold for crappie, but don't be surprised to find bass and catfish around them too. One good brush pile can produce quality fish week after week. Of course, you might go back the next day and not even get a bite there. It all depends on the situation. So, when nature throws you a curve-ball, don't be afraid to change your game plan.

Adjusting to weather conditions is the key to success, no matter what time of year it is. You have to play the hand you’re given. Just remember, colder = slower. That goes for trolling, jigging, and everything else. Stick to that, and you can't lose.

John Freeze

Kayak Fishing and Nature Tours

OurNationalForrest@gmail.com 352-216-5798

4 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM CENTRAL FLORIDA INLAND
FLORIDA SUWANNEE RIVER WATERFRONT 352-542-0356 FOR SALE 43 acres (+or-) 1100 feet (+or-) on Suwannee River in Lafayette County at US 27, across river from Branford. Heavily wooded, perfect for residence, camp ground or hunting lodge. Elec. and well. Capt. Jenny Specializing i n backcountry/ inshore fishing on the Nature Coast. 352-817-0357 • nativerootscharters.com
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Ihope

everybody had a good Thanksgiving and is getting ready for a fantastic Christmas. The fishing has been very good as of late. Also duck season has been going good as well.

I can’t forecast the temperatures but your best bet for redfish is gonna be to stay in a creek. If you have to wait till high tide to get back there, then do so, but regardless, that’s where the fish are going to be. These red fish can be caught using mudminnows shrimp and even cut mullet at times, but shrimp is one of my favorite December baits.

If it’s cold, you’re going to be catching your trout in the same spot as you catch a redfish. That’s why I always have a pop cork rigged up. If you are not catching them off the oyster bars, just try the deeper cuts and channels, and you should

at least catch smaller trout to get you on the right track to find the keepers.

We have been starting to catch some sheepshead as well. Now remember to catch these guys, you wanna fish on the bottom with the smallest hook possible, and you want a very stout hook, because sheepshead have jowls like rottweilers, and all you need for bait is just a little piece of shrimp.

I hope you guys have a very good Christmas; stay safe and healthy and God bless. If you want to go fishing or duck hunting, reach out to us, and until next time, keep it Reel Native.

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

6 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM 420 Dock Street Cedar Key, FL 32625 352-543-5142 steamerscedarkey.com info@steamerscedarkey.com Like us on Facebook! We will cook your catch. We serve fresh local Cedar Key oysters and clams. Try our delicious Gator. We get it directly from the Gator Man himself. Happy Hour Monday-Friday 3pm-7pm 2-4-1 Wells 1/2 Price Wine $2.50 Bud Light, Miller Lite, Yuengling We also offer apparel and promotional items. SIGNS BANNERS Copies Fax Forms Letterhead Envelopes Business Cards Brochures Newsletters & More Invitations -Wedding & Graduation Come see us at our new location between McDonalds and NAPA - 1517 North Young Blvd.
BEACH
Captain
HORSESHOE

SUWANNEE

It has definitely been an unusual fall season here along the Lower Suwannee River Estuary. A mid October cold front really dropped the water temps and sent the fish looking for warmer waters! But, the cold weather didn't last long, and as the waters warmed, the fish became scattered. I am asked many times if I like fishing in colder water or warmer water? I really don't care. I just want consistency, either warming or cooling, not bouncing around!

Looking at the extended forecast, after Tropical Storm Nicole clears, it shows the weather cooling, but not getting cold until the later part of December.This means, the fish will still be in an early fall pattern and will not really be moving into the creeks yet.

Look for the speckled trout to be schooled on the outside bars and reefs like the Suwannee Reef and Lone Cabbage Reef, but don't be surprised if you find the bigger fish are closer to the mouth of the Suwannee River and larger Creeks in the estuary, like Barnett and Big Trout to the south, then, Double Barrel and Bumble Bee creeks to the North.

The best bait will vary, but a good search bait is a 5/16 or ⅜ jig head paired up with a FishBites Fight Club Lure! I like to use the Butt Kicker Paddle Tail, Dirty Boxer Curly Tail and the Brawler Jerkbait. This set-up is fished quickly, with either a jigging or swimming presentation. With the heavier weight, it will cast further so you can cover more water! Once you locate the fish, you can slow your presentation, and try a couple variations to see if you can get the fish to "really turn on"!

The last couple weeks, I have been seeing nice numbers of redfish migrating into the estuary from the adjacent offshore waters. These fish are

The smile of a young man when he catches his first redfish, priceless!

easy to spot, as they will have a light red to pink color. The fish who have been living in the tannic waters of the estuary will have a deep dark red color, and their normally white bellies will have the deep golden hue of a ripe pumpkin!

At this time of the year, it's hard to beat a live shrimp when targeting redfish around the Lower Suwannee River Estuary! If artificial bait is your choice, just remember to slow down as the water temps drop!

In this holiday season, I encourage everyone to spend time together, especially outdoors along the beautiful Nature Coast of Florida! Take a kid fishing and change a life! This is important enough to me that as a Fishing Guide, I do not charge for children. So bring your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, friends or neighborhood kid down for a day of fishing fun!

Ask about other discounts I offer. Until next time, be safe and Catchemup!

Captain Tony Johns | 352-221-2510 www.lowersuwanneriverfishing.com Instagram: captaintonyjohns Facebook: Lower Suwannee River Fishing Adventures or Captain Tony Johns

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM DECEMBER 2022 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 7
A Brother and his two sisters on the boat catching fish and making memories! Christmas in Florida - available on amazon.com. Learn how early Floridians celebrated the holiday, including eating possum, importing contraband whiskey, and how different ethnic groups celebrated.
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COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM DECEMBER 2022 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 9 Disclaimer: Always wear a helmet and other safety apparel. Never drink and ride.
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With water temperatures cooling down this month, look for the inshore fishing to heat up. For me, the next few months are the most exciting time of year to target redfish on the flats and creeks. With another big rain evet in hurricane Nicole last month, we can count on some tannic water sticking around into our winter months. That doesn’t necessarily mean the water won’t clear up, but it will take some cooler days and hopefully some dry weather conditions to get there. Little rain and cold air temps would really be nice. As much as I don’t like freezing my butt off, those cold temps will kill the algae in the water, resulting in some clearer (Even if it is tannic stained), sight-fishable awesomeness. It’ll be time to go to your favorite flat, put on your polarized Bajio sunglasses and start looking for fish. This time of year, you can sleep in a bit and wait for the sun to get a little higher in the sky, to both warm up the water and make for better light to see the fish as well. Clearer water can mean spookier fish, so downsize your baits/ lures for a stealthier approach. On extreme or negative low tides, redfish, trout, and flounder will get schooled up in area creek holes. A live shrimp or mud minnow tossed into those creek holes will be hard to beat as it cools down.

When up on the flats, look for darker mud and oyster-laden bottom to be holding redfish, trout, and flounder. On sunny days those areas will warm up faster than lighter colored sand bottom, and a few degrees can really make a difference. Another benefit of dropping water temps, is the redfish will start schooling on the flats. If you know where to look, you can find huge schools of tightly packed redfish this time of year. Locate these fish from a distance by looking for “muds”

(discolored muddy water caused by moving fish) and/or pushing wakes made by moving fish. Redfish singles and doubles can also be found sunning themselves in the shallows, especially along side and on top of oyster bars. The fish will be lazy, so make sure to present your bait in a slow and methodical manner. When I spot a stationary fish, I like to cast long of him, and at least a few feet to either the left or right of the fish, depending on which way he's facing. Then, work the bait slowly back to where the fish is (this will help to not spook the fish). Sometimes they will like it moving a little faster, and sometimes a little slower. It’s always fun trying to find the right approach.

Trout fishing was good this past month and will continue to be strong heading into our winter months. We’ve been catching some nice trout this fall on top-water plugs like the J-Walker 120 from Berkley, and that will continue to produce some good trout under lower light conditions. As it really cools, one of my favorite trout lures is the Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad paddle tail. The tail has a ton of thump, and the trout just can’t resist it. The jig-jig-pause method works best for me. Target creek mouths, ICW banks, and any type of structure with moving water, and you’ll be sure to find some trout hanging out.

Sheepshead fishing should really start to get good this month. Target area bridges, docks, and pilings with fiddler crabs to catch the tasty porgies.

Be sure to check out my Daily Fishing Reports online @www. InshoreAdventures.net.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good bite!

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

This December should be better than any in the recent past. The mullet run is over and most of the big predators have also moved on. When the sharks and bluefish moved on, the pompano started hitting the beach. This pompano run, being later in the year, should make it last well into this month.

For pomps, whiting, and black drum, clams and sand fleas have been the bait of choice. On cold winter days, catching fleas in the surf can be difficult if not impossible, especially this year. Concentrate your efforts on warm sunny afternoons to catch these little mole crabs, aka sand fleas.

Fresh clams are so easy to catch and are deadly in the surf. To catch them, simply drive to your favorite seafood shop. The only rule in buying them, is the bigger the better; 3 to 5 inches across the shell is what you want. To get to the good stuff, simply smash them together. With a 3-inch clam, you’ll get two baits. A 5 inch one will yield up to four baits. To make clam strips, cut across the tough part called the foot. The bait should be about ½ to 1 inch. Stick your 2/0 circle hook through the tough foot part.

All winter long, these clams will produce, because you’ll be matching the hatch. The whiting,

drum, pomps, and redfish are all eating small clams in the surf. People call them periwinkles or coquina. They are actually donax clams. Extra-large frozen clams will work, but not as good as fresh.

As long as the water temp stays above 60 degrees, the big redfish will hang around. For slot reds, use a 4/0 or 5/0 circle hook with a quarter of a blue crab. For the huge oversize ones a 7/0 circle tipped with half a crab or a 5-inch chunk of whiting is very productive. The head half of a whiting l will last much longer because everything small will be munching on it, until the bull redfish shows up. Set you drag light, because these big red pigs have been running up to 35 pounds.

This month should be very productive. Just watch out for the Nor’easters that blow over 15 mph. Especially when there is a high tide. On warm sunny days during a high pressure system, it will be game on!

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 www.TheSurfAngler.com

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM DECEMBER 2022 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 11
ST. AUGUSTINE
& PIER
SURF

CRYSTAL RIVER

HOMOSASSA

Hello from Crystal River. I hope everybody’s enjoying the fall and the cooler temperatures.

The trout bite has been good and will continue to get better as we go into the later part of the year, and the beginning of the new year.

When targeting trout this time of year, I always look for a good hard bottom and shallow water. As the tide comes in, I continue to push east, staying with that 12-to-24-inch range. I use mirrorlure provokers and DOA jerk baits, nose hooked with 20 pound fluorocarbon leader. Very rarely do I use any type of live bait when trout fishing. As the water temperature begins to drop into the lower 60s to the high 50s ,I’ll switch over to Mirrordine suspending twitch baits, and like always, if you think you’re working the baits slow, go slower.

The redfish and snook bite has been great and they have begun to push back into the creeks. While targeting redfish and snook in our area, I target the same locations, with the snook sometimes being further back in the into the east.

When targeting reds this time of year, I usually use a 16-ounce jig head tipped with the shrimp, or a mirrorlure little Jon. Bourbon is usually my color choice. Like always, I’m looking for mullet and signs of life, paying attention to the birds and following the mullet into creeks. That’s usually where I’ll find the reds. Hope everyone gets a chance to get out on the water and catch some fish. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I, and some of Crystal River’s best guides, run out of the Plantation on Crystal River, and we all have days

available. Look us up, book a trip and come stay a few nights at the Plantation

Capt. James Kerr 352-362-6893

Citrusfishingchaters.com

Man, time flies when you’re having fun! I can’t believe the end of the year is here already. December should bring us into the transition time of the year. Fish historically start moving into the rivers, or river mouths to stay in the warmer water. With the higher chances of cold fronts dropping down, we will start having fluctuating water temperatures. This time of the year, I like to target areas like, the mouth of Homosassa, the mouth of Mason Creek, and the mouth of St. Martins.

Trout should be concentrating to the hard yellow bottom with rock grass around these creek mouths. If the tides are low, the 5.5 DOA Cal in glow rigged on a 3/0 j hook works well. If we have decent tides, cork rigs should do the job for trout.

Redfish won’t be too far off the same areas. Shrimp under a cork or free lined will do the trick. I will look for rocky points around the main river, Mason Creek and Blue Bay. Sight fishing can be a lot of fun during the winter months in between fronts. With the clear water and blue bird skies it’s a great time of the year to stalk fish.

If the water temperatures dive down, the rivers should start having some good action. Look for bends in the river on the rocky points for snapper, redfish, sheepshead, trout and black drum. Shrimp rigged on a jig head will keep you busy. Mirror Deans in these same areas could bring you success with snook as well!

December will be the last month to harvest Grouper. Grouper fishing should still be good through the end of the season. Mid 60s water temperatures should be ideal for shallow water grouper fishing. With the cooler water temps, the floating grass should be limited and will allow for more trolling and casting shallow plugs.

Full moon is December 8th and the New Moon is December 23rd. Hopefully this year has been good to you and 2023 will be even better. I hope that you can get some time on the water with family and friends and enjoy the holidays! As always stay safe.

Merry

Christmas Capt. Stump 352-403-2073 www.captainjhamilton.com

12 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

Another year has come and gone, and it just flew by for us here in old Florida. The fishing has been nothing short of epic, with a variety on each day that any angler could appreciate. I am very blessed to call this place my home, and to share that with the ones I love and care about, each and every season.

Inshore the redfish have been in a steady transition phase for over a month, and with no consistent weather pattern, I believe it may last till year’s end. As we get a cold front and then two weeks of warmer weather, the fish get very confused on where to be or where to stage. After a hard cold front and a drastic water temperature drop, I will fish deep into the creeks, and while some amazing fish live back here all season, the variety of different fish and the amount of the desired fish to catch, will increase with a water temperature drop. After a week or so of warm weather I will focus toward the mouths of the creeks and open flats, looking for tailing fish in the shallow areas outside the mouths. Inside the creeks, a skitterwalk topwater by rapala or a slayer inc. paddle-tail in a natural pattern seems to always remain tried and true!

The trout bite inshore has been fair with easy limits and most fish holding along the rock grass and the edges of deep holes. A popping cork and a live shrimp, or a gulp jerkshad with a 1/16 oz. lead head, gets the job done year after year. Nearshore, the grouper bite has been fair. With some super quality

fish coming on the troll and casting big paddle-tails of all varieties at the rocks. Everything you need is always stocked in downtown Inglis at Captains Cove Outfitters. With a friendly staff, all it takes is a few questions and you’ll be on the right path to success, no matter what you want to target!

Capt. Andrew Fagan

Instagram : Capt_redfishdrew

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KEATON BEACH

Trout are confused as of late, with large trout coming from 5 to 6 feet of water, and yet the same day we are catching keepers right off the hill. Larger trout seem to be mixed with the mullet and reds, which means they are taking advantage of the muddied waters from the mullet, to ambush whatever the reds leave for them. Reds typically take up around mullet schools to pick off the crabs, and whatever the mullet spook, especially in water less than 3 feet deep, which is exactly where and how we found the red for Davey Jones of Lake City this week, despite 20 plus knot w-i-n-d-s.

Couple of tips for fishing high W-i-n-d-s : First, select water that is clean enough for the fish to see at least 2 to 3 feet visibility. Use solid colors if you are throwing plastic, (No need to be sneaky as the fish don’t have but a few seconds each cast to find your offerings, as the light is greatly reduced with the wind howling over 20 knots.)

Next, add a Cajun Thunder, or your favorite float to the jig and grub combos to keep the bait in the strike zone longer. Use a little stiffer rod and the highest speed reel 6.0:1 ratio or higher that you have in your arsenal. Larger reels, 4000 or 400 class will take up line much faster when you need to set the hook on live bait or on jig and float combos in high winds. Drift socks or drag a 5-gallon pickle

bucket will help slow your drift to a manageable speed.

December will see water temps in the 60s, with the occasional dip into the 50s, so slow down and fish suspending plugs and plastic. MirrOlure’s Paul Brown series are deadly in cold water as are the MirrOdine and Catch series. Use scent on your soft plastics . For me, that is BANG in the crawfish or Shrimp flavor.

Christmas? How bout a gift certificate for One More Cast guide service?

Meanwhile, Let's Go Fishing!

Pat McGriff dba One More Cast guide service for 30 years! www.onemorecast.net onemorecast@gtcom.net cell: 850.838.7541

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Jones of Lake City, Florida with a nice 23 inch red caught in 22 knot winds Tuesday November 8, 2022 Raul Castro of Orlando with a fine trout caught November 5th.
16 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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What Did We Name Our Boats in 2022?

With recreational boating season coming to a close across much of the country, BoatUS compiled a list of the top-10 boat names ordered this season through its online boat graphics service. Here are the rankings.

1) Andiamo: Meaning “let’s go/we go /come on” in Italian, Andiamo remains in the No. 1 spot from last year’s list. It’s also a happy refrain heard from the person behind the helm as they put the throttle down and head to open waters.

2) Osprey: is year was the rst time Osprey has made the top10. In a unique twist, Osprey bumped last year’s No. 2 boat name, Social Distancing, completely o the list. ’Nu said, right?

3) Serenity: is No. 3 name is so popular it has made the top 10 seven times since 2010, tying the record with Second Wind. Yep, you guessed it – both are popular with sailboat owners.

4) Encore: Also a newcomer to the top-10 this year, Encore may be the boat name of choice for an entertainer. Or, it could indicate the “next” boat – either satisfying the three-foot-itis or scaling down, or maybe even coming back to boat owning a er a hiatus.

5) Zephyr: Last appearing on the top-10 in 2010, sailors will welcome this reference to a gentle breeze back to the list.

6) Second Wind: Is this boat named for a new chapter in life or achievement? A comeback? A new strength? We’ll never know for sure, but gosh is it perennially popular.

7) Adventure: A boat with this name is usually out of the slip every weekend putting miles of water under the keel.

8) Knot on Call: is boat name serves as a notice that on-the-water time can’t be tampered with. Of unique importance, the owner of this boat can silence their cellphone ring in just under two seconds.

9) Shenanigans: Quit fooling around. Shenanigans are a part of every boating culture.

10) Grace: In its fourth appearance on the top-10 boat names list since 2010, Grace likely holds deep meaning for vessels with beautiful lines or for those that navigate with nesse. is is the one boat in the marina that also makes docking look easy.

For a look at all of the BoatUS Top-10 Boat Names lists over the years, visit BoatUS.com/BoatNames.

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This Isn’t the PANFISH of Your Youth

More o en than not, pan sh were the sh that introduced most anglers to the sport. e term “pan sh” is used to describe any of the commonly found species that usually never grow bigger than the size a frying pan. Most of them are legal to keep, regardless of size.

ese are species known as sun sh, bluegills, red eyes, rock bass, pumpkinseeds and countless other names, o en depending on the region. But this article is about a di erent kind of pan sh, and one that was naturally found only in other countries.

e Mayan cichlid is native to southeastern Mexico and the waters of Central America’s Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Guatemala. e rst reported non-indigenous population was recorded here in Florida Bay in 1983. Due to their adaptability and south Florida’s favorable climate and water conditions, they now can be found in great numbers from the canals in Miami to the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, and almost all inland waters between.

Mayan cichlids are a freshwater species, but are known to thrive under a variety of environmental conditions, from a wide range of salinity to low oxygen conditions, and therefore can inhabit most waters in this region.

is oval-shaped sh has spiny anal and dorsal ns, and it ranges in color from olive green to a light brown, with darker vertical bars. During breeding season, their colors become vibrant, and their throats and n edges glow bright red to orange, which earned them the nickname “atomic sun sh” or “orange tiger.” Similar to their cousins the peacock bass and the oscar, they sport a black spot and ring on the tail to confuse predators. e Mayan’s spot is black with a turquoise ring.

Mayan cichlids are a very attractive sporting species that o ers strong ghts on light and y shing tackle. Mayans readily take a variety of natural baits as well as small arti cial lures and ies. e countless canals, lakes and neighborhood ponds of south Florida are full of these amazing little ghters and many other species. I am a y sherman, and Clouser’s Minnow or any small bait sh pattern, along with a Gurgler work well for this aggressive feeder.

I would recommend an out t in the 7/8 weight range, because cichlids share these waters with much larger species. It’s common to catch snook, juvenile tarpon, tilapia and largemouth bass in these locations.

Mayan cichlids are not considered invasive, although they are nonnative. ey have no season or bag limit, and harvest is encouraged. ey have white aky meat with a mild avor and are considered very good table fare.

I will not o er an opinion on just how this species found its way to this region, but I believe they’re here to stay. We might as well sh for them.

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COLD FRONTS BRING BLACK DRUM TO THE INLETS

With the mullet run over and the cold setting in, our target species begin to change. Most of the high-energy sh like jacks and tarpon slow down during winter. So we turn our attention to already slow bottom-feeding sh that aren’t as a ected by cooler water. Black drum are a highly praised bottom-feeder. Not only do they taste delicious, they grow to amazing trophy size.

Black drum are in the drum family with red sh, but they are di erent in appearance and their way of living. Black drum have a high arched back compared to most sh that levels out toward the tail. ese sh are a darkish gray or black with some tones of brown that fade to a lighter belly. Normally, juveniles have four to six vertical bars on their side, similar to sheepshead. e bars fade with age.

Black drum have barbels or whiskers on their lower jaw like cat sh. ese barbels are used to smell mollusks and other prey in the sand, which the drum digs out. ey then use rows of molar-like pharyngeal teeth to crush mussels, crabs and other hard-shelled creatures. ese teeth line the top and bottom of their mouths and can extend to the back of their throat.

Black drum live from Texas all the way up past New Jersey. ey congregate around structures like bridges and docks. However, they also can be found in bays, river mouths, oyster beds and along beaches. Juveniles are mostly found in estuaries.

As these sh begin to spawn in the colder months, they move toward owing inlets. Just like red drum, they participate in mass free-spawning, where they release sperm and eggs while grouped together in owing water. e pre-spawn move to the inlets gives anglers plenty of time to target them in groups.

Jalon Tomlinson enjoys targeting black drum during peak season. He said shing is best during cold fronts on an outgoing tide. He uses a chicken rig with a 3- to 4-ounce pyramid sinker or a Carolina rig with a 3-ounce egg sinker and a 2/0 hook. He recommends a 40-pound leader because powerful sh heavier than 30-pounds are a real possibility. Ideal baits are fresh dead shrimp or old stinky shrimp. However, Tomlinson has also caught them on crabs and sand eas.

Tomlinson catches some monster drum with this technique, but he prefers to keep the 14- to 28-inchers because they’re better to eat. In Florida, there is a daily bag limit of ve per harvester, with a slot size of 14 to 24 inches. One sh is allowed over the 24-inch slot.

e IGFA all-tackle world record black drum weighed an amazing 113 pounds, 1 ounce and was caught out of Lewes, Delaware.

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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SNOOK SEASONS CLOSE

Florida seasons for snook harvest close this month in state and federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

e Gulf snook season closure date is Dec. 1, and snook harvest will remain closed through the end of February in Gulf state and adjacent federal waters. e Atlantic snook season is closed Dec. 15 through Jan. 31 in state and adjacent federal waters. Special regulations for di erent zones exist for this species, so be sure to check current regulations online at MyFWC.com.

When snook season re-opens, anglers who wish to harvest a snook must have a snook permit in addition to a recreational shing license. ere is a slot limit of not less than 28 inches or more than 33 inches total length. e daily bag limit is 1 per harvester per day with zero captain and crew for-hire limit.

For more information, go to MyFWC.com.

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM DECEMBER 2022 FLORIDA 19
Photo courtesy of Richard Matteson

LURES

FIGHTING FISH AT LONG DISTANCE

It’s on! You made a very long cast, and within a few cranks a sh grabs your lure and you’re engaged in a ght!

Long distance lures allow you to hook-up with sh other anglers can’t reach, but ghting sh with so much line out presents complications, mostly in the form of environmental elements the angler does not control.

If you’re shing from a at sandy beach on a calm day with no waves, little current and no oating sargassum, then nothing is di erent. Just ght the sh and enjoy it. But when ghting a sh at great distance, elements like current or obstacles such as rocks or weeds become magni ed threats to successfully landing the sh. e more line you have in the water, the less direct in uence you have on the sh. e sh has more freedom to swim sideways or even directly at you. ere’s a greater chance your line will snag an encrusted boulder or load up with oating grass. Ripping currents and wave action are more pronounced during the ght, and sh—especially bigger ones— will use this to pull away.

Here are tactics to better ght sh from long distances.

• Keep the rod tip up and hold it high to keep as much line as possible out of the water or high in the water column. is limits the risk of snags and reduces drag on the line. I sometimes put the rod butt against my shoulder and hold the rod almost vertically to gain as much height as possible.

• When a sh swims or is pushed by waves or current into a snag-prone area, it’s o en counter productive to crank down and pull directly against the sh. Pulling hard works OK on small or mediumsized sh, but with larger sh I like to angle the rod horizontally and

sideways in the direction the sh is going. It’s like judo in that you use the sh’s momentum against it. By pulling the sh sideways, instead of directly against it, it will curve toward you. is is unconventional, but it has saved sh for me a number of times.

• When sh use strong currents during the ght, walk with them. Try to walk the same speed the sh is moving with the current and continue picking up line.

• Use a power-pull to put a lot of pressure on big sh. Keep the rod at a 30 to 45 degree angle from horizontal, and walk backward at constant speed. When I was guiding in Africa for tiger sharks and giant tarpon, this was the best way to bring sh closer to shore.

Legendary angler Patrick Sebile is a world record holder and an award-winning designer of innovative lures and shing gear. Check out his creations at abandofanglers.com.

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PATRICK SEBILE A Band of Anglers pro team member Jim Louro, of Vicki Lynn Sport shing, caught this big striped bass with a long cast from the beach.

Perhaps Florida anglers are getting used to the regulations changes that closed fall harvest of ounder for the rst time last year. With a 45-day closure during the peak of the fall spawning movements, keeping ounder is by design illegal when it’s easiest to catch them. e season closure ran Oct. 15 through Nov. 30, and many Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic states enacted similar closures in the face of several years of falling ounder numbers. So, while you likely didn’t get to enjoy stu ed ounder at the anksgiving feast, you should be able to go catch, or gig, a doormat to serve at Christmas.

Starting Dec. 1, ounder harvest is allowed with a 14-inch minimum size limit and a daily bag limit of ve sh per person. ese regulations apply in state and federal waters o Florida. Legal gear includes spears, gigs, hook and line, seine and cast nets.

For more information, go to MyFWC.com.

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Chipola River Shoalies are on the Comeback

If you’re not familiar with shoal bass, they are a distinct species of black bass that evolved to inhabit the riverine shoals of the Apalachicola River Basin in Florida. ey are considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission because they are native only to one drainage worldwide, and habitat in that drainage was forever altered by dams.

e Chipola River, which roughly bisects the Panhandle to join the Apalachicola River at Sumatra, Fla., is home to Florida’s only known

reproducing population of shoal bass, and it is potentially the species’ most genetically pure population. Farther north, Georgia’s Chattahoochee and Flint rivers are part of the same drainage. ere, shoal bass are considered an excellent sport sh. ey grow to weights heavier than 9-pounds and o er a unique opportunity for anglers, especially y shers, because they inhabit swi -water shoals and will readily slam arti cial lures, topwaters and ies.

Shoal bass are in trouble in Florida, and FWC is on the case. In 2018, the Chipola River population of shoal bass was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Michael. Impacts from the storm resulted in nearly a 90 percent decline in the population. In May, 2022, biologists with the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management released 3,300 1- to 2-inch genetically pure, hatchery-spawned shoal bass from the Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center into the Chipola River.

Recent sampling discovered the released sh have made a signi cant contribution to the existing population. DNA analysis of n clips taken from shoal bass collected during these sampling events con rmed that 65 percent of the yearlings collected were from sh produced and released by Blackwater Hatchery. ese stocked shoal bass had grown to 4 to 6 in the four months since being stocked. Additionally, data suggests these stocked sh may comprise nearly 20 percent of the entire shoal bass population in the river.

“ e shoal bass population in the Chipola River has become a top priority of sheries biologists within the northwest region of Florida since Hurricane Michael,” said Fisheries Biologist Andy Strickland. “Management actions to suspend harvest and successfully stock shoal bass have yielded positive results for this unique black bass species.”

FWC biologists anticipate stocking additional hatchery reared shoal bass in the Chipola River in the spring of 2023 to increase the number of genetically pure sh in the population and eventually restore population numbers to pre-Hurricane Michael levels.

Currently a catch-and-release-only regulation is in e ect for shoal bass on the Chipola River and its tributaries.

To learn more, visit MyFWC/Freshwater.

22 FLORIDA DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

Florida Angler Ties Georgia Pompano Record

In November the Georgia Department of Natural Resources certi ed a sh that tied the state record for Florida pompano. e sh, which weighed 1 pound, 7.68 ounces, was caught by a Florida woman who was at St. Simons Island, Ga. volunteering at a youth shing tournament.

Cathy Sanders, of Palm Coast, Fla., landed her record-tying pomp while surf shing on St. Simons Island on Oct. 9. Her catch tied the previous record holder, Laura Cheek, who landed a 1-pound, 7-ounce pompano on Sea Island in 1982. Sanders’ pompano was 12 inches fork length.

Sanders was volunteering with the Kids Can Fish Foundation’s Running of the Bulls youth tournament when she caught the sh. She was surf shing with a 12-foot Okuma Rockaway rod and Okuma Rockaway 6000 reel. As bait, she used Fishbites EZ Crab (Electric Chicken) with Sinker Guys glass beads and salted shrimp on 20-pound high visibility mono lament. Her terminal rig was a 2/0 circle hook on a double drop rig with 3-ounce Guy Sputnik sinker.

Under the rules of the Georgia Saltwater Game Fish Records Program, Sanders’ catch quali ed as a tie because it weighed more than the current record, but did not exceed the record by more than 4 ounces.

e IGFA all-tackle world record Florida Pompano weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces. It was caught by Barry Huston in St. Joe Bay, Fla. in 1999.

See Georgia’s saltwater records at CoastalGaDNR.org/SaltwaterRecords.

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The question of lure size is o en pondered in the shing world. Di erent circumstance requires a di erent mentality, but one thing is for certain, the sh did not read any articles, attend any seminars or watch that YouTube video. ey eat what they want, when they want, but I have an approach that I nd useful in deciphering the riddle.

As winter approaches, it brings changes to our estuaries: cooler water temps, a change in the type and abundance of forage, less pressure from boaters, and in some areas, much better water clarity. ere are two trains of thought on lure size when it comes to winter shing in the bays. Should I go bigger or smaller? I know anglers who immediately upsize for the entire season, while others downsize for its duration.

Both can be e ective, but here is how I typically tackle early winter shing.

Cooling water temps and increasing frequency of cold fronts put the sh on both spectrums of the feeding attitude. Unlike more stable weather patterns, when sh are less a ected and feed more consistently, these fronts can make them, for a lack of a better term, moody.

Late fall and early winter can be some of the best inshore shing of the year. Schools of

bait ushed from the bays with the dropping tides are followed by hungry specks and reds. In these situations, I like to use a smaller lure. Generally, they feed on shrimp or smaller bait sh, and having a lure of similar size is a good idea. When they are following these schools, I like non-natural colors so the sh have something to key in on when bait is abundant. I like my lure’s color to stand out in the fall feeding frenzy.

Now, for the other end of the mood swing, the inactive period caused by post-frontal conditions. is is another situation when I favor smaller lures in early winter. When the bite is o , smaller o erings entice bites from non-aggressive sh. Using myself as an example, if I am not hungry, the chance of me driving to a restaurant for a steak dinner are slim, but I might grab a few peanuts for a quick bite just because they are on the counter.

e nal reason is clearer water. Some bays I sh will have 1 to 2 feet of clear-green water in the summer, but 6 to 7 feet of air-clear water in winter. ese sh are not accustomed to this transitional clarity. When I can see my lure bouncing in the sand in depths of 7 feet, a much smaller lure will produce more bites.

I hope these tips help you catch more sh this winter, and next month I will explain my transition to larger lures as we press deeper into winter’s grip.

10 NATIONAL DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
Big
Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures®, Controlled Descent Lures™, and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.
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On a recent trip to Tucson, we spoke with fourth generation turquoise traders who explained that less than five percent of turquoise mined worldwide can be set into jewelry and only about twenty mines in the Southwest supply gem-quality turquoise. Once a thriving industry, many Southwest mines have run dry and are now closed.

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MONSTER SMALLIE IS GREAT LAKES RECORD

Ohio Angler Gregg Gallagher caught a 10.15-pound smallmouth bass on Nov. 3 that once certi ed should be a new Lake Erie record. e 23 ¾-inch sh is also the largest bronzeback ever caught from the Great Lakes.

Gallagher told In-Fisherman his was the result of his son’s extensive time surveying bait and bottom structure. With sonar, they were able to do what some call video-game shing and target individual sh with drop shot rigs. He was shing 8-pound test.

“With an abundance of bait sh and unique bottom composition located a er long days behind the graphs, we dropped down our forward-facing sonar and we were able to individually target these pelagicesque smallmouth,” he told In-Fisherman. “On what turned out to be the most memorable cast of my life, my bait got hit before it even hit the bottom and my rod quickly doubled over. I honestly thought I had hooked into a sheephead and not a smallmouth. We quickly learned we had just caught the smallmouth of a lifetime.”

e monster smallmouth is the only certi ed 10-plus-pounder ever caught from the Great Lakes. It should beat out the Canadian record of 9.84 pounds, which was set 68 years ago. It is also heavier than the Ohio state record, which weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught in 1993.

e world record smallmouth bass weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces. It was caught from Tennessee’s Dale Hollow Lake in 1955.

12 NATIONAL DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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5 WINTERTIME FISHERIES

Instead of spending the next few months holed up inside, get yourself a good parka, nd a window of decent weather and go shing. Believe it or not, for some sheries winter o ers some of the best action of the year. Here are a few ideas to help you combat cabin fever.

1) Wintertime Wahoo:

is time of year, wahoo pile up around the Bahamas. Some of the largest sh of the year will show up over the next couple of months.

High-speed trolling is the technique that allows captains to cover lots of water along rocky ledges, color changes, temperature breaks and dropo s. ’Hoos hunt in packs, so multiple hook-ups and double-digit days are possible. is shery requires some forethought and perhaps some exibility. ey bite best around the full and new moons, but you’ll de nitely want to avoid fronts and those wicked north winds.

2) South Florida Sailfsh: From

December

through February

the Atlantic Coast of South Florida becomes one of the best sail sh destinations in the world. Release ags will be ying along the edge of the Gulf Stream from roughly Fort Pierce down through the Keys.

For this bite, you’ll want to sh when the weather’s a little rough. With strong winds from the north, tailing conditions push sail sh high in the water column to feed. ey surf the swells and it’s possible to sight sh for them, which is about as exciting as shing gets.

3) The Outer Banks: In winter, North Carolina’s Outer Banks are the destination for several migrations which bring excellent shing to the island chain from Oregon Inlet down past Ocracoke.

Out of Hatteras, it’s a short ride out to the edge of the Gulf Stream, and this time of year tuna congregate there to feast on a bounty of bait sh. Big blue n tuna 200 pounds and larger are on the prowl, and anglers can also do battle with black n, yellow n and bigeye tunas.

At the same time, big schools of striped bass will be marauding bait sh on the beaches and in the inlets. Surf anglers can encounter them blitzing menhaden by looking for bait and birds. Charter boats do good business this time of year trolling while keeping eyes peeled for stripers herding and crashing bait balls.

4) South Padre Island, Texas: Way down on the Mexican border, South Padre Island is as far south as you can go in Texas. e winters are mild and the shing is good year-round.

When water temps drop, snook pile into the canals and school up. ese schools of sh can be giant, and they are suckers for arti cials. At the same time, the grass ats experience the clearest water of the year. Red sh, big trout and black drum cruise the ats, where anglers can sight sh them in shin-deep water.

5) Delayed Harvest Trout: On the East Coast from Maryland down to Georgia, most states have developed robust delayed harvest trout sheries which keep y shers on the stream through the winter. ese specially regulated sheries are catch-and-release only through the cooler months and most of them have single-hook, arti cial-only regulations.

Most delayed harvest streams are heavily stocked, usually with some largerthan-normal hatchery sh. Since you can’t keep them, they stay in the creeks and rivers all winter long. Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia are some of the states with excellent delayed harvest programs. See the state wildlife agency websites for information.

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM DECEMBER 2022 NATIONAL 13

TROUBLED ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS STOCKS TREND UPWARD

For the rst time in a while, sheries managers are reporting some good news about striped bass populations on the Atlantic Coast. In early November, e Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) accepted an updated 2022 stock assessment that looks good enough that no additional harvest cuts will be needed.

is stock assessment found that rock sh stocks are still over shed but they are not currently experiencing over shing. e female spawning biomass appears to have been on a modest upward trend for at least the last three years, but at an estimated 143 million pounds is still far below the 235-million-pound target for rebuilding.

Total mortality in 2021 from commercial and recreational shing was estimated at 0.14, which is below the mortality threshold of 0.20 as well as below the mortality target of 0.17.

What does this mean for anglers?

Currently, a reduction in catch is not needed, and the rebuilding program is on schedule to declare the striped bass stock rebuilt by 2029.

“ is 2022 assessment was the rst check-in point for progress toward stock rebuilding by 2029,” said Board Chair Marty Gary with the River Fisheries Commission. “It is extremely important shery removals and conduct regular stock assessments to keep evaluating rebuilding progress and stay on track.”

e next stock assessment update is scheduled for 2024, and the Board will review the 2022 removals as soon as the data are available to evaluate whether catch remains at sustainable levels.

The Return of a

For more information, visit www.asmfc.org.

14 NATIONAL DECEMBER 2022 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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