Coastal Angler Magazine | January 2020 | North Central Florida/ Nature Coast Edition

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST EDITION

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Winter's

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Photo courtesy of Big Ol’ Fish Guiding Service, bigolfish.com

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hether saltwater or fresh, good striper fishing awaits those hearty enough to brave winter on the water. So layer-up, zip into that parka and go. Some of the biggest fish of the year are feeding right now. On the southern end of their fall migration, striped bass are holed up for the winter off North Carolina. They’ll be chowing down and following schools of bait up and down the coast from Wilmington to the Outer Banks. Many years, Oregon Inlet sets up as the epicenter for the bite, but striped bass can be found in most area inlets. The key is to follow the birds and find bass blowing up on menhaden, glass minnows or eels. The action can sometimes come in close enough that surf casters can catch stripers from the beaches of the Outer Banks, but the best bet is to hire a local captain with recent intel and a fast boat. A little farther south, Wilmington offers another option, as stripers pile into the Cape Fear River, where they hold around structure, drop-offs and creekmouths and can be caught on artificials or even flies. These resident fish are a separate group from the highly migratory fish that winter off the Outer Banks. Cape Fear stripers are catch-and-release only, and must be returned to the water immediately. Keep an eye out for tagged stripers swimming these waters. Finally, on freshwater reservoirs across the Southern states and up through the Mid-Atlantic, fisheries stocked with striped bass produce pretty well for anglers this time of year. While smaller schoolie-sized stripers tend to get tough during the coldest temperatures of the year, the larger fish will still feed. The action won’t be as fast as dropping downlines to massive summertime schools, but the fish that do eat tend to be larger. Tactics will vary depending on the fishery, but when water temperatures stabilize or during a warming trend of a few days, the biggest fish in the lake tend to move up shallow—sometimes very shallow— behind schools of small shad. Find the flickering shad, and you’ll find the stripers. Sometimes you’ll see them plucking bait near the surface. Stealth is imperative in catching them, and a soft plastic such as a Fluke will usually out-produce live baits in such situations. It’s easier to cast and slowly retrieve an artificial. Another popular tactic is to cover a lot of water trolling wide spreads of small live baits or pulling an umbrella rig loaded with swimbaits, or both. When prospecting like this, it’s wise to seek out good information on where the stripers are holding. On many lakes they spend winters down by the dam. On others, you might find them way up in the creeks.

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12/10/19 9:01 AM


It’s boat show time! And the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which produces 18 boat and sportshows across the country, is investing in more experiences and education than ever to meet the desires of attendees and inspire the next generation of the boating workforce. Attendee favorites will return, too, from fishing ponds to Super Thursdays. Here are some 2020 show season highlights. • With a need for skilled workers in the marine industry (more than 31K open jobs), NMMA boat shows are expanding Boating Career Days, offering the chance for students and job seekers to learn more about opportunities in the boating industry, get career advice from marine professionals and check out job openings. Last year the program attracted more than 550 students across eight shows. In 2020, the program is expanding to 14 markets: New York, Baltimore, St. Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, Louisville, Atlanta, New England, Atlantic City, Minneapolis, Northwest, Miami, Norwalk and Tampa. • New for 2020, NMMA is introducing The Discover Boating Experience (DBX), the “Hub for Boaters,” an educational marketplace that provides space to mingle, enjoy expert seminars, explore new products, learn boat care, discover new technologies, learn to navigate a boat show and more. DBX offers a place to relax and have a drink while enjoying a variety of topics, inspirational stories and live music. • The Progressive Boat House features an Occulus Rift Virtual Reality boat race game, the Annapolis School of Seamanship’s expert seminars and a docking pool with a remote-control boat and helm station to master docking skills. • Returning favorites include free fishing for kids and special deals, like $5 tickets after 5 p.m. and Super Thursday, offering deeper discounts, exclusive pricing and incentives. • Ongoing education for boaters and anglers of all skill levels is a hallmark of NMMA boat shows with free daily seminars.

The Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show, Presented by West Marine cruises into the docks at Miami Marine Stadium Feb. 13-17. Great deals and hands-on experience with hundreds of boats and the associated gear are the big annual draw. Highlights of the 2020 boat show include:

• Costa Conservation Village will showcase the work of some of Florida’s leading environmental organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, Captains for Clean Water, and Costa’s Kick Plastic program.

• Presentations on sustainable seafood from esteemed Chef Allen Susser and an opportunity to get a signed copy of his new cookbook, “Green Fig and Lionfish: Sustainable Caribbean Cooking.”

• Junior Captains Program, where kids ages 13-17 can learn to operate a boat with Annapolis School of Seamanship.

• Boat US on-water training with Intro To Boating, Women on the Water and Precision Docking.

• The Progressive Boathouse, offering boating seminars, a remote-control docking pond and an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality boat race game.

• Wining and dining at three full-service, sit down restaurants at

the Show including: Latin Café, V&E Restaurant Group Showcasing menu items from Havana 1957 & La Cerveceria De Barrio and SuViche featuring select menu items from Novecento.

• For more information, visit www.MiamiBoatShow.com.

For more information and the schedule of 2020 NMMA boat shows, visit to www.boatshows.com. 4

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The easiest way to find bait when you’re ready to go fishing is by using the new Baitfinder App, available for free download on both Apple and Android devices. Bait shops are the best possible resource for local information on what’s biting, and on what bait, to ensure you have the right equipment and knowledge before you head out to target a specific species of fish. Everything about Baitfinder is designed for anglers, by anglers, allowing all bait shops in your area to advertise their bait availability in real-time. There’s no more last-minute anxiety about locating bait or driving all over to locate the bait you’re looking for. Anglers can reserve their bait of choice prior to getting to their favorite bait shop to pick it up, and it’s all easily done on the app! Let your friends know of this free app, and encourage all your local bait shops to enroll at: WWW.BAITFINDER.COM

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By Nick Carter

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otivating yourself can be tough when daytime temperatures fall into the low 20s and ice forms on the edges of Southern tailwater trout fisheries. Even on these dam-fed systems, where water temperatures remain relatively consistent, trout become difficult when tiny midges are the primary food source. But there’s a phenomenon that occurs on some tailwaters that makes fishing the cold snaps worth sucking ice out of your guides. It’s called a shad kill. When it happens every fish in the river takes part in the feast. Shad kills are caused by extended cold weather. When air temperatures drop into the teens or lower for several days in a row, baitfish in reservoirs that feed our tailwaters suffer from plummeting water

temps. Either stunned and dying or just diving deep to find more comfortable conditions, shad and blueback herring get sucked into dam turbines. What’s washed out into the tailwater is a mix of chopped up, whole dead, and quivering stunned baitfish. “All of a sudden, they get flushed out into the tailrace. It’s like chumming the river in that upper mile or so below the dam,” said Bill Stranahan, who guides with Southeastern Anglers on Tennessee’s Hiwassee River. “Good browns and rainbows will key in on it. The ones you catch are so stuffed they look like they’re about to pop.” Fed by high-mountain winters on Appalachia Lake, the Hiwassee shad kill is a good one. In the Arkansas Ozarks, the White River sees shad kills almost every year. The Cumberland River in Kentucky and Georgia’s Chattahoochee River below Lake Lanier are two other tailwaters where trout put on the feedbag for these events. But shad kills are not like a hatch you can follow by calendar. It takes rapidly cooling water temps to disorient the numbers of baitfish necessary to be noticeable in the tailrace. During the winter’s hardest freeze, intrepid anglers should hit the water near the dam and watch for activity. “You’ll see them floating down the river stunned or dead,” said Stranahan. “Sometimes you’ll see fish coming up to the surface to swipe at them.” White and flashy are the keys to catching fish during a shad kill. White Zonkers or other bunny flies, white Woolly Buggers, anything that looks like a dead or dying baitfish will work. Stranahan said to match the size of the baitfish you see in the water and to experiment with depth and presentation. Sometimes a jerky retrieve is preferred, while other times a dead drift is the ticket. At times trout will feed on the surface, and some days call for a sinking line to get the fly down. Shad kills can be ephemeral or they can last a couple weeks when conditions are perfect. It’s the kind of thing you have to be on the water to encounter, and when it happens it brings out the biggest fish in the river.

Contact Southeastern Anglers through their website at www.southeasternanglers.com.

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after wrestling it from between the pilings, it turned toward open water. As I felt the battle shift in my favor, the line parted, likely from earlier contact with the pilings. “That can happen when you’re fishing up tight like this,” said our skipper, “but some days you have to dig in to get the big ones. Other times we’ll find them in more open water around oyster bars or in the surf.” Captiva Island, on Florida’s southwest coast, is prime territory for snook, redfish, sea trout, tarpon and a variety of other inshore species. “Our waters produce so well because we have a ton of bait, structure and opportunity here,” said Fischer, proprietor of Tarpon Fischer Charters (http:// www.tarponfischercharters.com). “Pine Island Sound, on the backside of the island, for example, has several passes that allow water and bait to flow in and out. The Peace, Myakka and Caloosahatchee rivers also empty into here. I run a lot of my charters out of South Seas Island Resorts (https://www.southseas. com) at the north end of Captiva, and from there you can be fishing in the sound or the open Gulf in a matter of minutes.” Snook and redfish top 40 inches, tarpon range from chickens to 200 pounds and sea trout are abundant. Those species are resident, noted Fischer, but come December and January, offshore action also kicks in with snapper, sheepshead, grouper, kingfish and cobia, among others. For anglers, these waters call for medium-light spinning tackle. Rig a size 3/0 J-hook or a light jighead on a 2 1/2-foot leader of 30-pound mono to freeline live baits around structure, mangroves or the surf edge. Add a 1/2-ounce splitshot two feet above the hook to get down in deeper water or stronger currents, or add a float two feet above this rig to fish the flats. If you prefer to throw lures, toss a 4-inch paddletail, Rapala Skitter Walk or Zara Spook. Fischer favors a 7 1/2-foot, 8- to 17-pound class Bull Bay rod and Shimano 4000 spinning reels for his inshore fishing. Keep in mind this area occasionally suffers from red tide blooms. “It can be here one week and gone the next.” Fischer said. “If it occurs during your visit, simply head for the cleanest water you can find.”

By Tom Schlichter

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apt. Nick Fischer nodded at a boat dock ahead. “There should be a Launching is available at South Seas Resorts (if you are staying there) or good one under there,” he said. “We had a couple there this morning from the Sanibel Island Public Boat Ramp ($5/hr. parking fee: 239-472-6397; but saw a real solid fish just before we left.” 888 Sextant Dr., Sanibel.) Nearby, the ‘Tween Waters Inn is another good spot It didn’t take long to confirm a nice snook was home. I hooked it and, to spend the night. More info at www.fortMyers-Sanibel.com.

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t’s prime time for wahoo in the sparsely populated southeastern Bahamas, where a fleet of boats shows up each winter specifically to target some of the biggest wahoo in the world. Just off San Salvador and Cat Island, precipitous ledge drops within a 15- or 20-minute boat ride from shore are a magnet for wintering wahoo. The prime wahoo season runs from November to about April, when fish are densely congregated. Triple-digit weights are not uncommon, and the average wahoo will tip the scales between 50 and 60 pounds this time of year. High-speed trolling is the name of the game. Pulling lures at 14 knots and zig-zagging along the ledge over depths from 400 to 600 feet is the kind of fishing that produces world records. Five current IGFA line-class record wahoo came from the waters off San Salvador and Cat Island. Two of those weighed more than 150 pounds. When that reel goes off, screaming from the pull of a big fish moving at 60 mph, it’s important to crank down on the drag and power it to the boat as quickly as possible. Oceanic whitetips are thick in the area, and they’re known to show up and rip a trophy fish to shreds.

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Winter can be brutal, but to the saltwater fly fisherman it can be the greatest time of year to catch some quality fish on the fly. The beaches, flats and bays are practically deserted, the “sunshine” fishermen having retreated to their firesides at the appearance of the first raindrop or snowflake. It’s time for the serious fly flingers to put on thermals, grab a fly rod, and head for the water. Two of my favorite wintertime saltwater fish are the speckled trout (or spotted seatrout) and the redfish, two game fish that thrive in cooler water and make for some great fly rod action even “when the frost is on the pumpkin.” The speckled trout is a coastal fish found on the shallow mud flats and sand flats from North Carolina to Texas. A fish generally traveling in large schools, the “speck” is capable of providing fast action on the fly whether you’re wading or fishing from a skiff, kayak or boat.

A proven way to locate the “speck” is to look for depressions, channels, holes or cuts on or along these areas. Once located, cast into them with a floating or intermediate line, a 9-foot leader and a baitfish pattern. A weedless fly like a Bent Back works well. The key to catching speckled trout in cold water is to retrieve the fly sl-o-o-o-wly using short, jerky strips. The strike is often as light as an aunt’s peck on the cheek, so keep close eye contact with your fly. Another worthy wintertime adversary is the redfish, a fish found in the same areas as the speckled trout. Redfish (red drum), can tip the scales from 5-pounds to a heavyweight of 40 pounds. These members of the croaker family take up residence near breakwaters, pier pilings, channels, estuaries and marshes. They are a great match for the fly rod. Redfish can be finicky eaters and sometimes the fly needs to be placed close to their noses, especially in colder water. An accurate cast is essential in fishing for these rascals. Come prepared with a 9- or 10-weight rod, a floating line (weight forward), a 9-foot leader and a pocket full of crab patterns, as reds favor crustaceans. Don’t hang up your fly gear at the first signs of the winter solstice. Winterize yourself and go fly fishing; it beats sitting in a chair and dreaming of warmer weather.

For more Bowman, go to

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By CAM Staff

E

veryone seems to gets excited about those spring runs, when cobia push north in their migration and can be targeted by sight while cruising the beaches. With the run-and-gun nature of these tactics, it’s arguably the most exciting way to catch them. But it’s not the most efficient. Die-hard cobia fans know that wintertime, before the big move, provides some of the best fishing of the year. Consolidated is a good way to describe cobia populations during the winter. On the Atlantic coast as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, fish have moved southward and offshore in search of comfortable water conditions.

At no other time are cobia populations so dense around the Florida Keys, but they can also be found grouped up on deeper wrecks and reefs along both Florida coasts. In the warmer waters of the Keys, deep jigging the ocean-side reefs with butterfly jigs or 1-ounce bucktails will haul up a mixed bag, which will likely include cobia, and chumming them up to the surface is also tried-and-true tactic. Out on the reef line, anchor up and drop a chum bag of chopped-up frozen baitfish and wait for the action to come to you. Cobia will show up with sharks, as well as various mackerel and snapper species. Whether it’s pinfish or shrimp, present your bait weightless, and you might want to add a wire leader for the toothy critters in the melee. Farther north on both coasts, resident cobia are schooled up and easier to locate than they are at any other time of year. Find a good winter day, with warm sunshine and calm seas, and make the run to offshore wrecks or reefs. The key to this is water temperature, so look for temperature bands with surface temps around 70 degrees, and find some good structure with bait present on the sonar. Again, chumming can bring cobia right up to the surface, which leads to fast action on live baits, but jigging is a tactic that is both fun and effective for targeting fish you actually spot on the screen more than 100 feet down. It’s quicker, cleaner and more efficient than live bait. The key to this technique is finding the magic depth where the cobia are schooled up. Drop a 2- to 6-ounce jig, depending on the current and depth, vertically to the depth you’re marking fish. Experiment with the action until they eat. Some pump a jig up with fast, short jerks, others prefer to swing it up high and let it flutter back down. Both techniques will work, and the jig should be sweetened with either a 7-inch soft-plastic trailer or a natural bait like cuttlefish. Some of the biggest cobia of the year come off wrecks and reefs in winter. So head down to the Keys or make the run offshore and catch them before they scatter with the spring run.

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By CAM Staff

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ahamian waters did not disappoint for the more than 70 anglers competing Nov. 7-10 in Bimini’s Wahoo Smackdown IX. Hosted by the historic Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Marina, more than 1,500 pounds of fish were landed during the event. A fleet of 14 boats fished, with 11 teams making it to the leaderboard. Over the two days, 108 fish were caught, the largest weighing

52.7 pounds. Team Blitzsea, out of Pompano Beach, Fla., took top team honors with their six largest of 16 fish weighing a total of 251.4 pounds. It earned them $8,200 in cash winnings. Second place Team Remain Calm, also out of Pompano Beach, Fla., earned $4,500 in cash winnings with 13 fish for a total catch weight of 238.3 pounds for their six largest. Another Pompano Beach team, Team Mi Novia, finished third, taking home $2,500 in cash winnings for a total catch of 13 fish and a total catch weight of 190.7 pounds for their six largest. Team 4 Play caught the largest fish of the tournament, at 52.7 pounds. Outstanding catch went to Indecisive for a 23.5-pound king mackerel. Top Lady Angler went to Lisa aboard Blitzsea. Top Junior Angler went to Luke Pinder aboard Bad Habit. Tournament coordinator Beth Watson said the weekend “went flawlessly,” despite some rough seas and rain with squalls up to 40 knots on Day 2. “The teams that did attend were amongst the most competitive we have seen in all of our years of hosting fishing tournaments,” she said. Tournament festivities included live local entertainment nightly, a cocktail reception for the Captains’ Meeting, a barbeque at Sharkies Bar & Grill on day one of the tournament, and a closing awards party in the Hemmingway lounge, featuring a buffet, live entertainment and a full open bar. Sponsors included David Dunleavy Performance Fishing Apparel, Juno Bait, Carey Chen Marine Artist, Morita Custom Gaffs, CS Custom Lures, Starbright, Paul Cuffaro Brand, Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grill, Mermaid Vodka, Tropic Ocean Airways and Piper’s Angels. With more than 50 record-setting catches in the waters around the island, Bimini has often been referred to as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Plans are already underway to make Wahoo Smackdown 2020 the biggest best one yet!

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COASTAL ANGLER North Central Florida/Nature Coast

Cary & Lynn Crutchfield ALACHUA, MARION, COLUMBIA, GILCHRIST, BRADFORD, DIXIE, LEVY, CITRUS

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GOODBYE 2019 AND WELCOME 2020

like the sound of 2020, don’t you? It is fast on the keyboard and I like the way it looks! As I write tonight in late 2019, we are enjoying some cooler weather. Cooler, I love; cold, not so much. For dads in the Dixie County area, see page 11 for info on the Rotary sponsored “Daddy Daughter Dance”. This event is for all girls and their fathers, or a special man in their life. For all you anglers in the Bradford County area, you owe it to yourself to visit Starke Landscape & Outdoors. They built a new building and have the largest selection of fishing tackle, and fishing apparel in your area. When you visit, tell them that I sent you. See page 9. For our readers in our southern area, See page 5 for new advertiser Gary’s Boating Center in Lake Wales. See page 10 for Rick’s Fiberglass & Marine in Old Town. Rick has been in business many years, building custom boats, as well as boat repair. Also, on page 10, see our building for rent. If you travel SR 349 north of Old Town, you will recognize it. See page 15 for an encore appearance of Lynn’s Gumbo. So perfect for a chilly January dinner and perfect for a casual dinner party, because all the prep is done ahead of time. Serve with salad and crusty bread. 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, and if you need more help, call them. They will enjoy hearing from you. Thank you to John Freeze for the beautiful lake photo. John writes CENTRAL FLORIDA INLAND, this month on page 19. May 2020 be the best year of your life. Enjoy every precious day. Lynn Crutchfield Co-Publisher Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida /Nature Coast

JANUARY 2020 EDITION

Find Your Outdoors Here! North Central Florida Nature Coast Staff SALES

Cary Crutchfield

EDITING & PRODUCTION Lynn Crutchfield

DISTRIBUTION Rosa Crisman

GRAPHIC ARTS & DESIGN Kathleen Stemley

WEB DESIGN Kristi Williams

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Bruce Butler Dr. Kevin McCarthy John Freeze Noel Kuhn Capt. Jason Clark Capt. Dan Clymer Capt. Tommy Derringer Capt. Eric Hasty Capt. Stacy Horak Capt. James Kerr Capt. Pat McGriff Capt. Brian Smith Capt. Dan Smith

CONTACT INFORMATION

crutch@coastalanglermagazine.com 352-372-4237 www.CoastalAnglerMag.com/NC-Florida

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Tide Charts Local Fishing Forecasts Monthly Recipe

Photo by: Suwannee River Water Management District


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TIDES • North Central Florida Time Height

1W 2Th

3F

4Sa

5Su

6M

7Tu

8W

4:51 AM 11:34 AM 6:05 PM 12:07 AM 5:46 AM 12:13 PM 6:45 PM 1:10 AM 6:56 AM 1:01 PM 7:33 PM 2:27 AM 8:30 AM 2:04 PM 8:28 PM 3:42 AM 10:06 AM 3:13 PM 9:23 PM 4:45 AM 11:22 AM 4:17 PM 10:13 PM 5:39 AM 12:22 PM 5:15 PM 11:00 PM 6:27 AM 1:11 PM 6:07 PM 11:44 PM

2.8 0.1 2.7 0.9 2.5 0.4 2.7 0.9 2.2 0.7 2.8 0.7 2.1 1.0 2.8 0.4 2.1 1.2 3.0 0.0 2.3 1.3 3.2 -0.4 2.5 1.3 3.4 -0.8 2.7 1.3 3.6

HERNANDO BEACH

JANUARY 2020

9Th

Time Height

7:10 AM 1:53 PM 6:54 PM 10F 12:28 AM 7:51 AM 2:32 PM 7:38 PM 11Sa 1:12 AM 8:32 AM 3:10 PM 8:21 PM 12Su 1:57 AM 9:13 AM 3:47 PM 9:05 PM 13M 2:43 AM 9:54 AM 4:23 PM 9:52 PM 14Tu 3:33 AM 10:36 AM 4:59 PM 10:42 PM 15W 4:28 AM 11:18 AM 5:35 PM 11:38 PM 16Th 5:29 AM 12:02 PM 6:15 PM

-1.1 2.8 1.2 3.7 -1.3 2.9 1.1 3.8 -1.3 2.9 1.0 3.9 -1.3 2.9 0.9 3.8 -1.1 2.9 0.7 3.7 -0.8 2.9 0.6 3.4 -0.4 2.9 0.5 3.0 0.1 2.9

KINGS BAY

High Tide -20 min Low Tide 58 min

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

CRYSTAL RIVER

WITHLACOOCHEE ENT

High Tide 36 min Low Tide 1 hr, 30 min

High Tide 7 min Low Tide 55 min

CEDAR KEY

Time Height

17F

18Sa

19Su

20M

21Tu

22W

23Th 24F

12:42 AM 6:40 AM 12:51 PM 7:01 PM 2:00 AM 8:16 AM 1:49 PM 7:57 PM 3:25 AM 10:02 AM 2:58 PM 9:00 PM 4:40 AM 11:31 AM 4:07 PM 10:01 PM 5:43 AM 12:34 PM 5:10 PM 10:57 PM 6:35 AM 1:18 PM 6:06 PM 11:48 PM 7:17 AM 1:54 PM 6:55 PM 12:34 AM 7:54 AM 2:26 PM 7:37 PM

0.4 2.6 0.5 3.0 0.2 2.2 1.0 3.0 -0.1 2.2 1.3 3.1 -0.4 2.3 1.4 3.3 -0.7 2.5 1.4 3.4 -0.9 2.6 1.3 3.5 -1.0 2.7 1.1 3.5 -1.0 2.8 1.0

NEW

Time Height

25Sa 1:16 AM 8:28 AM 2:56 PM 8:16 PM 26Su 1:55 AM 8:59 AM 3:24 PM 8:54 PM 27M 2:32 AM 9:28 AM 3:50 PM 9:31 PM 28Tu 3:10 AM 9:57 AM 4:17 PM 10:08 PM 29W 3:50 AM 10:26 AM 4:43 PM 10:47 PM 30Th 4:33 AM 10:56 AM 5:12 PM 11:31 PM 31F 5:20 AM 11:28 AM 5:44 PM

3.5 -0.9 2.8 0.8 3.5 -0.8 2.8 0.7 3.4 -0.6 2.8 0.7 3.2 -0.4 2.9 0.6 3.1 -0.2 2.9 0.5 2.8 0.1 2.9 0.5 2.6 0.4 2.9

HOMOSASSA RIVER ENT

HORSESHOE BEACH

SUWANNEE ENT

STEINHATCHEE RIVER ENT

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

2 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

High Tide 12 min Low Tide 20 min

High Tide 2 min Low Tide 0 min

JANUARY 2020

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


FLORIDA WATERWAYS Stilt Fishermen

W

henever I travel abroad or read about exotic places, I try to see what the local fishing and boating scene is like, and then share some ideas and pictures of such places. Although I have never been to Myanmar (formerly A group of stilt fishermen By Kevin McCarthy called Ceylon and coral reefs. They may have gotten the idea of Burma and Sri Lanka), I have come to greatly the stilts by looking at their houses, which admire the stilt fishermen there, skilled balancers are often built on wooden stilts in shallow who have been fishing from unusual perches since water. Stilt fishing is not as popular as it World War II. used to be, probably because the fish stocks That country, located off the southeastern coast of India in the Indian Ocean, has experienced some are dwindling, but fishermen will still pose for photographs from visiting tourists, who bad tsunamis, which have temporally put a stop are expected to tip the men on the poles. to stilt fishing, but the resumption of the practice Anyway, it is a tough way to catch fish draws many to the bays and rivers where tourists and probably won’t become popular can see it in practice. I’m sure that such stiltalong our Florida coast, but it is always perching can be very difficult, but those fishermen are quite good at it. In reading about them, I learned interesting to see how fishermen adapt to different environments that they will stick a tall, vertical pole into the sea floor and then attach a crossbar to the pole, allowing around the world. them to sit just a few feet above the water. While Kevin McCarthy, the author of The they remain there for hours at a time, they do not Black WACs of World War II (2019 cause shadows on the water which might disturb the - (available at amazon.com), can fish below. be reached at ceyhankevin@gmail. The fishermen will drop lines into the shallow water or spear passing mackerel and deposit their catch into a bag tied to their waist or the pole itself. They might even use a throw net to catch herring. They usually fish around sunrise and again at dusk. The safest place for such fishing is close to shore, and even in enclosed lagoons safe from the crashing waves. The fishermen often like to explain to visitors how they catch fish and maybe even let a daring person try it out. The practice began in World War II, when some of the local men began fishing on the wreckage of shipwrecks and downed aircraft, and for some A map showing the island nation reason that led to their building stilts on COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

JANUARY 2020

A solitary fisher

man

What such a fisherman looks like

Balancing on a pole

Local houses on sti lts NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 3


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CRYSTAL RIVER

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H

appy New Year, and I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and got out on the water. As we continue into the cooler months here in Florida, the fishing is still great and there is plenty of action here on the Nature Coast. This time of year, I slow everything down. Lately I’ve been targeting redfish in creeks and on the islands closer to shore. Like always, I’m looking for mullet and activity. This time of year, I will free-line shrimp, either on a long shank hook, or a 1/16th oz jig, if I’m using live bait. I work the areas that I’m fishing slowly, and like to do sight casting. As to the tide, I like the falling during the middle of the day with good sunlight. I also fish shorelines that run north to south. I have a lot of success in the cooler months on the north to south shorelines. They receive the most sunlight and warm faster. Trout have been really good lately here in Crystal River. I like to target kelp beds and hardbottom areas that

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are shallow. Popping corks with lil jons and DOA jerkbaits are always my baits of choice. When locating trout, I look for the right water clarity and signs of bait. While working trout areas, I work them slowly. If I find trout, I troll around the area I just fished, and start over. Trout fishing this time of year can be really amazing and result in lots of good action. This time of year, especially after cold fronts, it’s always best to let the NE winds settle down, and I like to fish in the middle of the day after everything has warmed up. I hope everyone has a good year and gets in plenty of catching. Tight lines and fish hard. Capt. James Kerr 352-362-6893 Citrusfishingchaters.com

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 5


SUWANNEE

H

ey everybody, let me start by saying I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Just in case Santa didn't bring you a magical fish finder, lets dive right in to where they have been hiding. This time of year is awesome for red fishing back in the creeks, and trout fishing on the shallow flats. We have been getting limits of both species on almost every trip since mid-November. The reds right are biting good on either tide swing, I really haven't noticed much difference between incoming or outgoing. I've been having all my groups pitch Redfish Row popping corks paired with a 1/8 C&M Custom Baits Jighead, and live

shrimp towards grass lines and oyster beds. The trend has been, if you find one slot red, you find 20 more with it; it has truly been awesome! Overall 2019 was an awesome year for fishing, and it seems like 2020 is starting out strong. I hope y'all enjoy this winter fishing and I look forward to seeing you on the water. Until next month, stay safe and warm out there. Capt. Jason Clark In The Slot Fishing www.intheslotfishing.com Capt.jasonclark@gmail.com 352-639-3209 Check out our title sponsor for the Florida Pro Redfish Series! www.groovelife.com

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 7


TALES FROM THE TUPPERWARE NAVY W

elcome back yak fans. Another year. Another Christmas. Another Birthday! As the old saying goes, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.” The generation of “don’t trust anybody over 30”, and “hope I die before I get old”, and "my generation", is meeting AARP! What’s up with that? But hey, we had the ‘60s and if it weren’t for us, there would be no classic rock. So now that I’ve reflected on the past years, let’s reflect on this last year. 2019 gave us fishing closures, some scary weather, and one of the wildest years politically since 2012. At least we came through it all, to a new year, and hopefully, a resolution to fish often, enjoy life more, stay close to those who count, and read my column once a month. On to fishing: As the days get colder, they offer some great fishing for the intrepid among us. The outflow at the power plant on the Anclote is a great spot in the winter months, either from the pier, or in your kayak along the barrels. You will find cobia, pompano, reds, and of course, lady fish, jacks and other species stacking up in there when the plant is running. Please be aware, this is a on-demand plant, and it doesn’t run all the time. Soft plastics, shrimp, pompano jigs and cut bait work well. Also, a good place to work a spoon, if it’s not too crowded. Ozello reports a good trout bite, but the reds are scattered. I wish I knew where the schools are running. Maybe I'll find them this weekend. I need my monthly Ozello fix. For the shore guys, another place that’s on fire right now is Jenkins Creek Pier in Hernando County. Friends of mine caught reds and trout there the other day, using an electric chicken fluke tail jig. Jenkins Creek Pier is a good winter spot, due to the spring directly behind it in Linda Pedersen Park. In your own

KEATON BEACH

areas, any spring-fed creek should be holding fish, looking for warmer winter temps. Locally, the black drum are moving in, usually on the incoming tide. The drum are usually only going to hit a shrimp. I’ve found that pinching the head on the shrimp works best to get the scent out. On an interesting note, the best way I’ve found to carry live bait, (i.e. shrimp) on the kayak, is in a soft pack cooler. What you do is put a brick of blue ice in the bottom, then make a nest for the shrimp with newspaper. Moisten the paper and put your shrimp in dry. In other words, don’t add any more water than the wet newspaper. This technique will keep the shrimp alive and kicking for over 24 hours. The last time I went out, I picked up some bait at 6 a.m. Saturday, and forgot about them. Then at around 6 p.m. Sunday, I went to the car, opened the cooler and six shrimp jumped out at me. This system works! The other nice thing, is there is no bait bucket bubbler on O2 to deal with, and it’s compact. Give it a try and let me know. I'd like to mention that this is my fourth new year with The Coastal Angler, and their success is all because of you, our readers and advertisers, Thanks. All right, I’m going to wrap it up for this month; here’s wishing you all a Happy New Year. Tight Lines. Bruce Butler | "Stumbling Gypsy" (352) 428-5347 Bruce@IndianBayOutfitters.com Web: www.IndianBayOutfitters.com Bruce Butler of Indian Bay Outfitters is a Hernando County premier fishing guide with full and half-day charters available. Kayaks, tackle and gear are provided. Just bring your lucky hat and a good attitude and be ready to see some pristine shoreline and experience great fishing.

Sheepshead caught on shrimp, by Miss Cheryl in Homosassa Channel.

8 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

JANUARY 2020

T

Maybe the last time you see this many on my board .... Andy and Nick McCulloch with Lindsay Maddox of Suwanee, Ga.

wenty years later, and the world “keeps on trucking”. We have plenty of trout, yet the FFWC is still after us to cut back all of our trout regs. I will attend the final Hearing in Panama City tomorrow, and then we will know what the new regs are. When passed/approved they will be enacted and become law February 1, 2020. All that said, our trout fishing couldn’t get much better, as water temps have rebounded to 64 degrees as of December 11, and we are catching beautiful bags of trout, including seven trout over 20 inches. Monday, for my charter Ron Smith of Melbourne, Florida, we threw back eleven keepers with five over 20 inches, including a 24-inch sow, all on hard jerkbaits. Oh, I had a 32-inch red on the same plugs which was a HOOT. Doesn’t get much better than that; yet the FFWC thinks we don’t have as many large female trout as in the past. Tsk, tsk. What a shame they won’t come to Taylor Co. and go fishing. Earlier this week, we were tossing Paul Brown Devils, (#11) Soft Dines (#08) and MirrOdines (Electric Chicken) and kicking butt in 55 to 59 degree water. Oh, and the bait of the week was Assassin’s 5-inch shad in the Butt Naked pattern. We rigged it on Bert Deener’s 1/16 oz. jigheads. We also caught fish on live shrimp under Back Bays and on a variety of plugs and plastic. Pink Ghost, Stinky Pink and Butt Naked were the best patterns. The Sea Shads rigged on an Assassin 1/16 oz. spring lock chartreuse jighead took fish under the Original Cajun earlier in the week, then as it warmed up, we

Ann Smith of Melbourne, Florida with a nice Trout 12/11/19

switched to jigging the 5-inch Shads. Most of the trout, reds and a couple of flounder came in 2.5 to 4.0 feet of water. January is a wildcard at Keaton, as the water temperature determines all of our success or failure. If the water stays up above 55 degrees, we will continue to catch fish on a myriad of hard and soft baits. Below that, and the “bite” decreases to a bare hour or so a day, or every two days. If it hovers around 55 degrees, fish suspending lures, such as MirrOdines, Catch 2000’s, and Paul Brown lures in the Devil, and Soft-Dines. Hope all had a wonderful Holiday Season! Meanwhile, Let's Go Fishing! Pat McGriff dba One More Cast guide service for 30 years! www.onemorecast.net onemorecast@gtcom.net 850.838.7541

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STEINHATCHEE YOU DON'T NEED AS MUCH ICE IN THE FISH BOX

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ith “one” being best, I'd rank fishing in January a solid eleven, just ahead of February. That doesn't mean the fishing is terrible, I'm just not cold tolerant. Also, cold fronts from the north make offshore conditions iffy most of the time. Of course, grouper are closed in January. On the off chance, we get a bluebird day, we are prohibited from catching and keeping grouper. A random grouper trip would give a brief relief from cabin-fever and stimulate the economy of a small coastal community. A much-needed touch-bump during winter dump. Imagine a fresh grouper dinner with friends and family. I guess I should be careful with my words; the rumor could spread and I may be impeached from fishing forever! However, on a bluebird day, one doesn't have to venture too far offshore to gather a handsome cooler of delicious Florida snapper, sea bass, and a few flounder. Simply manage to get any bait down on hard bottom, and the bite is instant. Get a group of people cranking up fish after fish after fish, after fish after f..., people soon get tired of catching. Remember, you have to clean all those fish too. When the weather turns brutally cold, relative to Florida, not Minnesota, anglers flock to the Steinhatchee River to

mop up on trout coming in for thermal refuge. Remember, the vast majority of the fish you touch, die of disease due to removal of their protective slime layer. As for the best bait, call the local tackle shops and marinas and ask. Also, ask if there are some still in stock.

Brian Smith | BIG BEND CHARTERS www.BigBendCharters.com CaptBrian@bellsouth.net 877.852.3474 | 352.210.3050

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JANUARY 2020

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 9


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appy New Year! 2020, wow! This month is going to be a great. The trout and sheapshead bite should be right on track. Pay attention to the FFWC sea trout changes for our area. Not a whole lot of change, but starting February 1st, slot size in our zone goes to 15 to 19 inches, and only one over 19 inches per vessel. Its definitely enough to ruin your day if you are on the wrong side of the rule’r. For the trout, keep busting those plastics under your b52's. I love

using live shrimp also. The shrimp just make so you do not have to work as hard. If you do not want to cast as much, live shrimp work great! You can see in the picture the way I like to hook them. I do it this way because it does not kill the shrimp, and when you pop your b52, it pulls it in a natural direction. Good luck out there! This year I pray for peace and love to overflow out of our hearts, and into others, whether they want it or not. Take a kid fishing!

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Greg Lee and a 24 pound gag, caught at Homosassa.

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JANUARY 2020

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 11


INGLIS/YANKEETOWN

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12 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

JANUARY 2020

anuary is upon us, you have winterized the boat, and you are counting the days till Spring. Yeah, right! This is Florida, we fish yearround. Even though it may be chilly outside, you can still find the bite. Trout can still be found in deep cuts off the bars and rocks. Slow is the key in wintertime fishing. When fishing for trout on the bottom, bump your bait and wait. When you feel it has been a while, wait some more. Continue to bump your bait slowly, until you find the bite. This technique takes a lot of patience, but you will find nice sized trout. I recommend shrimp on a Jim’s Jig, or a DOA in glow. Sheepshead will be heading offshore to spawn. Look for structure, preferably large rocks and rubble. Using your bottom machine, you should be able to see fish active on your screen. Anchor up and drop. I recommend shrimp on a drop rig. If the shrimp bite is slow, change over to fiddler crabs; this will get them chewing. These fish are spawning; we keep our limit to 5 per person so we can continue to have an excellent fishery. I hope you will too. Big Reds can be found in the backcountry. Airboats, Mud boats, and Jet boats are your ticket to reaching these fish. If you don’t have availability to any of the above, I am always welcome to charter you on a trip you won’t soon forget. January can be cold, but with the right tips and tricks the fishing

can be hot! Please reach out to me at capterichasty@gmail.com with any questions you may have. In addition, check out We Be Tailing, live Wednesday night’s at 7:00 for more tips and tricks at the ShastyMcNasty Fishing Facebook page. Capt. Eric Hasty ShastyMcNasty Fishing LLC www.shastymcnastyfishing.com 352-220-3206

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SEAFOOD AT ITS BEST!

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nother new year is beginning, and I want to start by wishing anglers some great upcoming days on the water. With the winter season in full swing, one of the most dependable species, sheepshead, is taking residence on a variety of structures. These fish will be a main target for the next couple months and are a good fighting fish with the benefit of fantastic table faire, to get us through the winter. Concentrate your efforts on rock piles, wrecks, channel markers and ledges. Also, for the offshore anglers, give some of your deeper grouper locations a try. You may be surprised with the abundance of sheepshead on the offshore structures. A live shrimp is a great bait choice, and a simple knocker rig with a #2 hook, will keep the rods bent. Water temperature plays a big role when the inshore species feed this time of year. The springfed rivers are a safe haven for a variety of species. Trout, red fish, black drum, snook, tarpon and mangrove snapper can be found in easy reaches from the springs head waters. Have an assortment of jigs, slowly suspending plugs, and live shrimp to cover the entire basis. While there’s plenty of action in the rivers, the backcountry creeks, oyster bars and shallow rock flats will be holding good concentrations of fish as well. For the shallow water enthusiast, keep in mind, the dark hard bottom holds the heat,and particularly trout, key in on these structures. Trout can be seen schooling on many occasions, and a glow colored DOA jerk bait, Yo-zuri 3D minnow or MirrOlure Mirrodine can be deadly. Use a subtle twitch, twitch, pause, retrieve. It is quite exciting sight-fishing, to see a school of trout.

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Reaching the red fish in the backcountry creeks can be tough this time of year, due to the extremely low tide conditions. If you have a tunnel hull or shallow running skiff, take advantage of the tides to plan your trip. Leave a little later in the day, and allow the sun to warm the water a degree or two. This can make the difference between a successful, or unsuccessful trip. Also, if possible, try to target the leeward side of an island. Many times, red fish can be seen “sunning” themselves over the rocks in the calm water; a properly presented live shrimp will usually result in a hook up. Capt. Dan Clymer 352.418.2160 www.crystalriver-fishing.com

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JANUARY 2020

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 13


14 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

JANUARY 2020

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LYNN’S GUMBO COOKING DIRECTIONS

For the roux, heat 2 Tablespoons oil in heavy skillet. Add 2 Tablespoons flour and cook over med heat stirring constantly until the color of peanut butter.

Thank you to The Crab Plant for the beautiful 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, 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.

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

Heat oil and butter in lg. heavy pot. Add onion and celery and cook until soft. Add garlic, green pepper, tomatoes, parsley, carrots, bay leaf, chicken broth, chicken breast, green onions, most of the okra and the roux. Simmer for about 30 min. Add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Add shrimp and cook another 3 min. Serve over rice. (With respect to traditional Andouille sausage in gumbo, I made a few tiny sausage balls out of pork sausage, cooked them and added as a garnish.) Add the reserved okra on top for color and crunch.Any combination of seafood is wonderful. Some folks think it isn’t gumbo without Andouille sausage, but I don’t like it. If you do, add it with the chicken. I included the carrots because I had them in the fridge and they upped the nutritional value a bit. (I have to hide carrots to get Cary to eat them!). You can add a little of any vegetables that you have on hand, such as cauliflower, cabbage or spinach.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

INGREDIENTS

2 T oil or bacon grease 2 T butter 2 T flour 1 chopped onion 2 stalks celery 2 cloves chopped garlic 1 chopped green pepper 1 28 oz. can stewed tomatoes and liquid 1 bunch chopped parsley leaves 3 grated carrots 1 bay leaf 1 qt. chicken broth 1 boneless/skinless chopped chicken breast 1 bunch chopped green onions 2 cups sliced okra salt & pepper and hot sauce 1 lb. shelled & deveined shrimp Tiny cooked sausage balls Hot cooked rice

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ST. AUGUSTINE

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his 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 flats start to warm a bit. A mid-day low tide this time of year is a Northeast Florida angler’s “dream come true”. Our tides have been running really high the past few months, so let’s hope for some west winds and extra low, low, tides this winter. Redfish will be schooled up and low tide is the easiest time to find them. Look for flats with dark colored bottoms, and creeks with an abundance of oyster bars. I’m hoping for a dry January, as all the rain we’ve had this year has the water stained a dark reddish color from the tannins. If it does stay fairly dry, and we get some colder air and water temps, the water will start to clear up, giving us the opportunity to do some sight-fishing. Even if it doesn’t get crystal clear, you can locate schools of redfish 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. Use the trolling motor to work slowly, as far back as possible in the creeks, while eyeing the banks for cruising reds. One very important piece of equipment for this time of year, and sight-fishing in general, is a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I prefer Costas with a copper or amber colored 580 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 ‘em.

My favorite baits this month are small soft plastics like a Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad paddle tail or a live shrimp both paired with an 1/8-ounce jighead. The reason I prefer the 1/8 ounce, or even a 1/16 ounce jig, is because they make less splash when cast, and with the clearer water, we should have right now, and 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 pattern flies. Being able to see the fish before you cast, makes fly fishing that much more exciting and rewarding. Slot-sized 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. Black drum have smallish mouths, and tend to be subtle biters, so make sure to wait until you feel the fish swimming away before setting the hook. Speaking of fiddler crabs and light biters, the sheepshead bite was great in December and 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 by this time of year will have a few munching away just waiting to be caught. Be sure to check out my daily fishing reports, online @ www.InshoreAdventures. net and have a safe and Happy New Year! Be sure to check out my Daily Fishing Reports online @www.InshoreAdventures.com Capt. Tommy Derringer www.InshoreAdventures.net 904-377-3734

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SURF & PIER

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anuary can be very productive in the surf and on the piers, IF the water temperature stays above 60 degrees. People living under the same roof argue about the thermostat setting; fish do not. Fish just leave when the water gets too cold. So, our target is 60 degrees. Above 60, we go fishing here in Northeast Florida. Below 60, you have two choices. First, you can stay at home and tie rigs, or your second choice, drive south two hours or more, to catch the 65 degree plus, water temps. When I travel, the first place I will stop is New Smyrna Beach. It is a drive-on beach, that I prefer fishing on an out-going tide. The next location is Canaveral National Seashore. On the north end, is Turtle Mound. The south side is Playalinda Beach. These two are easily fishable on all tides. Beyond that, is Melbourne and Sebastian Inlet beaches. All of these are doable on a day trip. Just remember, when you catch up to 65 to 70-degree water temp, you will catch more fish! To find the right water temp before you leave the house, Google Sea Surface Temperature Charts. My favorite one is the Rutgers University site. Staying nearby, means targeting

JANUARY 2020

whiting, black drum, and bluefish. For the first two, some good fresh dead shrimp will do just fine. My favorite rig is a double dropper and small #2, up to #1/0 circle hooks. I also like to combo the shrimp with a very small piece of orange Fishbites in sandflea, crab, or clam flavor. When trying for bluefish, I use the same rigs, but tie it in heavier 50-pound mono. Use a larger 3/0 to 5/0 circle hooks. Then, I will use strips of freshly caught whiting for bait. Here is a great tip for learning more about surf fishing: Go to the Youtube channel 311pope. Mr. Jerry Pope has made several wonderful and educational videos about our sport. One other thing you can do during this cold month is a long-distance casting lesson. 99% of my students have been able to cast 300 feet or more in just one lesson. Each casting lesson will also include two free sample packs of Fishbites! 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

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 17


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18 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

JANUARY 2020

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STA-SEA’S NATURE COAST ADVENTURES

CENTRAL FLORIDA INLAND

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lright Forest Anglers, 2019 was one heck of a good year for us, and all of our favorite spots are healthier than they've been in decades. One of the most difficult parts about fishing nowadays, is choosing which body of water you want to explore. I invested a lot of time last year checking most of the prairies, ponds, and creeks that were dry/low a few years ago. The trick is to spend a few moments at the shore's edge, and if you don't see any minnows, move on. Tip: If the water is dirty, toss some bread (food that floats) in. You'll see them pecking within seconds. After a year of investigating, the bad news is; pretty much every place I checked was loaded with minnows. So there are countless spots (over 600 natural lakes) to choose from. The good news is, it's speck (crappie) season! Specks need large, deep water lakes or rivers to thrive. There are a handful of good lakes to choose from, such as Lake Bryant and Halfmoon Lake. However, by far the best population

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t's a new year! Do you have a New Year’s resolution? What is it, about starting a new year that makes people want to change things? We can change our habits or our behavior at anytime, but for some reason January 1st, the start of a whole new year, is the time we choose to do so. I have a few things I'd like to change, and I suppose now is the time to do it. For my New Year’s resolution, I'd like to spend more time with my family - good, quality time. I'd also of specks are found in the St. Johns River, Ocklawaha River, and like to spend more time outdoors. Fishing obviously is my first choice. Rodman Reservoir. I'd like to learn bow fishing and also This year we have a huge master fly fishing. Ok, maybe not advantage on our side, and I can master, but at least be successful. I assure you there will definitely be would also like to be more proactive some true giants caught. Our ace in the hole, the Rodman Reservoir with the fight for conservation. One person can make a difference. Most drawdown is underway! That's when the whole reservoir is drained resolutions are to lose weight, live healthier, quit drinking, etc. It would down to basically just a small, make me so happy if some resolutions winding creek. It's pretty much included being more conscious of like "shooting fish in a barrel", so our waterways and the outdoors as a I would definitely bring a bass rod whole. Let's be aware of any footprint along if you go. we may be leaving behind. Pick up There are many different techniques for using crappie jigs and gear, about which I'll go into detail in next month's article. All you need right now is some minnows (1 or 2 jigs for back-up), 6 pound test mono on your light action rods, and just get your butts out to Rodman. They start filling it back up on March 1st. Trust me, you don't want to miss it! John Freeze Kayak Fishing and Nature Tours TheWaterwayz@gmail.com 352-216-5798

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JANUARY 2020

our trash, recycle our fishing line, don’t use plastic while on our boats, and if we do, recycle it at the end of the day. Too many times I see people leaving loose trash in their boats, and the trash flying out while going down the road. It doesn’t take a lot to make a huge impact. Small steps lead to giant results. If you see trash in the water, take the time to retrieve it and dispose of it properly. I hope everyone can pitch in and make a change. Stay safe this year and I pray for a happy and prosperous New Year for all! Captain Stacy Horak Cell 352-553-3604 Facebook: CaptainStacy Horak Instagram: captain_ stacyhorakfishing Website: www. fishingwithcaptainstacy.com

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 19


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By John Saporito

W

ith winter temperatures upon us, its time to switch tactics when targeting inshore gamefish. The warmer months feature an abundance of life on the flats and shallow beds, but winter shows the opposite trend. Both gamefish and their prey seek out stable water temperatures, many moving upriver and into creeks to find refuge from the cold. Due to the high specific heat capacity of water, many fish will escape the cold by moving into deep-water areas of our bays and estuaries.

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Often, fish will congregate in passes, boat channels, and around bridges, where the bottom has been scooped out, creating places that assure consistent water temperatures. These deep-water haunts are excellent places to score in winter, where fish can keep themselves at the appropriate temperature while exploiting the bottom structure and moving water to help with their feeding activity. Whenever deep moving water is in play, there is one technique that stands out above the rest: jig fishing. Jigs are the most effective tool when it comes to pulling fish out of a lateral current. Their unique ability to ride naturally through the turbulence and get down to the bottom where fish are holding makes them ideal for this style of fishing. A single upright hook allows them to bounce off most obstructions and has the strength to hold heavy fish in heavy current. But not all jigs are created equal. The two main styles of jig in use today are the nose-eye and offset-eye. The nose-eye jig has its eye in a forward position on the head of the lure, while the offset-eye jig has its eye in a centered position on top of the jig’s head. The offset-eye jig is superior thanks to its knack for maintaining a horizontal orientation during retrieve. This makes natural presentation with the offset-eye jig a cinch. Weight is a critical factor when using jigs. The lightest possible jig that can get and stay within a few feet of the bottom will net you the most fish. Too heavy a jig will drag uselessly in the bottom sediment, while too light a jig will be unable to reach the deep-water strike zone. Water depth, current speed, wind speed and direction, line material and diameter, and the type of trailer used on the jig are all variables that go into weight selection. Once you’ve selected the appropriate jig, cast it up-current, allow it to sink to the bottom, and let the current sweep it toward any fish-holding structure that might be present. This structure may consist of bridge abutments, dock pilings, boulders, sand waves, ridges or holes. If you can get your jig to glide through the strike zone close to structure in fast deep water, hold on! A jig can help you clean up with your favorite inshore gamefish all winter long. John Saporito is a lifelong fisherman and student of the seas. Visit him online at guerillaangling.com and follow on Instagram @guerilla_angling.

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COLD WEATHER BASS HAMMERING SHAD

Travis Poole with a fine winter bass caught while fishing with C-note Charters. By Randy Cnota hen the north winds blow across Florida, bass experience significant shock from rapidly dropping water temps. Those fronts actually kill many shad; not all, but many. Through the fall and winter, bass tend to school and follow balls of shad to take advantage of feeding opportunities available due to the cold. The abundance of forage and the natural urge to fatten up turn bass into eating machines. Airline_Ad_CoastalAngler_8-1-14_Layout 1 8/1/14 1:14 PM Page 1 action and As a shad dies, it flails about in a jerky twitching

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eventually sinks. If any bass are around, it will never make it to the bottom. Lures that mimic this action and excel this time of year include jerkbaits, A-rigs, spinnerbaits, lipless and deep-diving crankbaits and spoons. The flutter spoon is a personal favorite due to its ability to trigger a feeding response when other lures won’t. The erratic fluttering motion as it falls appears as a very familiar sight bass have been witnessing as shad succumb to the cold. When they strike, you’d best be holding on tight! Spoons are a great tool for scouring depths from 5 to 50 feet. Not only do they generate bites in open water where schools of bass roam for bait balls, they are deadly fished around deep and shallow grass beds. For this, rig a spoon on 50-pound braided main line with a 15-pound-test monofilament leader and cast to grass edges. Allow the spoon to fall into the grass, and then rip it out to generate bone-jarring strikes. Note: 99 percent of spoon bites come as the lure falls on a slack line. Suspending jerkbaits provide a different action needed for winter bass. When it’s bitter cold and bass are depressed from the conditions, you need to slow down while still presenting a shad imitation. Fished on light fluorocarbon line, jerkbaits reach deeper depths than you might think. In clear cold water they produce with reliable results. Long casts and slow retrieves with long pauses between twitches will get cold bass to move and strike. As winter moves toward spring, I cast a lipless crankbait at shallow grass near deep drop-offs. Bass will start moving closer to spawning areas long before they actually spawn and will continue to feed. If weather conditions create a slight rise in water temps, this technique can be hard to beat. Even if water temps are still in the low 50s, but have increased slightly, a fast retrieve will allow you to cover vast areas and pluck off many bass that have started to scatter from their winter schools. During these coldest times of the year is when some of the biggest bass are caught. Don’t let the conditions deter you from searching out that trophy bass. Bundle up and get after it! Randy Cnota is co-publisher of the Panama City/Destin/Forgotten Coast edition of Coastal Angler Magazine and owner of C-note Charters. Contact him at (229) 834-7880 or randyc@coastalanglermagazine.com.

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By Michael Okruhlik • Capt. Michael Okruhlik Photo courtesy of Controlled Descent Lures.

or those who enjoy targeting speckled trout of larger proportions, we know they are not easy to come by. The majority of trophy trout hunting is done in cooler water temps and below normal feeding patterns. Utilizing solunar tables for feeding times can improve your hookup ratio and help you get the edge on gator trout. When I was a child, I would look at the calendar on the wall and see how many fish were on the day I had a trip planned. Multi-fish days built the excitement and anticipation while zero

fish still left me wanting to go, but lessened my expectations. During my younger years, I also found no consistent correlation between my success and the number of fish on the calendar and soon felt no reason to review it. I felt it was more of a folktale than a tool. As I matured into a somewhat better angler, and started spending more time saltwater fishing, I once again started to study the solunar tables along with the tides. To be clear, these tables are not a magic act, nor do they place fish where they are not, but I am a believer that if you are on fish, they will be more aggressive during the feeding times specified in the tables. Many people misinterpret the major as the better bite. This is not necessarily the case. The major vs. the minor is the length of time the bite will last. The major is typically two hours long while the minor is about an hour and a half. Both can share the same intensity of the feeding period. I plan each trip around the bite times. Naturally, I fish more than the two hours of the major bite, but I place myself in what I feel is the prime area during the bite. One rule that I stick to is to fish during the feed times rather than travel from one spot to another. On a recent trip, I wasn’t having any luck and considered moving locations. I checked the time and realized the bite was approaching. I decided to not move during the bite and continued to fish the once non-productive area to realize an aggressive feed during the specified time slot. I find this approach especially true when hunting gator trout. They do not feed that often and are difficult to catch, therefore utilizing the solunar can give you the edge for catching these larger specks. As I stated previously, these solunar tables do not guarantee you will catch fish. However, if you have the correct conditions of tide, wind, water clarity, temps, bait and most of all FISH, giving it your best during the feeding times greatly increases your odds of catching fish, and gator trout. Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Controlled Descent Lures and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

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MARK SOSIN

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ll of us have enjoyed those rare days when fish would ingest virtually any lure or bait tossed in the water. Those experiences are certainly the exception, because fish are selective about their diets and seldom vary extensively in their choice of foods. Only when they cannot find enough of their standard fare will they range in their choice. Let me share a few examples: It was a beautiful day on the offshore grounds with a strong current that should hold fish. As the hours passed, our frustration increased. We couldn’t even raise a fish. Finally, the captain told us to reel in the lines. It seemed obvious he was going to try another spot, but that wasn’t his intention. Instead of moving, he took the trolling lures off the rods and rigged them with a single hook. One of the outfits had a sinker so it would go deeper. Then he turned the boat broadside to the current and cut the engine. We were now being pushed by the natural flow of water. A live baitfish was put on each hook and then streamed off the starboard side of the boat. He chopped up dead bait and threw a handful overboard as chum every couple of minutes. It didn’t take long before the big guys hit the live bait, and it suddenly became a banner day because the skipper did something different. More than 50 years ago, the late Joe Brooks told me no

one to his knowledge had caught an Allison (yellowfin) tuna on a fly, and he was sure I could do it. Joe set up a trip for me to Bermuda, where yellowfins responded to chum. I had fished chum slicks with a fly with my father since I was a young boy, and we simply cast in the slick and retrieved the fly. I can’t remember ever having a problem with that method. We were anchored on the edge of a bank in Bermuda, with the current taking chum off the edge into deep water. Tuna were devouring chum, and I was sure it would only take a cast or two to hookup. To say I was wrong was an understatement. The tuna ignored the fly as I retrieved it. They swam around it and kept eating chum. Finally, in desperation, I dropped the fly into some chum that lingered on the surface and did not move it. To this day, I can see that tuna inhaling the fly. It weighed 53 pounds and 6 ounces. The point to remember is that if the more common method isn’t working, try a modification. A friend and I were both fishing the same plug. He kept getting strikes, while nothing touched my offering. Finally, he showed me how he periodically vibrated his wrist. It made the lure flash, and that’s all it took. In a similar situation, another friend and I were using diving plugs. He kept hooking fish while I couldn’t buy strike. While I followed a standard retrieve, he would pause for an instant periodically. That allowed the plug to float upward before diving again. Simple, isn’t it? Before you claim there are no fish where you are fishing, try a few variations to standard practice. You might be surprised with the results.

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heepshead are some of the tastiest fish in the ocean. They are abundant throughout the Gulf and up the Atlantic coast, usually holding tight to structure like piers, pilings, seawalls, jetties and wrecks. Sheepshead are easy to find, but difficult to hook. They have hard mouths and teeth designed to crush the shells of barnacles, shrimp and mollusks. They’ll crush bait, and the hook, without an angler even knowing they were there. That’s why a dropshot rig is a good tool to have. The standard Carolina or fishfinder rigs are effective, but the added sensitivity of a dropshot, where everything is in line, lets you know the fish is there before it gets away. You’ll get two taps. Set the hook on the first one, because the second tap means the fish is gone. Fishing a dropshot rig is simple. Drop it to the bottom and reel up any slack. With a sensitive rod, the smallest peck is transmitted to the angler’s hand. Here’s how to tie it: • Use a double uni-knot to secure 6 feet of 15- to 20-lb. fluorocarbon leader to a 10- or 15-lb. braided mainline. • Use enough weight to stay in contact with the bottom, and tie it into the end of the leader. • Choose your depth, typically about 2 feet up the leader, and use a Palomar knot to tie in the hook so it rides point-up. Use a sharp J hook (#1-4) depending on the size of the bait, whether it’s a fiddler crab, sand flea, pieces of clam, or shrimp.

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