Inshore action that always kicks up along the Gulf Coast at the arrival of slightly cooler nights seems to be building a bit early, but not everywhere, and not for every species.
Curiously, the spike in fish-catching is most noticeable in the Suwannee/Cedar Key area. Although speckled trout catches remain sub-par as they have been for most of the year, redfish are in good supply here, and offshore catches are clearly rising.
Mason and Sarah Galloway fished Cedar Key last Saturday. The Gainesville couple started out casting shrimp, jigs and topwater lures around oyster bars covered by a high tide. Plenty of redfish were there, and they had caught and released dozens of undersize reds when a much larger fish struck Mason’s minnow-imitating jig. Following a long battle with only 8-pound test braid with a 15-pound test fluorocarbon leader, the angler finally brought the fish to the boat. Mason and Sarah tried to measure the snook before releasing it, but no tape in the boat was quite long enough to do the job. Their estimate of the big Cedar Key snook’s length was 38 to 40 inches. And the Galloways weren’t done. Sarah went on to take two fine flounder of 21 and 17 inches; then they added several mangrove snappers from 10-to-13 inches. Mason described the Cedar Key water as clearer than he would have expected, given the long spell of rain and proximity to the swollen Suwannee River.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife
For the first time in a while, a nice mix of good reports came in this week. Good catches from lakes, rivers and both inshore and offshore salt waters … better than an angler might expect during the dreaded “dog days” of summer.
The commonly held belief that there aren’t a lot of grouper to be found these days in the usually productive 40- to-60-foot-deep zone out of Cedar Key and Suwannee might not be accurate. Chris McGinley has maintained all summer he has seen no shortage of grouper in this range of depths. Two Sundays ago, the Gainesville angler proved his point again. McGinley and a friend first trolled a rocky-bottomed area in water between 50 and 55 feet deep with deep-running Mann’s Stretch 30 lures to take whopping gags of 29 and 30 inches. Then anchoring over the spot, they bounced jigs on the bottom to haul in several more gag and red grouper, plus a pile of sea bass and grunts.
Joe and Rebecca White and Richard and Eric Fawcett were likewise impressed with the Cedar Key fishing during their trip last Friday to the inshore flats. The Gainesville anglers fished in two boats, drifting with a nice, light breeze as the morning tide rose. Casting white Gulp! shrimp off Seahorse Key, they hooked a good number of trout. Most were short of keeper size, but the two boats did end up with several nice-sized fish. A move to Snake Key produced fewer trout, but an unexpected predator kept things interesting. By now, the four fishers had switched the colors of their Gulp! baits to new penny/chartreuse and several young gag grouper found them irresistible. These near-shore gags seldom approach legal length, but they’re great sport with trout tackle. Local anglers sometimes call them “grass grouper,” and their presence in numbers can only be a good sign.
Every angler seems to have strong thoughts regarding the effects this summer’s persistent rainfall has had on fishing. Opinions range all the way from “great” to “awful.” And they’re all correct.
Huge or prolonged rains seldom do any favors for salty inshore anglers, robbing the shallows of clarity and salinity. The soggy spell that, so far, has lasted into August has done the fine, ongoing scallop season no favors …. nor has it helped the building St. Johns River shrimp run in any way. Rivers rise and darken, and that’s not a particularly good combination for fishing or shrimping.
The place where big rainfall almost always leads to great fish-catching is in lakes and ponds. And this summer, all the new water has, indeed, benefited fishers targeting these waters.
A soggy summer has hampered fish-catching on some waters, but boosted action on others.
Coastal flooding along the entire stretch of the Gulf Coast we cover is making everyday life tough for some residents, and anglers are encountering challenges in the form of dark, fresh water in their favorite spots that are best when salty and clear. Still, we’ve heard a handful of fairly impressive redfish stories, even during the incredibly high tides seen lately along the Big Bend coast. Most of the successes have come from far up tidal creeks normally inaccessible by boats with outboard motors.
High water at Lake Rousseau has made navigating a dangerous undertaking. Lying between Dunnellon and Inglis, the flooded, stumpy backwater of the Withlacoochee River has risen high enough to cover the snags that usually peak above its surface. Making matters worse, the rain runoff from upriver has darkened the water considerably, preventing boaters from spotting the subsurface obstructions before finding them with their vessels. Still, anglers familiar with the fine fishing lake say they can get around with great care. Pat and Dakota Robertson fished Rousseau Monday. The Williston father and son cast Zoom Speed Worms and Super Flukes along an upper-lake shoreline to boat and release eight nice largemouths. The best two were hefty chunks of five and six pounds. They reported seeing no other bass boats on the water that day, possibly due to the tricky navigation.