The 5th Annual Santa Fe Lady Raider Inshore Slam went out of Steinhatchee Saturday. The vast majority of fishing tournaments are held in the spring season, when hardly a weekend goes by without multiple events along our stretch of gulf coast.
I’ve never understood why more tournaments aren’t held in the fall. The fishing is fine and the boat ramps and water, far less crowded. The Lady Raider tournament had been moved back a month due to Hurricane Irma. It drew 55 powered boats and 10 kayaks, and saw nice catches in spite of a much stronger breeze than would have been ideal.
The heaviest trout of the day was taken by Robin Phillips, and her winning fish was followed by also-impressive second and third-place trout weighed by Kristen Griffis and Andy Phillips.
Robin Phillips also took the cash prize for Heaviest Bag Limit of Trout, and Zach Hart claimed second place in that category.
Fishing with Mark McKinney, Rick Pena bagged the heaviest legal redfish with a 5.86-pound fish that measured 25.5 inches. Robin Phillips and Tommy Lado had the second and third heaviest reds, and the red with the most spots (14) was weighed in by Scott Salanci.
The fall Spanish mackerel run looked very promising last month just after the Hurricane passed. Reports were great for several days….and then, nothing. No reports, no mackerel stories for over two weeks. Not until early this week did we again hear Spanish mackerel reports to light fires under fans of the sleek, voracious predators.
Monday, Steve Beeland and Bob Watson enjoyed epic action on Seahorse Reef. The Gainesville anglers arrived during a rising morning tide. Beeland said, “Our goal was 15-to-20 fish, but that went out the window in ten minutes”. Their last trip to the famous reef off Cedar Key had been just post-Irma, and it had been a very productive one. This time, it was better. More and larger pods of baitfish teemed at the surface and mackerel were ‘showering’ them up and down the reef.
A combination of casting and trolling with their favorite traditional mackerel producers—spoons and Floreo-style jigs—quickly produced 15 good fish. When they reached the 25-fish mark at noon, the men decided to stop for lunch and then head back to port. Having slowed down to survey the reef, Watson and Beeland saw three other boats, all seemingly busy with fish. Even at slack high tide, there were still fish striking bait near the boat. And here, Beeland’s story continues, “Bob couldn’t stand it and made ‘one more cast’. While he was fighting his fish, I threw out near it and caught another. A lot of very large, chunky fish. I measured one at 27-inches”.
On Monday afternoon, Paul and Rudy Rothseiden and Guy Hudspeth headed out of Cedar Key. They didn’t stop at Seahorse Reef, instead running past it five more miles to water 30 feet deep. Fishing shrimp on the bottom, the three pulled in quite a mix of fish. The Alachua anglers put 45 grunts, a flounder, and 5 mackerel on ice…and released several short gag grouper. On the way back in, they decided to pull Stretch 30 lures for a while and this yielded a twelve-pound gag and a whopping 30-inch Spanish.
Suwannee hasn’t been mentioned often in this space lately, but with the salty shallows near its mouth clearing and cooling, that is sure to change.
Don House eased out from Suwannee town Sunday morning to see about the trout and reds he seems to find every fall. He found the water still stained, but “better than two weeks ago”. Casting a topwater lure, the Gainesville angler caught and released a 28-inch red, and then four more of legal length took his gold spoon. He was most impressed, though, with the giant red he could not turn as it took about 200 feet of drag. House then ran out to Suwannee Reef, where he cast jerkbaits to take 25 trout. These were all smallish fish, though, each within an inch above or below the 15-inch minimum legal length.
Here at the start of cool weather, fishing throughout the salty Big Bend waters is very good and getting better. Area freshwaters are full and beautiful. The coming months offer plenty of promise.
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