Coastal Angler Magazine | January 2019 | North Central Florida

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST EDITION

FREE

Deep-Drop

Grouper Destination:

Los Suenos,

Costa Rica PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL L. GRANT VOLUME 23 • ISSUE 287

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O P P O R T U N I T I E S

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GETTING HOOKED BEFORE CASTING THE LINE.

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By Team Three Buoys

Photos by Michael Grant

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hile mystic grouper can be caught year-round in the Bahamas, the winter months are our favorite time of year. Whenever a weather window presents itself, we point our bow east across the Florida Straights in search of these deep-water bottom dwellers. Mystics are one of the lesser-known grouper species, simply because anglers don’t fish deep enough to target them. Like all grouper, they are excellent to eat and usually weigh from 15 to 50 pounds, although they can grow much larger. It takes special gear to fish the 800- to 1,200-foot depths where we find mystics. Armed with Shimano Tiagra 80 WAs and Shimano Tiagra 50 WAs equipped with Hooker Electric Autostop drives, we string up 65- to 100-pound Power Pro braid on Crafty One Custom’s Deep Drop Rods. We begin by paying close attention to our Humminbird Solix sonar with CHIRP HD digital technology to locate bottom structure. We look for cones, holes, drop-offs, ledges and deep-water ridges. Once viable structure is located, we position the boat above it with engines out of gear to judge how wind and current will manipulate our drift. Then the

boat is repositioned up-current from the structure and the deep-drop rigs are readied. When targeting mystics, we use our www.ThreeBuoysFishing.com grouper deep-drop rigs made with three 8/0 VMC 3x Circle Hooks on 100-pound branch lines off of 12 feet of 150-pound main line. For bait, we prefer fresh-cut 8-inch strips of dolphin, tuna, wahoo or barracuda. Many deep-drop anglers claim, “no light, no bite,” but our experience has proven that, especially with mystics, we catch more and bigger fish without lights. We deploy two rods on opposite sides of the boat. Lead weights in the 10-pound range are the rule of thumb, but weight can be adjusted to the current. After the weights hit bottom, the reels are left in freespool to lay the rigs straight down on the bottom. The engines should be used to decrease the boat’s drift to a standstill, if possible. If the boat drifts, let out line to keep the rigs on bottom. When the rod tip bumps and shakes, resist the urge to lock up the drag and retrieve line. Wait a minute or two for additional fish to sense the commotion. They’ll often eat the remaining baits. When it’s time to strike, lift the reel’s drag to strike (pre-set to 20 pounds of drag) and slowly start your retrieve. Big mystic grouper put up quite a fight at first, and you might even think you’ve hung bottom. Be patient and slowly gain as must line as possible. When fish are about halfway up, their air bladders expand and create lift. They will begin to float your rig up to the surface. For more tips and tactics on deep-dropping and the tackle and rigs to get tight, see www.threebuoysfishing.com. Also, keep up with all of the offshore action @ Team Three Buoys on Facebook and Instagram.

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Finding bait becomes more important than at any other time of year. Goebel likes to get out well before dawn in search of shad or herring flickering near the surface, especially when a big moon keeps baitfish active all night. Diving birds are also a dead giveaway. They are likely feeding on baitfish pushed by stripers from below. “A lot of times if there’s bait there, I won’t even worry about marking fish on the graph,” Goebel said. “I’ll just put out my lines and start fishing where the bait is.”

By Nick Carter

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here aren’t many anglers willing to endure the frigid early morning temperatures of winter on a large reservoir. But for those who can handle a little discomfort, right now is the best time of year to hook up with the striper of a lifetime. Around the Southeast, in reservoirs where striped bass were introduced, falling water temperatures spur changes in behavior that make the largest fish in the lake susceptible to anglers. Those 30- to 50-pounders are feeding up right now. They’re storing up reserves that will take them through the spring spawn. “It’s trophy striper season,” said Shane Goebel, of Big Ol’ Fish Guiding Service. “The bigger fish are participating a little better. This time of year, we start going after those big ol’ hogs that are chasing the big baits.” The large summer schools broke up months ago. Stripers are spread out and on the move, following baitfish into the creek mouths and up into the backs of the creeks. Big fish move shallow when water temps hit the mid to low 50s on the lakes Goebel guides in the mountains of north Georgia and western North Carolina. It might take some searching to find them, but the rewards can be huge.

Because the stripers are continually moving with the bait, covering water is crucial. Goebel said to troll as many baits in as wide a spread as you can handle. Herring are great on lakes where they are present, but this time of year you should also work some big gizzard shad or trout into the spread. Sometimes it takes a big mouthful to convince big fish to eat. Goebel runs baits 30 to 40 feet behind planer boards. He’ll drop freelines 100 to 150 feet behind the boat. If the area where he finds bait isn’t too shallow, he’ll put a little bit of weight ahead of the baits on the inside boards to cover more water vertically. He slow trolls at about half a mile per hour. This is a pattern Goebel fishes all the way into May, when stripers have moved into a pre-spawn phase. It might not produce the numbers of fish that downlining into summer mega-schools will, but the fish are generally a lot bigger than those 5- to 10-pound summer schoolies. If catching an enormous striper sounds like fun, zip up your parka and get out on the lake. It’s trophy striper season. Check out Big Ol’ Fish Guiding Service at bigolfish.com.

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By Tom Schlichter

Capt. Carlos Arguedas (left) shows off a huge cubera snapper caught aboard the Los Suenos charter vessel, Wingman, with Lindor Jimenez. Photo courtesy of Wingman Charters, Los Suenos, Costa Rica.

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Los Suenos roosterfish come big aboard Capt. Carlos Arguedas’ charter vessel, Wingman. Photo courtesy of Wingman Charters, Los Suenos, Costa Rica.

f Costa Rica isn’t already on your bucket list, it should be. Famous for both inshore and offshore fishing, it’s also a country with incredible biodiversity and exciting eco-tourism opportunities. In short, there’s something for every sportsman and adventure seeker here. From a fishing perspective, the west coast of this Central American country is most favored with several significant cities and ports including Jaco, Quepos and, of course, Golfito. It’s Los Suenos, however, where

my wife, Felicia and I found outstanding action on a trip last April. We worked the inshore grounds, catching huge roosterfish, rainbow runners, grouper, jacks and even mahi. We also decked a big cubera snapper. Of course, we did have an edge. Coastal Angler’s very own Costa Rica inshore reporter Capt. Carlos Arguedas and his first-mate son, Christopher, were our charter crew. “This really is a terrific place to fish,” said Arguedas, “We have access to a lot of different spots ranging from very close to the marina to 50 miles away. The roosterfish action is unbelievable here but we also catch big cubera snapper, amberjack, groupers and huge red snappers, too.” Arguedas loves to take clients for roosterfish because they fight so hard, are found close to port, and grow big. He’s had a 90-pounder grace his deck. For these, he’ll slow troll live baits like blue runners, herring, sardines or bonita. All of these baits, impaled on size 8 circle hooks, also attract other large predators; so you never know what to expect when the rod doubles over. “Roosterfish are very impressive when you first see them,” said Arguedas. “They are exotic-looking with big dorsal rays, a huge mouth and striped flanks. They are stunning to see for the first time. They are also exceptionally strong. Fight a 20-pounder and you’ll think you have a 40-pounder at the end of the line. They jump, too, and shake their head, so remember to lower your rod tip when that fish comes up or you’ll tear the hook free.” Among the other big fish that hit the deck for Arguedas’ crew on a regular basis are goliath grouper that can top 400 pounds. These are targeted around local reefs. If you want to run offshore, sailfish, tuna and marlin abound within 10 miles of port. Dorado, sometimes topping 30 pounds, can be tempted within sight of the coast. Costa Rica’s tropical climate makes it a year-round destination. Most travelers prefer to visit during the dry season, which runs from December through April, but you’ll find lighter crowds and lower travel prices during the “green” or rainy season from May to November. Whenever you visit, it really helps to work with a travel pro that deals frequently with Costa Rica to customize a trip here. Blue Water Sportfishing Charters (http://bluewatersportfishingcharters.com) specializes in setting up trips to Los Suenos. They can put you in the right place at the right time for the fish you want to catch, sights you want to see or adventures you want to experience. They’ll also book you with Capt. Carlos—or you can contact him yourself at www.wingmancr.com.

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Center sp Sheri Daye

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he first time I saw someone spearfishing, I was intrigued and wondered out loud how hard it would be to load a speargun. A friend heard me and said, “I’m sure you can do it. It’s probably more about technique than brute strength.” He was right. It’s not uncommon to struggle to load your first speargun, and you might suspect they made the bands too short. If you give it some time and use the right technique, it will become easy. First, some safety tips: 1) Never load a speargun out of the water. 2) Keep the safety on until you intend to shoot a fish. 3) Even with the safety on, treat it like a loaded weapon, never let the tip point at anyone. 4) Use tip protectors when not in use, so you don’t scratch anything. Some spearguns are loaded by resting the butt of the gun on your hip and pulling the bands toward the shaft notches. Others are loaded by resting the butt high on the middle of the chest and pulling the bands toward your sternum. Hip-loading spearguns are commonly used by scuba divers, as chest loading can be difficult when wearing a buoyancy compensator vest. Freedivers are less constricted by gear, so they normally use chest-loading spearguns. These have longer range because the shaft tabs sit closer to the butt of the gun. Now, some loading tips: 1) Wear gloves and wetsuit to prevent slips, scrapes or bruising. Some wetsuits have a loading pad built into the chest. 2) Don’t look down and hunch over when loading the bands. Push forward with your chest and pull the band swiftly with your arms, so the shaft tabs are pushed forward to meet the incoming

band. 3) Use a loading tab (if using a wood gun). This simple device makes things much easier by allowing you to first hip load the band to the loading tab and then raise the butt to your chest for the final pull. Although it’s a two-step process, it can be done quickly and will feel much easier. 4) If your bands are still too hard to load, use three longer bands. 5) Work out, lift weights, work on core and upper body. Try bench presses, seated rows, bent over rows, pushups and pull-ups. Bands and dumbbells can be incorporated into your workout routine, whether at the gym or home. If you want to see a band loading video, check out Coastal Angler online. And remember—you can accomplish anything you set your mind to! Sheri is a world-record holder, host of “Speargun Hunter,” and producer of The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Follow “Sheri Daye” and “The Blue Wild” on Facebook and Instagram.

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he action in northwest Costa Rica has once again been off the charts as FishingNosara celebrates its 10th season of charter fishing. All five boats are in the water and scoring big for their clients, with 51 trips logged in November. Big dorados are the staple catch this time of year, but it was a welcome surprise to see swarms of billfish in the mix. The team nabbed 12 marlin releases, 24 sailfish releases, 217 dorados, and five roosterfish releases. One of these roosters was a nearworld-record at 72 pounds. On Nov. 19, Capt. Alex on the Harvester posted the best trip of the month with Terry and Julie Edwards’ group. They loaded up the trophy case with excellent releases. A 300-plus-pound blue marlin was the headliner of the trip for these Texas anglers, and shortly after that battle, the 32-foot mega panga nabbed a wonderful sailfish release. Team Edwards came inshore to finish the day, and saved the best for last… that massive 72-pound roosterfish.

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The IGFA All-Tackle Record for roosterfish is 114 pounds, and the second-place fish is 85 pounds. This fish caught by the Harvester wasn’t far off the second place catch. Most impressively, the above-mentioned IGFA record catches were posted in 1960 and 1954 respectively. This size of roosterfish has not been seen in more than five decades. On the same day, other members of Julie Edwards’ family had a big time on the 32-foot Discoverer with a blue marlin release of their own. Capt. Carlos estimated this fish at 250 pounds upon release. Also in November, FishingNosara Hall of Famer Bill Harris took to the 28-foot bar-room brawler Explorer and opened up her season with a billfish grand slam! A big blue marlin was the highlight of the morning, and it was followed by a late-day striped marlin. Bill nabbed the first marlin, and Mark Scott scored the second. A nice Pacific sailfish caught by Diane Turner completed the grand slam for these Tampa, Fla.based anglers. They didn’t go home empty handed, either, thanks to five big tasty dorado catches spread throughout the day. On the Discoverer, the team of Eli Bedran, Andrew Lipps, Kelsey Harry and Laurie Harry report a fantastic blue marlin release, the first of the year for the big battleship, plus six lovely dorados. John Purdy, John Van Diver, Mike Pickelsimer and Dale McElroy fished in early November and reported 11 sweet dorados on ice. The Harvester has been itching for action, and found what she was looking for as these monsters topped out at 60 pounds. The action was so hot that Capt. Alex chose to release the biggest cows so as not to hurt the stocks. Naturally, we have full reports of all these catches and more archived at Blog.FishingNosara.com, including videos. January and February will be super-busy and the spring months are already filling up fast. Get your plans together so we can secure your fishing adventure with FishingNosara, some of the best sportfishing in Costa Rica.

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oel’s Distributing in south Florida has reached a milestone—40 years in business. Not many operations can make that claim, and so a look down memory lane seems appropriate. Tom Noel, aka Paddleboat Tom, moved to Florida from Michigan in 1979. He closed his grocery store, loaded a pickup truck with three paddleboats, his wife Joy, two sons, a daughter and the family dog and headed south. Tom set up shop in his garage in their Lake Clarke Shores home. After a few years, Joy put her foot down and insisted that he find a warehouse. Tom rented a space next to their current location, just off Forest Hill Blvd in West Palm Beach. A couple of years later he bought the 3,000 square-foot warehouse. Tom’s sons Rob and Tom are also involved with the business. Noel’s Distributing sells safety equipment, fire extinguishers, flares, rope, anchors and a warehouse full of other boating supplies to their clients, predominately in the Keys, along the east coast and in central Florida. They will ship anywhere. Many of their clients search them out for their custom rope splicing and then discover the realm of equipment they carry. If you are looking for anything marine related, it’s worth a phone call. They are generally a better value than the larger chain stores. Tom and his sons are very thankful for their longtime clients. Check out Noel’s Distributing at noeldistributing.com or give them a call at (561) 585-2387.

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JANUARY 2019

FLORIDA

7

12/13/18 7/12/18 10:49 12:25AM PM


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Team Who’s Your Daddy took first at Wahoo Smackdown X with 16 fish that weighed a total of 231.5 pounds.

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FLORIDA

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JANUARY 2019

ahoo Smackdown X, hosted by the historic Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Marina on Nov. 8-12, saw 23 boats competing for more than $25,000 in cash and prizes. Out of the 23 competing boats, 22 teams landed fish, bringing 152 wahoo to the scales in the process. Team Who’s Your Daddy took top team honors with 16 fish weighing a total of 231.5 pounds and took home $15,000 in cash winnings. Second place was Team Blitzsea, which earned $7,500 in cash for their 21 fish and a total catch weight of 206.4 pounds. Team Murderize, out of Freeport, Grand Bahama, finished third, taking home $2,500 in cash winnings for a catch of 11 fish with a total catch weight of 193.6 pounds. Team Little Giant caught the largest wahoo of the tournament at 50.7 pounds. Tournament festivities included live local entertainment nightly, a cocktail reception poolside for the captains’ meeting, a cookout on day one of the tournament, and a closing awards party on the great lawn, featuring a buffet, live entertainment and a full open bar. Sponsors for this year’s tournament include American Beverage Marketers (www.masterofmixes.com) as the Title Sponsor, Bahamian Brewery and Beverage (Sands), artist David Dunleavy, Tropic Ocean Airways, Caza Offshore, Live Wire Tackle, Flanigan’s, CS Custom Lures and Bimini Big Game Club. 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. The Big Game Club opened for business in 1947. Owner Neville Stewart saw the promise and allure of fishing and personally developed and encouraged tournaments. He sold his interest to Bacardi, which over 30 years grew the tradition with many memorable tournaments. The current owners, the Southern California-based Hankey Group, put the iconic fishing resort back in play in 2010 and are completing a multi-million-dollar renovation, that includes numerous capital improvements to the rooms, restaurant and lounge, landscaping, new pool and a renovated 75 slip marina, including docks and seawall.

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12/13/18 10:49 AM


By CAM Staff

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n 2007, when Andy Kent opened shop at Beach Blvd Motorsports in Jacksonville, he had no idea how immersed in the fishing world he would become. Beach Blvd began as a pure powersports dealer, selling and servicing ATVs, motorcycles and dirt bikes. With a company-wide ethic of doing right by the customer, it grew into the area’s leading motorsports purveyor. But things really took off in 2012, when Beach Blvd took on fishing boats. “Everyone seems to have something in common when it comes to talking fishing, it doesn’t matter if it’s inshore, offshore or freshwater,” Kent said over the phone while drowning a shiner in the St. Johns River. “Good people fish, and most people who fish are good. It’s just a good kind of customer to have. Fishermen are enjoyable to be around.” Today Beach Blvd sells about 45 Tidewater and Ranger boats a year.

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They service Mercury and Yamaha outboards and provide the kind of ongoing support that earns loyalty from their customers. The dealership got involved in the fishing community, sponsoring inshore tournaments, and this ethos allowed them to expand. In 2018, Kent and his partner Greg Lingris purchased St. Johns Powersports a few miles off the St. Johns River in Palatka. They took a struggling powersports dealer and turned it around. Now Kent is looking forward to providing freshwater anglers with the same customer experience that grew the mostly saltwater customer base in Jacksonville. With a 15-year-old son, Carson, who fishes the Bassmaster High School tournament series, bass fishing is built into family life for the Kents. They understand the wants and needs of freshwater anglers, whether it’s for serious bass tournaments or weekend outings to load a cooler with speckled perch. Obviously, Ranger Boats are a good way to begin filling those needs. Kent envisions a separate building dedicated to fishing boats and accessories, with the most fishable aluminum boats on the market as well as the high-performance fiberglass bass boats every angler covets. “We’re bringing Ranger to Palatka,” Kent said. “We’re looking forward to getting involved by bringing Ranger pros down for open houses and the Ranger Cup Program, which pays tournament anglers for winning if they’re fishing from Ranger boats.” Beneath it all is the desire to earn the trust and friendships critical to a community dealership, and especially in the fishing industry. Kent tipped his hat to his staff for their success. “I owe it all to our staff,” he said. “Customer service is No. 1, and everyone on staff knows it. Each one of them operates as if they owned the place. “It’s not always about price,” he continued. “We always want to give everyone the best deal on the best boat for them. And part of that deal is the support. We want to provide the kind of service that makes customers want come back when it’s time to upgrade.” Check out Beach Blvd Motorsports at beachblvdmotorsports.com. The website for St. Johns Powersports is stjohnspowersports.com.

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12/11/18 AMAM 12/13/1810:55 11:04


By CAM Staff • Photo by Jean-Pierre Bazard

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very blade-handy angler has their own techniques and tricks for peeling the perfect fillet off a fish. But anyone who has spent enough time around a cutting board knows the perfect way to fillet is a combination of three crucial elements: technique, tools and practice. Whether it’s a 15-pound red snapper or a 6-ounce bream, the basics of filleting a fish are the same. The idea is to remove the meat along the fish’s flanks, while leaving behind the head, bones and guts. Step 1: Make a vertical cut just behind the fish’s gill plate and pectoral fin. This cut should go all the way down to the bone and

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extend from back to belly. Step 2: Run the blade from the first cut all the way down the top of the fish, along the backbone to the tail, making a shallow incision as close to the backbone as you can get it. Step 3: Using that long cut along the backbone, utilize smooth, light strokes to work the fillet away from the bones moving from the back to the belly. The other hand can be used to peel back the meat as you go. Cut around the ribcage when you arrive at it. Step 4: With step 3 completed, you should have a beautiful skinon fillet. To remove the skin, place the fillet on the board skin side down. Start from the tail and insert the knife through the meat down to the skin, leaving a tab of meat and skin at the tail to hold onto. Turn the knife horizontal and run the blade up the skin to remove the meat. Step 5: Use tweezers to pick out any pin bones left in the fillet. The technique seems simple enough, but if you don’t have good, sharp, flexible knives that are sized correctly for the fish on the board, you’re going to make a mess out of your fillets. Havalon has come up with an all-in-one solution for this issue with its Talon system. With five styles of high-quality blades that all fit on the same handle, switching from a 7-inch blade down to a 5-incher or even down to a 3.5-inch utility blade is as easy as pressing a button with their Quik-Change II blade replacement system. The blades can be resharpened as well as replaced to make sure they are razor sharp when you need them. Also, with a handle that opens up, clean-up is both thorough and easy with the Havalon Talon system. Rinse your tools down and roll them up in the included canvas kit so they’ll be ready the next time you need them. And next time should be soon, because practice is the final and most important element in the perfect way to fillet. Go fishing enough, and you’ll be peeling off perfect fillets for the table in no time. Check out the Havalon Talon System at www.havalon.com.

12/13/18 11:04 AM


COASTAL ANGLER North Central Florida/Nature Coast

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

JANUARY 2019 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

GOODBYE 2018, AND HELLO 2019

A

s I write tonight, in the last days of 2018, it does indeed, feel like winter in North Central Florida, and we just might begin the new year with a flooded Suwannee! We have certainly had a wet fall, and as much as I love and appreciate rain, I really don’t want the inconvenience of a flood. Not having had a real flood in over 4 ½ years, we are overdue. In our 18 years of living on the Suwannee, I think we have had maybe five real floods. (If it is only ankle deep, I don’t call that a “flood”.) Please see page 5 for our new advertising partner, Astor Marine, in Astor. When you drive through Astor, on SR 40 between Ocala and the Atlantic, you can’t miss Astor Marine. Their motto is, “In the middle of nowhere, convenient to everywhere.” This month’s recipe, Shrimp and Grouper Cheeks with an Herb Sour Cream Sauce Over Pasta, on page 9, came together with several of my favorites. The shrimp and grouper cheeks, came from Kelly at The Crab Plant in Crystal River. I always have sour cream and tomatoes and the fresh herbs are growing in my herb garden. It is comes together easily, and will impress your January dinner guests. My in-house food critic gave it a “You can make this again.” Winter fishing can be a challenge, but if anyone can help you, it is our North Florida Guides. In our FREE magazine, they share very helpful information and if you need more help, give them a call. They will enjoy hearing from you. Always remember to thank our advertising partners and the generous businesses who share a bit of their real estate for distribution space. Thank you to John Freeze, for the page 1 photos (except for our grandson on the swing). John writes CENTRAL FLORIDA INLAND on page 14. Our 2019 wish for you, is that you have the best year of your life. Enjoy every precious day!

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

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Dr. Kevin McCarthy Bruce Butler John Freeze Stacy Horak Capt. Jason Clark Capt. Dan Clymer Capt. Jimbo Keith Capt. Pat McGriff Capt. Brian Smith Capt. Craig Spitznogle

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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STA-SEA’S NATURE COAST ADVENTURES

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TIDES • North Central Florida Time Height

1Tu

2W

3Th

4F 5Sa

6Su

7M

8Tu

4:41 AM 11:15 AM 4:16 PM 10:16 PM 5:40 AM 12:18 PM 5:12 PM 11:03 PM 6:29 AM 1:05 PM 6:03 PM 11:46 PM 7:09 AM 1:43 PM 6:47 PM 12:26 AM 7:45 AM 2:17 PM 7:27 PM 1:03 AM 8:18 AM 2:49 PM 8:04 PM 1:38 AM 8:49 AM 3:20 PM 8:40 PM 2:13 AM 9:19 AM 3:49 PM 9:16 PM

-0.1 2.4 1.2 3.2 -0.4 2.5 1.3 3.4 -0.7 2.7 1.2 3.5 -0.9 2.8 1.2 3.5 -0.9 2.8 1.1 3.5 -0.9 2.8 1.0 3.5 -0.8 2.8 1.0 3.4 -0.7 2.8 0.9

HERNANDO BEACH

JANUARY 2019

9W

Time Height

2:48 AM 9:49 AM 4:18 PM 9:53 PM 10Th 3:26 AM 10:20 AM 4:47 PM 10:32 PM 11F 4:07 AM 10:52 AM 5:17 PM 11:15 PM 12Sa 4:54 AM 11:27 AM 5:51 PM 13Su 12:06 AM 5:49 AM 12:07 PM 6:32 PM 14M 1:10 AM 7:01 AM 12:58 PM 7:22 PM 15Tu 2:27 AM 8:38 AM 2:07 PM 8:21 PM 16W 3:43 AM 10:14 AM 3:22 PM 9:23 PM

3.3 -0.6 2.8 0.9 3.2 -0.4 2.8 0.8 3.0 -0.2 2.8 0.8 2.8 0.0 2.9 0.7 2.5 0.3 2.9 0.6 2.3 0.7 2.9 0.4 2.1 1.0 3.0 0.1 2.2 1.2 3.2

KINGS BAY

High Tide -20 min Low Tide 58 min

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

CRYSTAL RIVER

WITHLACOOCHEE ENT

High Tide 36 min Low Tide 1 hr, 30 min

High Tide 7 min Low Tide 55 min

CEDAR KEY

Time Height

17Th 4:50 AM 11:32 AM 4:31 PM 10:20 PM 18F 5:48 AM 12:34 PM 5:32 PM 11:14 PM 19Sa 6:41 AM 1:24 PM 6:28 PM 20Su 12:06 AM 7:29 AM 2:08 PM 7:18 PM 21M 12:56 AM 8:14 AM 2:48 PM 8:05 PM 22Tu 1:45 AM 8:57 AM 3:27 PM 8:51 PM 23W 2:35 AM 9:40 AM 4:04 PM 9:39 PM 24Th 3:26 AM 10:22 AM 4:39 PM 10:29 PM

Time Height

25F

26Sa 27Su

28M

29Tu

30W

31Th

4:20 AM 11:02 AM 5:14 PM 11:22 PM 5:18 AM 11:42 AM 5:51 PM 12:22 AM 6:22 AM 12:24 PM 6:33 PM 1:32 AM 7:45 AM 1:14 PM 7:25 PM 2:57 AM 9:31 AM 2:19 PM 8:28 PM 4:17 AM 11:04 AM 3:33 PM 9:34 PM 5:22 AM 12:09 PM 4:41 PM 10:34 PM

3.4 -0.4 3.0 0.3 3.0 0.1 3.0 0.3 2.5 0.6 3.0 0.2 2.1 1.0 3.0 0.1 2.0 1.3 3.0 -0.1 2.1 1.4 3.0 -0.3 2.3 1.4 3.1

HOMOSASSA RIVER ENT

HORSESHOE BEACH

SUWANNEE ENT

STEINHATCHEE RIVER ENT

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

2 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

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-0.4 2.4 1.2 3.4 -0.8 2.6 1.2 3.6 -1.2 2.8 1.1 3.8 -1.4 2.9 1.0 4.0 -1.5 3.0 0.8 4.0 -1.4 3.0 0.7 3.9 -1.2 2.9 0.5 3.7 -0.8 2.9 0.4

High Tide 12 min Low Tide 20 min

High Tide 2 min Low Tide 0 min

JANUARY 2019

o you like catching trout! What about redfish? Well now’s the time to get off the couch, gas up the boat, or throw on your mud boots, and get out there!! Head to some grassy flats at low tide for some gator trout, then off to our incredible inshore waters for some redfish. I have been fishing from the banks, and still catch 10 to15 redfish in a matter of a couple hours. You don’t have to have a boat on the Nature Coast to catch fish. Ok, so if you do have a boat, and you want some intel, here it is. (There’s more intel coming for you land lovers.) Trout are biting like crazy right now. I have had outstanding luck with about a ¼ oz. jighead, with just about any paddle tail soft plastic. The ones I'm using are 3 to 4 inches. If you are on the grass flats, cast it and let it hit the bottom, wait about 10 seconds, and then start popping it slowly. Just a slight jerk to get the bait to pop up about 8 to12 inches, and then sink back down. I always get my strikes on the drop. Just remember that the water is very chilly right now, which means that the trout are moving a lot slower, they're not going to chase a fast-moving bait right now. The biggest mistake I see people make, is popping it too fast. If it helps you, count to 5 between jerks. Now the tide starts coming in, it’s time to move in and target one of my favorites, redfish! Fish around the mangroves, where you see current, and structure. Structure can be just an oyster bed a few feet out from the mangroves. I like to quietly position myself about 30 feet down stream. Picture yourself casting to the area the current will be pushing them to. If you were a fish

in that area, where would you be, trying to swim up the current, or leisurely flowing with it? Ok, now you are in position, a #2 circle hook with a live pinfish is the bait of choice for me. Shrimp, and hard suspending twitch baits are second. I rig the shrimp with an ⅛ to ½ oz. jighead, depending on depth and current. Patience is key. If you are fishing with live bait, be still. Don’t twitch and pop your baits, just keep the line tight, and wait for it. The redfish have been hitting almost anything I throw at them, but I have noticed that it is taking a little time. Usually within 20 minutes, the first slot red is hooked, and then its nonstop for a good hour. Suddenly, as if a switch is flipped, the bite dies, and I move to the next spot. Now for you folks bank fishing, live bait has been the ticket. A big fat shrimp, hooked through the head is hot right now. Circle hook or jighead will work. For bank fishing, I have been keeping the bait moving, simply because where I've been fishing, it is very rocky and I don’t want to lose my hook. Just barely move it, jerk, then jerk, jerk, small pops. The trout, redfish, snook, and black drum have been all over just 20 to 40 feet off the banks. So, get out there and get your fish on! It's a new year--fish more! Captain Stacy Horak Cell 352-553-3604 Facebook: CaptainStacy Horak Instagram: captain_stacyhorakfishing Website: www. fishingwithcaptainstacy.com

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12/12/18 7:58 PM


FLORIDA WATERWAYS

New Uses for Mangroves

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Several years ago (2016) I wrote about the value of mangroves in the ecological status of Florida, how such trees or shrubs can grow in saline or brackish water, because they can tolerate salty conditions. Water-logged mud will not By Kevin McCarthy destroy them, because they can tolerate low-oxygen conditions. With better knowledge these days than in the past, scientists point out how many species of fish begin their lives in mangroves, and even sometimes prefer to hide there from larger predators. Fishermen can find a wide variety of fish in mangroves: jack, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, snook, tarpon, and even barracuda. Scientists, in fact, estimate that 90% of commercial fish species in the state, and 75% of the game fish, live amidst the mangroves at some point in their lives. Skillful fishermen can thread their way among the mangroves to seek out those game fish hiding from other fish. Scientists have recently pointed out a new use for mangroves: protecting lowlying areas from hurricanes. We know from the past two summers that hurricanes are becoming fiercer and more devastating for our state and our country. We also know that seas are rising, a situation that is very bad for our coastal cities, like Jacksonville, Miami, and Pensacola. Any way to protect our coastlines from further erosion and provide good fishing grounds for fishermen is welcome. Mangroves can help protect our coasts, because the salt-tolerant trees and shrubs have an unusual root system, that holds soil in place, while at the same time aerating the soil. That ability reduces erosion and helps with drainage. A recent issue of Popular Science magazine, had an article about how Hungarian scientists are using a modular,

lacelike concrete structure, which will act as a base for mangrove saplings, which usually have trouble getting started. Once the mangroves begin to grow and form a natural dam, the manmade structures will degrade, and thus disappear. The Nature Conservancy, in fact, is working with insurance companies to support mangrove areas along the coast. Our state has come a long way from the 19th-century days when developers looked on mangroves as deterrents to their building plans. Instead of tearing them out of the way as developers used to do, today marine scientists have convinced our state officials how important such trees are. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on our west coast, and the Gulf Stream on our east coast, have allowed mangroves to flourish, which can greatly help the fishing throughout our peninsula. Even when the occasional frost in North Florida kills off some of the black mangrove trees, they can regrow from their strong roots. Florida mangroves are found around Cedar Key on the Gulf coast, and the Ponce de Leon Inlet on the Atlantic coast.

Florida

Mangrove plants in Florida

Map of North Florida showing mangroves

A manatee swimming over a school of mangrove snappers

Kevin McCarthy, the author of St. Johns River Guidebook (Pineapple Press, 2008), can be reached at can be reached at ceyhankevin@gmail.com.

A Key deer in mangrove

s

es in Florida Dense red mangrov

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JANUARY 2019

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 3

12/12/18 7:58 PM


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12/12/18 7:58 PM


CRYSTAL RIVER

HOMOSASSA

Winter Highs and Lows anuary is typically the start of Florida’s help fire up the bite even more. When it comes grand two month winter, and this means to the river, the trout will be out along the river that our warm water fish will be searching ledges and the outer edges of the major rock for ways to stay warm through it. Thankfully, piles, while the redfish and sheepshead will the nature coast is blessed with hundreds of be directly up on the rocks in the shallower freshwater springs that pump 72-degree water water. The outgoing tide is always best in the to help give our fish a place to stay warm in winter, as the warm spring water is dumping the winter. The main targets this time of year out, and that warm water is key to a hot bite. Sheepshead will be speckled trout, redfish, and sheephead. When it comes to these striped bandits, Our weather can be very unpredictable in the winter, ranging from flat calm and 70 degrees there is only one way to go when it comes to to 20 mph North winds and 40 degree air bait and tackle. Live, or fresh dead crustaceans, temps, so proper planning will help you stay with shrimp and fiddler crabs are the very best options available. I prefer to fish a knocker rig in the game this time of year. where the egg sinker rests directly on the eye Speckled Trout and Redfish The trout can be found this time of year of the hook, sliding freely up and down the in a multitude of locations, from the deeper leader. This way, you can allow the sinker to flats and offshore holes, to the ledges and rest on the bottom and the fish can take the rock piles located in both the Crystal River bait, without having to feel the weight, and and Homossasa River. Live shrimp and soft get spooked. A 1/0-3/0 hook will be the best plastic jig tails will be the best options, as the size to get you in the game, as these fish are trout will be hanging near the bottom, trying known for having a very small mouth and a their best to stay warm. I rig both the shrimp light bite. These fish will be found on both and plastics baits exacly same way, with a 1/8 the rockpiles in the river, and on the offshore ounce chartreuse or red jig head connected to rocks as well, once the spawn gets heated up 2 feet of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader. The towards the end of the month. When in doubt Unfair lures Smack Tail and Paddletail are with sheepshead, always fish around rocks, solid options in any situation for bouncing the ledges or oysters. a meal or two, and release the others bottom, and once the fish are located, you can Capt. Clay Shidler to keep our future stock strong. ClayShidler@Yahoo.com take the jig tail off and thread on a shrimp to Red fish will not only be in the rivers, but also deep in the back country. I really enjoy this time of year, sight fishing them, and a shallow draft skiff is a must. When the tide drops out, especially after a $1 OFF Fresh Clam Strips hard NE cold front, poling the flats can be exciting. The water is going to Basket or Appetizer be low, but exceptionally clear, and 50¢ OFF Cup of New you can learn so much about the vast England Clam Chowder bottom terrain. Look for red fish to $1 OFF Bowl of New be in small depressions, and on the leeward side of an island. A properly England Clam Chowder presented free-lined live shrimp or EAT IN • TAKE OUT MirrOlure lil’ John rigged weed less, 7364 W. Grover Cleveland Closed 2315 N. Sunshine Path will work fantastically well. Homosassa, FL 34446 Sunday and Crystal River, FL 34429 Depending on the water temperature and the number of 352-628-9588 Monday 352-795-9081 cold fronts, the trout action can be fantastic on the near- shore oyster bars, and rock flats on the incoming tide. The hard bottom holds heat, and as the tide rises, the trout will Sylvan • Oasis move in from the deeper adjacent Sun Chaser Pontoon Boats drop-offs, and basically, soak up the heat. This is where a slow suspending plug like a MirrOlure MirrODine or glow DOA cal jerk bait, will really produce. A slow subtle twitch is the retrieve, and on many occasions, Expertise Servicing of: these fish can be sight-fished as well. HONDA • MERCURY Good Fishing!

J

W

OW, another great year is behind us, and “WOW”, what an unbelievable grouper season we just finished. As you all know, it’s the winter time and between the weather and the conditions, fishing can be a bit challenging. There is still some great fishing to be had, and many opportunities are just a close ride from the boat ramp. Our area is unique, as opposed to other parts of the state; having several fresh water springs feeding our rivers leading to the gulf, is a “reel” treat. If the conditions don’t allow you to venture on the outside, the rivers can save a day on the water. The warm flowing spring water is a constant 72 degrees, and when the gulf water temperature drops in the low 60’s and cooler, many inshore species will run towards the warm head waters, looking for comfort. Trout, red fish, black drum, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, snook, lady fish and jacks, will venture all the way in to the fresh water, and many of these species can be caught in one day. Target the various rocky points, boat docks, and any sharp drop-off in the river, for a mixed-day’s catch. In between cold fronts, and on days when it’s favorable to run offshore, it’s time to tackle some sheepshead. Sheepshead are hard fighters, excellent table fair, and during these winter months, are my number one choice for dependable action. Rock piles, ledges, wrecks, and basically any type of structure that gag grouper prefer, the sheepshead will be there too. Live shrimp, or small pieces of shrimp on a knocker rig, is all that’s needed for success, but be prepared to lose a few; the hook set timing takes a bit of practice. Keep in mind, they are spawning, so take a couple home for

SEAFOOD AT ITS BEST!

Capt. Dan Clymer 352.418.2160 www.crystalriver-fishing.com

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SUZUKI • YAMAHA

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12/12/18 7:58 PM


SUWANNEE

FLORIDA SUWANNEE RIVER WATERFRONT

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352.372.4237

H

ey everyone, these fish are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing with these cooler water temperatures, moving into the creeks! The trout are plentiful and good sized. They are staging on the flats, right outside of the creek and river mouths. There’s not just one way to watch them either. I'm throwing it all at them right now: top water, popping corks, hard plastics, soft plastics, and live shrimp. The reds I've noticed, are really enjoying shrimp under a popping cork, with a slow and steady popping action. Be ready when you're fishing for reds that way, because the big black drum are having fun around the grass lines, and oyster beds as well. I'm keeping this month’s article short and sweet. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And hopefully you received all the tackle you could handle. Stay safe out there, and see you on the water! Capt. Jason Clark In The Slot Fishing www.intheslotfishing.com Capt.jasonclark@gmail.com 352-639-3209

Dixie Salvage Auto & Truck Parts Foreign & Domestic Scott Ambrose 21214 S.E. Hwy-19 Old Town, FL 32680

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 7

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STEINHATCHEE Best Bets for the New Year

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t's no secret, that January is cold in the Big Bend of Florida. It's is also no secret that during those cold periods, trout stack up in the Steinhatchee River, seeking relative warmth. And, it is no secret that boats can stack up in the river, like cars on the interstate during rush hour, anywhere around Atlanta. As for best bait, typically quarter ounce jigs of various colors, sloooowly bounced along the bottom, suspending twitch baits, tenderly worked back to the boat. As for the favored color, go to a bait and tackle shop and ask; the one that is working best will most likely be sold out. As for location, a flotilla of boats is a big clue, but be polite and remember, trout will go with the tide, so down current may be the next hot spot. Remember rough handling a trout, such as using a rag, removes the protective slim that prevents disease. So if you handle undersized fish with gloves, a rag or grab it roughly with dry hands, simply slam the fish on the deck, and kick it in the head before gently releasing it, to relieve it of a slow agonizing death. Furthermore, trout school by size or year class. If you're catching one short trout after another, move on. You're killing next years stock. Using larger baits, or trolling, can partly eliminate catching undersized trout, while upping the chance for a redfish. I've never been one to fish in crowds. So on a blue-bird day, it's great to run out to hard bottom 25 to 35 feet, and use squid strips or bounce jigs for the abundant and delicious black sea bass. It is great fun for everyone. When its on, and its always on, your bait won't make the bottom, and a horde of sea bass will follow the one hooked to the surface. Pick your fish—a trick. Stand by someone who is reeling up a sea bass with a jig ready to pitch. Usually, a couple

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of larger sea bass will follow the one being reeled in. When you see the one you want, toss the jig to the big one. If a small fish darts toward it, jerk it away. Your buddy is just a tool for you catching bigger fish. It is a good idea to switch out with them to keep a friendship. The sea bass fishery is fantastic for kid fishing, quick and easy fish fries and a cure for cabin-fever. Use light tackle to put more fun in the dysfunction. Brian Smith | BIG BEND CHARTERS www.BigBendCharters.com CaptBrian@bellsouth.net

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GROUPER CHEEKS AND SHRIMP, WITH AN HERB AND TOMATO SOUR CREAM SAUCE OVER ANGEL HAIR PASTA

INGREDIENTS

(SERVES 2)

• Jumbo Shrimp, shelled and deveined (6 or 8 for 2 servings) • Grouper Cheeks (6 or 8 for 2 servings) or Grouper cut into small pieces. • Flour for coating • Salt and Pepper • Butter or Oil (about 6 Tsp. divided for 2 servings) • Parsley chopped (about a handful for 2 servings)

• Chives or Green Onions chopped (about 2 Tsp. for 2 servings) • Fresh Basil (about 2 lg. leaves for 2 serving) • Tomatoes roughly chopped (about ½ cup for 2 servings) (I chose grape tomatoes.) • Sour Cream (about 1/3 cup for 2 servings) • Hot Pasta, your choice, for 2 servings. I chose angel hair.

COOKING DIRECTIONS

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, freshly prepared meal, watching manatees, dolphins, pelicans and boats. Or, you can carry it home; your choice. Open Tues-Thurs 10:005:30, 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

Melt a couple tablespoons butter or oil in large skillet over medium heat. Season seafood with salt and pepper, and dust with flour. Place into hot skillet, and cook about three minutes on each side, until lightly browned, adding more butter or oil as pan gets dry. Remove from skillet. Place on plates, and keep warm in oven at about 200 degrees. Add remainder of butter or oil to skillet and add chives or green onions, parsley and tomatoes. Cook about 3 minutes, until tomatoes are slightly softened. Add sour cream and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping pan for all the delicious crispy bits! If sauce gets too thick, thin with a bit of chicken broth or milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove plates from oven, add hot pasta to hot plates and serve sour cream sauce over pasta. A yummy, yummy seafood dish for a chilly January night, served with a green vegetable of your choice. Sause would also be delicious with chicken.

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SUWANNEE RIVER/CEDAR KEY

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420 Dock Street Cedar Key, FL 32625 352-543-5142 steamerscedarkey.com info@steamerscedarkey.com

appy New Year Folks. I surely hope 2017 was a great year for y’all and a very fishy one too. It was another great year for Saltwater Assassin Fishing Charters, and we want to thank each and every one of y’all who choose us to help make your memories. Now, to the important stuff, the fish! The trout bite is pretty decent in the creeks that have good water. Low incoming tide seems to be best for us. We don’t usually use the B52 corks in the creeks, but we still love the Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad tail. We rig it on either a 1/4oz Jim’s jig head or 3/8oz Saltwater Assassin head. The GreenMoon and Stinky Pink colors seem to work really well for us. The key is to let the jig sink to the bottom, and then use a slow steady retrieve. Just keep it off the bottom and wait for the TICK! When you feel the tick, then lay the wood to him, because that was a hit. The redfish bite is also pretty decent in the creeks, and the incoming tide seems to be the best. Live shrimp has been working best

for us this time of year. If the creek is deep, we fish it on the bottom, and if it’s not too deep, we may use a cork. This time of year, you need to be extra careful not to get your self stuck with super low tides. They get extra low, and the bottom will sneak up on you. Well folks, like I always say, get outside and enjoy what God has made for us! Saltwater Assassin Fishing Charters www.FishCedarkey.com 352-535-5083 | Capt.Jimbo Keith

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

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SIGNS BANNERS Copies Fax

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elcome back Yak fans, WooHoo, I made it to 2019. Who would have thunk it, I misspent so much of my youth, I was in deficit spending before I hit 21, but here we are. I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas and I guess we'll see what the new year brings. World peace is probably asking a bit much, so I'll settle for great fishing, Oh, and if I get my wish, I'll share (lol) ! While on that subject, the Hernando snook reports are the best in years, up and down the coast line. Siders in all sizes are showing up. Let’s hope it's a mild winter. I'd love to see them hang around. What follows, is the reason why. It all began on a winter day, way back in 2018, you know, last week. On a trip to one of my favorite spots, I hit the water around 6 am, to be in position for an early negative 7 tide. So here I am, in the perfect position at day break, with a mile of grass flats exposed in front of me, and there wasn't a fish to be seen. Here I was, expecting to see tailing reds, black drum, and sheepies everywhere (as they have been in the past) on a tide like this, at this time of year. So here I am, in dead calm water. I could see for a mile, and what I saw, was nothing. No tails, no movement, like Charlie Brown used to say, "Good grief ". This horrible fate continued through the outgoing, and into the turn, and I'm getting frustrated. I mean, come on, where, could they be? My savior was the incoming tide. As it came up, the fish arrived. First to show were the reds, back in the creeks. (I think those buggers were there all along.) I picked up a 29 inch and a 22 inch, and then rats and puppies (small reds) went back to the

outside, and now the trout decided to make their appearance as well. So, after months of saying fish the outgoing to the turn, the bite turned on me to the low, to mid incoming, and I was still catching fish, toward and past the high. I'll keep you posted cause this ain't normal. As the tide started to really rip, remember this was a negative 7 day, I rode it back in the creeks, and the fun really began. As I approached one of my drum holes, I noticed some surface activity, but this is normal with mullet around, so I got in position and dropped a line and picked up a couple of black drum and mangroves. Then on the third drop, I left it toward the bottom, and decided to investigate that aforementioned surface activity. I flipped my trusty spook jr. out, and immediately got nailed by a snook, and then the fun began. Every cast was getting blown up, and in the end, I missed a dozen, hooked 14 and landed 11, all in the lower 20 to 24 inch range. Folks, this just doesn't happen in Hernando county, at least not that I've heard. Then that line I'd been ignoring, took off and I landed an inshore goliath grouper; what a day! So, with a horrible beginning, came a memorable ending. Paddling back, trying to remember if I caught two or three small reds, who knew it would matter later? Anyhow, I guess I'll call it a four-slam day (trout, red, snook) as well as black drum, sheepshead, and mangrove snapper. I think I'm going to like 2019, if this was any sign of things to come.

MV#:60926

15 NW 1st Avenue - P.O. Box 1205 Chiefland, FL 32644

Bruce Butler | "Stumbling Gypsy" (352) 428-5347 Bruce@IndianBayOutfitters.com Web: www.IndianBayOutfitters.com

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INGLIS/YANKEETOWN

Available in 17', 20', 22' and 24'

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anuary in our area can be very good, or very tough. This time of year, you are going to really have to pay attention to two things, the tides and the weather. Winter time low tides don’t push much water in, and they take it all out. You better know what your boat can float in, and how long it takes you to get back to good water, or you could be sitting for awhile. Weather is the other key factor. We have constant cold fronts pushing through. The day before is usually pretty good, but the day of, and the few days after, are usually not so hot. I like to key in on the second or third day of good warming temps after a front. This is when the fish normally break out of their lock-jawed state. The redfish are going to be piled up in the creeks. They are going to search out the deeper pockets in these creeks where the water temp stays a little more consistent. My go-to bait when this happens, has to be, a mirrolure mirrodine. The smaller profile bait, and a slow retrieve, will usually get bit. If the fish are lethargic and sitting on the bottom, I will break-out a zman btb jig with a crabz trailer and pitch that to them. The trout will be pushed up tight on the flats, and in the creeks as well. Hands down, the best bait for these guys is the Paul Brown Devil. This bait is made for big trout. The men you see in the picture all saw it for the first time that day. They were not too sure about it until they made a few casts. You have to make yourself fish this bait extremely slowly to produce the best results. The snook are going to be up in the river where the water is warmer. I 12 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

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like to find good moving water around a bend or boat dock, that provides a good ambush point for them. A zman diezel minnowz or paddlerz will get the job done here. Make sure you rig the bait right, because if it is not, then it will not swim naturally, and you will not get bit like you should. Until next month, have fun, be safe and take your kids fishing. Capt. Craig Spitznogle www.floridaflatscharterco.com Florida Flats Charter Company (352)445-4978

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KEATON BEACH

CENTRAL FLORIDA INLAND

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appy New Year, forest fishers. We're starting off 2019 with the best crappie (speck) fishing this area has seen in decades! After all the changes our lakes and rivers have gone through, it's great to see our ecosystem healthy and thriving. I've explored each area well, over the past couple months, and found loads of black crappie just about everywhere. A depth/fish finder will help when searching for offshore schools. Note: They'll always be near a quick drop-off in depth (ledges). Usually, you'll find fish on the shallow side during cold fronts, and on the deep side when it's warm. Minnows are the bait of choice, and a lively worm is the next best option. However, most lakes are so stacked with fish right now, that crappie jigs are working just as good as live bait, especially when you add a subtle "bumping action" to them. Use bright colors when it's overcast, and natural colors when it's sunny. Set out multiple rods, at different depths, until you figure out where they want it. While crappie fishing, you're sure to catch other species as a bi-catch. Fish of all sizes will eat a small minnow or lure, but I still like rigging an extra-large bait on one of my rods; to target the biggins'!

Zack Bruchey of Moultrie, Ga. with a fine speck caught November 24, 2018

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Now, while the majority of specks are found offshore this month, it's always a good idea to try fishing lily pad fields and reed patches for a bit. Often, that's where the "lone giant" lives. Fishing these areas will also add some variety to your trip, and you don't even have to switch baits. Redear sunfish are common catches, as well as bass and catfish. Note: Sunfish are extra chunky this year, and they can really save your day when the specks aren't cooperating. With a healthy fish population and high water levels, this is the perfect time to explore new areas. There are big, hungry fish living in spots that were bone dry two years ago. Let the signs of duck weed and dollar bonnets lead your way to the fish. When you do find one of these special secret spots, please remember to practice conservation. Now that fishing the forest is much better this year, let's all do our part to keep it progressing, year after year. John Freeze

Writer/Photographer Kayak and Shoreside Fishing Tours 352-216-5798 Swampsurf@embarqmail.com

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ishing can get tough when the Gulf ’s numbers 11, 95, and 09 are but a few of surface temps dip below 55 degrees, my picks for January. My second choice, which is where they have been this would be the Soft-Dine in either size. Just throw them both and let the fish week. (today is January 10) You need to catch the days with mid- make the choice for you. If water temps come back up around day high tides, so that the afternoon falling tide, will bring warmer water 60 degrees in January, then by all means, back to fish, just outside the creeks or fish the original “hard” MirrOdines in rocky flats, adjacent to the creeks. This both the size #17 and the #27. I catch a warm bath energizes fish, who might bunch of fish on the #51M MirrOlure, otherwise just watch your baits as they which is simply a forward “Pull” modification of the original #52M. The pass by. SLOW, is the key. S-L-O-W, so that 51M shines best, though for me, in the fish who are at, or near their coldest water over 4 feet in depth and in water operating speed (55 degrees) will have temps above 55 degrees as well. I guess you could say that January time to see your offering, adjust to it, and bite it. Many times, the only bites at Keaton Beach is a MirrOlure kinda you get in January come in the first ten Month. seconds after your cast. This is a sure sign that the fish aren’t moving towards Meanwhile, Let's Go Fishing! your bait; but rather you must cast to Pat McGriff dba One More Cast them and they aren’t willing to move/ guide service for 28 years! chase after a bait, but rather attack it as it www.onemorecast.net comes near enough to them. onemorecast@gtcom.net Now is when the suspending soft baits, such as the Paul Brown series made by L&S (MirrOlure) are your best bait choice. The soft feel seems to catch more cold fish and they hold on to it longer. You can add scents, which help to convince the trout or reds to believe in your critter. The Paul Brown Devil is certainly my favorite, and I prefer several colors, but it seems that everyone has their own favorite Jim Bruchey of Moultrie, Ga. with a redfish from color patterns. The November 24, 2018

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STA-SEA’S NATURE COAST ADVENTURES

H

to come

Fishing with Captain Stacy Horak 352-553-3604 Facebook CaptainStacy Horak Instagram captain_stacyhorakfishing Email freeinajeep@gmail.com www.fishingwithcaptainstacy.com

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he operations of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park (ECLSP) have changed over its more than half century of existence. Designated a “no take� marine reserve in 1986, no fishing or taking of any organism (including plants and shells) is allowed. The ECLSP is known internationally for its pristine marine environment and offers visitors exceptional diving and recreational opportunities. Recently the Marine Conservation Institute announced that the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park earned a Platinum Global Ocean Refuge Award. Joining a prestigious group of ten marine protected areas (MPAs) that comprise the Global Ocean Refuge System means that Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park meets the highest science-based standards for biodiversity protection and best practices for management. Each year, thousands of vessels visit and overnight in the ECLSP. Years ago, the Bahamas National Trust introduced a mooring and anchorage system with fees to reduce the impact. A new fee structure will come into force effective Jan. 1. Mooring fees are based on the size of the vessel and range from $20 to $150 per day. Daily/nightly anchorage fees are 50 cents or $1 per foot depending on the length of the vessel. Dive fees are $10 per diver. For more information, visit www.bnt.bs/exuma-cays-land-seapark/.

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