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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Ozello to Crystal River

Homosassa Inshore Fishing Report, 12/13/17 from Capt. William Toney

by on Dec.13, 2017, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, Ozello to Crystal River

With the latest cold front fishing is what should be expected after the Nature Coast first frost of the year. The near shore flats are holding a few red fish on the incoming high tide. Searching rocky points can help a angler locate some red fish. There are a few mullet but most of them are milling around the shoreline and not jumping, a occasional little flip will be help locate the best shoreline to hunt for red fish. I use live shrimp to sight cast for them.
River fishing has had the best action. Rocky shoreline near the channel are the best places to fish. Live shrimp on the bottom will catch red fish, mangrove snapper, and black drum. For good snook action use a MirrOlure  MirrOdine near docks or blown down trees on the outgoing tide. Incoming tide will be in the morning this weekend.

Capt. William Toney

captainwilliamtoney@gmail.com

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Homosassa Inshore Fishing Weekly Report, 12/6/17 from Capt. William Toney

by on Dec.06, 2017, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, Ozello to Crystal River

Big changes are expected this weekend with a major cool down. The Nature Coast water temperatures are around 74 degrees making inshore and offshore fishing very good. Offshore captains are catching big king fish, gag grouper and catch release fly caught amber jack. Inshore the trout bite has been good. red fish so so and inshore rocks good with keeper gag grouper, spanish mackerels and grunts. This may all change if the cool weather drops the Gulf water temperatures 3 to 6 degrees.
With cooling water temps look for the coastal reef/rock fishing to slow down, to catch gag grouper use live bait, spanish mackerel and grunts use live shrimp during warm midday sun and patience will pay off. Most inshore fish will move back to deeper water in passes, deep water creeks and coastal rivers that will hold the warm water that cold weather can’t change in a couple days. Rivers will probably hold the best action. Try mid ways towards the spring,s and live shrimp wil get the bite. Not to say fish would bite on the outside but with the tides faceing us anglers this weekend my prediction every fish caught will be earned. Look for incoming high tide to be at daylight or dark this weekend,

captainwilliamtoney@gmail.com

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Homosassa Inshore Fishing Weekly Report from Capt. William Toney, 11/17/17

by on Nov.17, 2017, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, Ozello to Crystal River

With the warm weather not much has changed from last week Look for trout over hard yellow bottom with brown rock grass, Some of the best low tide spots can be found by studying Google Earth. Old channels that were formed long ago can be seen starting westward from known creek and river mouths,  These old channels will hold fish and float your vessel on the very low tides. Learning the deeper water that is surrounded by the flats can help an angler catch more fish and also prevent lower unit damage on the way back to safe water.
Redfish are on the outside keys and biting on the last part of the incoming tide. Live shrimp is very good bait but as of late cut lizard fish A,K,A, snake fish is working well. I save them for bait as a by catch while trout fishing. The near shore rocks are producing keeper gag groupers on casting plugs, sheepshead, spanish mackerel and flounder are being caught on live shrimp. Incoming high tide will be in the afternoon this weekend.

 

Capt. William Toney

captainwilliamtoney@gmail.com

 

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Nature Coast Fishing Report, Capt. William Toney, 11/8/17–Homosassa/Crystal River/Yankeetown/Waccasassa

by on Nov.08, 2017, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, Ozello to Crystal River, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

Some of the hardest hitting and drag pulling fish that pass through the Nature Coast heading south are biting now. Spanish mackerel are abundant on the near shore rocks and coastal flats. The flats mackerel are mixed in with trout over hard bottom in 3 to 5 feet of water. Just like the trout they will hit most jigs but the bad luck about mackerel are they’re sharp teeth. Luck has allot to do with landing spanish mackerel while trout fishing and one way to have more luck is to set the hook quickly with every strike. This will help prevent the bait from getting to close to those sharp teeth. Sometimes an angler will get cut off but it happens. On the near shore rocks a chum bag will help concentrate the fish. Use live shrimp on a 2/0 long shank Eagle Claw hook free lined with the tide and chum for the best bite. The long shank hook acts like a leader without having to use wire that mackerel will sometimes shy away from. On the bottom around the near shore rocks there are grunts and a few sheepshead biting also.
The waters are starting to clear up some. We have experienced some coffee colored water from the north west wind pushing the tannin stained fresh waters from the Waccasassa and Withlacochee River toward the south. Look for incoming tide this weekend to be in the morning.

 

Capt. William Toney

captainwilliamtoney@gmail.com

 

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November 2017 Crystal River Fishing Report from Capt. Kyle Messier

by on Nov.02, 2017, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, Ozello to Crystal River

 

 

 

Great Weather and Epic Fishing along the Nature Coast

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With sunrise pushing to almost 7:30AM as November is upon us, it’s clear that shorter days are on their way, and that fall is on our doorstep. Generally speaking, this is good news as a variety of species come into range for the inshore/near shore fisherman during this time of year. For starters, the difficulty of finding good live baits will diminish as our local weather begins to stabilize into its Fall pattern. September and October made finding good live shrimp and pinfish a challenge due to the passing Hurricanes and high winds, but now that we are easing into November, schooling shrimp will once again be prevalent for our bait shrimpers and the pinfish will also congregate making trapping them easier for our every day fishing trips.

The only difficulty created by having an abundance of bait and an increased amount of species in November is deciding what to go fish for. Although most Cobia are long gone by now, there are numerous near shore species available, ranging from Gag Grouper, Spanish Mackerel, Mangrove Snapper and Bonita. Occasional appearances of other species such as Bluefish, Flounder and large Jacks should be expected as well. All of these fish can be caught by anchoring over some of the rocky areas and near shore reefs scattered throughout our coast. The faster species including Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, and Bonita may also be caught by working the edges of large bait schools that have begun to show up a few miles off our coast. Casting ¼-½ ounce spoons on the edges of a bait school will usually single out hungry predatory fish looking for an easy meal. The most effective approach though is one of patience. Set up in a likely area…. the best being one that is both rocky and holding bait…and chum aggressively. Mackerel will usually show within the first 15 minutes typically and other species will progressively be drawn in by the action. The best part about this type of Nature Coast Fishing is that anglers can find consistent action targeting Snapper and Grouper or even non stop action on Mackerel only to be interrupted all of a sudden by a late season Cobia or even a large Bull or Tiger Shark. The non-stop action and limitless opportunities makes this some of the most exciting fishing of the season.

As great as some of our near shore action will be this month, the Late October into November time frame still boasts some substantial tides on the full and new moons making inshore fishing still reliable. Crystal River/Homosassa fishing for large Redfish and Gator Trout has been fairly consistent over the last 3 weeks and with stabilizing weather on the horizon, should continue to be productive. The best fishing by far has generally been found in and around mullet schools. An excellent approach to locating Huge Redfish and Speckled Trout that associate with these schools, is to spread out numerous baits throughout these large schools of Mullet. Although this process can be a bit time consuming, the rewards can be significant as numerous, large fish can be caught in rapid succession. Jumbo Live Shrimp under a cork, free lined live Pinfish, and even cut mullet with a circle hook are the baits of choice for baiting and waiting this time of year.

For those savvy anglers that are looking forward to catching some of the largest Nature Coast Snook of the year, the upcoming Fall months are what you have been waiting for. Although the Nature Coast still features an abundance of Snook our fishing techniques have changed a bit from a few months ago. Snook are no longer stacked up near the mouths of our Spring fed rivers and canals, these fish have spread out and can be found anywhere from the spoil islands to the backwater bayous and creeks. Docks that use to hold dozens of fish will hold far fewer now. Fall fishing requires heavier leaders as hungry Snook now prefer the Mangrove laden shorelines, Oyster bars, and even Deep Rocky Potholes where many Snook will congregate. Casting lures such as Zara Spooks Top waters and Mirrolure Twitch baits will mimic actual baits that these Snook key on. The retrieve of choice consists of erratic movements followed by long pauses. The second the lure begins to move after a pause is usually when the strike occurs.

CHEERS! Too beautiful fall weather, great college football and awesome Nature Coast Fishing Action. Life is Good!

Capt. Kyle Messier
(352) 634-4002
WWW.FLORIDAFISHINGADVENTURES.COM
WWW.CRYSTALRIVER-FLYFISHING.COM

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Homosassa Inshore Fishing Weekly Report From Capt. William Toney, 11/1/17

by on Nov.01, 2017, under Ozello to Crystal River, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

With the first part of the week with snotty conditions and cold air, the last half is looking great for anglers. The shallow water grouper bite has been very good with the exception of the water looking more like coffee. The line from Homosassa marker #2 north and south is dirty and hard to visually see the rocks or structure for casting to. What I have done is get within range of a long cast according to my GPS then anchor down and fan cast sometimes it may take 10 or 15 minute for the grouper to turn on but if it doe not happen within the time frame I’m off to the next spot. Further out in the thirty foot range offshore anglers are doing very good with gag grouper trolling and bottom fishing. Capt. Cris Wilkins claimed his all time fastest limit in less then ten minutes!
Back inshore the red fish bite is holding strong on the incoming tide. The clear waters has opened up good sight casting opportunity’s. The Ozello Keys are the best starting spot. Live shrimp is the best bait. For sea trout try the larger creek mouth’s and passes on a moving tide. I’ve had best luck with a glow or watermelon red flake MirrOlure LIL John under a popping cork. Some days either color with out fish the other. High incoming tide will be late afternoon this weekend.

captainwilliamtoney@gmail.com

Capt. William Toney

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Coexistence–Getting Along With Others During Florida’s Bay Scallop Season

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Horseshoe Beach, Ozello to Crystal River, Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina, Steinhatchee

Big Bend Action Spotter, Florida Sportsman Magazine

September 2017

In last month’s Big Bend Action Spotter, I wrote about getting away from the scalloping multitudes by fishing in places likely less “infested”. This month, let’s consider coexistence!

 

I know lots of anglers who simply give up saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico during Florida’s recreational bay scallop season, which ends this month and includes the busy Labor Day weekend. Many head to the Atlantic side of the state, even to freshwater rivers and lakes. But there are options and complete abandonment of the Gulf isn’t necessarily one of them.

 

Know that for the most part, scalloping goes on in water that’s three to ten feet deep. At the deep end of that range, there are scallops, but only hardy divers with big lungs can get there. Deeper than that, it’s pretty much snorkeler-free. Sea grass flats, especially our big one that starts just north of Anclote Key off Tarpon Springs and ends at St. Marks, can run to the thirty-foot depths, depending on water clarity. And just like the three-foot flats, the deeper ones are peppered with patches of sand and live spongy bottom. Add to that some wrecks, rocky outcrops and ledges, you’ll have a good mental image of what the Gulf’s floor look like.

 

It’s those scattered bottom structures in the ten-foot-plus depths that should be of interest to fin fishermen who want to avoid the last of the 2017 season of “scallop madness”. All summer long, vast numbers of baitfish and yummy crustaceans have been flourishing, all while hiding from predators who lay in wait along the edges of sand patches, behind rocks, under ledges and among wreckage. And, depending on late summer rains or storms that might cloud the waters, it should be clear enough away from shore for you to visually investigate the bottom. Spotted seatrout, flounder, black sea bass, red grouper or mackerel are all good targets and you might even be able to bring home a gag grouper–if you’re in Dixie, Levy, Citrus or Hernando county state waters.

 

From Hernando County, you’ll have to run past the scallopers to get to the deep flats. Reaching the end of the Bayport and Hernando Beach channels drop you into water that’s too deep for the average snorkeler to access. Just beyond the three-mile limit, you’ll start to see good patchy bottom, as well as some big rocks.

 

If you depart Crystal River’s main channel, head northwest from Marker #1A towards the Duke Power channel and look for the “Hump”, a shallow rise in the bottom. It’s a good spot to try for trout before you head farther west to the two Crystal Artificial Reefs. They lie just south of the point where the Duke Power channel takes a turn towards the old Cross Florida Barge Canal channel. These “Fish Havens” are decades old, but still offer some relief and potential for reef fish and pelagics.

 

Cedar Key isn’t necessarily a scalloping destination, but you can find some deep, clear water there. I’d recommend you head south out the Main Ship Channel and drift the grassy top of Seahorse Reef for trout. Then, if you want deeper water or more structure than turtle grass, head west to the live bottom near the Kingfish Hole.   Staying south of the Cedar Keys archipelago will keep you in cleaner water than heading north towards the mouth of the Suwannee River, where the river’s outflow can muddle things.

 

The Suwannee’s darker waters will eventually dissipate and clear up between Horseshoe Beach and the Pepperfish Keys. The water will stay gin-clear beyond Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach in Taylor County. After navigating through the scallopers from any of those ports, you’ll be able to find lots of good, active grass flats, as well as lots of unmarked rock piles, some only as big as a small boat. You’ll find plenty of trout over the grass, and if you find your next “super secret rock pile” expect red grouper or big flounder to be the winning catch that day.

 

Water clarity to the south and southeast of St. Marks can be iffy. It all depends on recent rains and the dark water flow from the St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina rivers as well as the many creeks that flow into the Gulf along the Jefferson and Wakulla county coastline. If the water’s clear, there will be lush grass beds and a good trout bite. If you’re looking for reef fish or pelagics that chase bait over rough bottom, search northern Apalachee Bay. It’s the boundary of Florida’s natural Karst geology so there’s plenty of natural structure in the 12 to 20-foot depths. There’s no structure much better than ledges, rocks and small seeping springs when it comes to successful fishing—and there are plenty of them, some undiscovered, there.

 

Moving to deeper flats and the potential of inshore species as well as reef predators and pelagics, you’ll need to change your tactics and tackle. I suggest 3/8 to 1/2-ounce jigs to get to the bottom, and I’d put my money on chartreuse as a good color. Pair jig heads with a D.O.A. 4-inch Shad swimbait (Glow, with a chartreuse tail, is my favorite.) And consider using spinning combos larger than your usual 2500-4000 class gear in these deeper waters. If a grouper or a king mackerel unexpectedly comes to dinner, you’ll be glad you brought your 5000-class tackle!

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2017 bay scallop season in Dixie/Taylor counties set

by on Feb.11, 2017, under Hernando and Pasco Gulf Coast, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Ozello to Crystal River, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and St. Joseph Bay, Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina, Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

The 2017 bay scallop season for Dixie County and parts of Taylor County will be open from June 16 through Sept. 10. This includes all state waters from the Suwannee River through the Fenholloway River. These changes are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons.

These changes were discussed at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting on Feb. 8, where staff was directed to work with local community leaders on selecting potential 2017 season dates and to adopt changes by executive order.

At the Feb. 8 meeting, staff also updated the Commission on the status of bay scallops in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County, and set a July 25 through Sept. 10 recreational bay scallop season off Gulf County, including all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

A prolonged red tide event in late 2015 negatively impacted the scallop population in St. Joseph Bay, which led to modified local scallop regulations for 2016 that included a shortened season and reduced bag limits. FWC researchers conducted a scallop restoration project last year within St. Joseph Bay to help speed the recovery of the scallop population. These efforts have been going well and the scallop population has shown signs of improvement. Staff will conduct similar restoration efforts in 2017.

All other portions of the bay scallop harvest zone will be open from July 1 through Sept. 24. This includes all state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.

Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone will be 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.

At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. To submit your feedback on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

For more information on these changes, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings,” then click on the link below “Next Meeting.”

For information on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

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Snook On The Upper Big Bend? You Bet–Provided We Have a Warm Winter!

by on Aug.28, 2015, under Cedar Key, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Ozello to Crystal River, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

Warmer winters mean the habitat for snook has moved north, into Levy and Dixie counties.

Warmer winters mean the habitat for snook has moved north, into Levy and Dixie counties.

Snook are probably the most fun and abundant gamefish in Florida.  They run, they jump, and if you want to keep one for dinner during open season, they’re delicious to eat.  However, they’re also highly susceptible to cold water temperatures and are some of the first fish to be found floating dead after a hard winter freeze.  Warm winters in recent years have allowed snook to migrate north from Pinellas and Pasco counties (Tarpon Springs’ Anclote Key was the northern edge of their range for many years.)  Now, with our recent warm winters, snook are regularly being caught well north of the Withlacoochee River in Waccasassa Bay and even as far north at Suwannee’s Salt Creek.

snook-1

A Yankeetown snook.

Snook are ambush feeders, and prey on small fish (mullet, pinfish and sardines) as well as crustaceans (crabs and shrimp).  They will also readily attack artificial lures like the D.O.A. shrimp or slow-sinking MirrOlure Catch 2000s.  Rigging is important, with stealthy knots (Homer Rhode or Uni Knots work well) and tough, invisible fluorocarbon leader (24-30#) a “must”.  An interesting fact about snook is that they are picky about their prey.  If you’re using live fish for bait, don’t rig them like you do for redfish (through the back or tail) but hook them through their lips.  Snook attack from behind!    And they prefer fast-moving water, especially when it’s washing baits off shallow flats or bars into deeper troughs.

In 2015/2016, Gulf Snook “season” runs from September 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016 and from May 1 to August 31, 2016.  While you’re allowed to keep one snook per day, anglers are urged to have fun and release fish they catch.  Just remember–one cold winter and the snook will again head south and away from our Big Bend waters!

Complete information about snook and other saltwater gamefish species can be found at www.myfwc.com/fishing

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Tips For Successful Scalloping During Rainy Season on Florida’s Big Bend, 2015

by on Aug.17, 2015, under Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Ozello to Crystal River, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and St. Joseph Bay, Steinhatchee

In the late summer, water visibility can hinder and slow the harvest of bay scallops.  This year, they’re plentiful along our big Bend coastline, but are often hard to see.

You may not catch thousands of scallops in murky water, but if you work hard, you'll come home with a nice dinner!

You may not catch thousands of scallops in murky water, but if you work hard, you’ll come home with a nice dinner!

We’ve had more than our fair share of rain on the Big Bend, too. Mornings have been calm, but with high humidity and high air temperatures, thunderstorms have been building up every afternoon. Usually they form on shore, but some can eventually drift off the coast in the late afternoon, depending on the strength of the east coast sea breezes. What that means for you, the scalloper, is that you need to take your trips early, watch the radar (use the Weather Bug app on your smartphone!), and try to get back to port by mid-afternoon at the latest.

Snorkeling for bay scallops is a fun, family adventure!

Snorkeling for bay scallops is a fun, family adventure!

Despite the amount of rainwater we’ve seen in ditches and pastures miles from the coast, the visibility of the Gulf waters isn’t as bad as I expected.   Scallopers north of Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach are doing well, especially off Piney Point and off Dekle Beach.  The only thing I can’t predict is just how long the visibility will be good. It usually takes several weeks for the leaching cycle to complete.

Don't let thunderstorms like this one come between you and your home port!

Don’t let thunderstorms like this one come between you and your home port!

 

 

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