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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Cedar Key


Keep Seafood COLD, Not Just COOL — For Safety’s Sake!

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Cedar Key, Recipes and Food

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When fishing, there’s never enough ice. Of course, keeping drinks and lunch cool is important, but “cool” doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to the safe storage of our catch. Once boated, both shellfish and finfish begin to degrade quickly. There are, however, a few tricks to remember.

 

The first thing to do is to get your ice as cold as possible. If you plan a fishing trip, throw a small bag of ice in the cooler the night before. Pre-cooling the cooler will temper it, and ice will last longer in the next day’s heat. Then, as close to your point of departure as is possible, fill you cooler completely with ice. And, if possible, put a couple reusable frozen ice packs like the Arctic Ice Tundra or a handful of frozen bottles of water under your store-bought ice. That will prevent some melting and your ice will last longer.

 

Second, once your catch starts coming aboard, drain any water off your ice, add a few quarts of salt water to create a super-cooled slurry, and put your catch into the ice right away. Don’t leave fish on the deck to die, as just a few minutes in the hot sun can make a big difference at the dinner table.

 

Finally, with regards to seafood safety, use an appropriate cooler. Unfortunately, the better coolers are the most expensive, but they do hold ice longer. Know that white coolers reflect sunlight and stay cooler while dark ones absorb heat, and any cooler kept in the shade will work best. And if you already own a dark surfaced cooler, consider covering it with a white towel.

 

 

Island Hotel’s Hearts of Palm Salad

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Here’s a cool recipe that’s perfect for a hot summer day. It was originally created by Bessie Gibbs at Cedar Key’s Island Hotel in the 1950’s. The current owners of the hotel, Andy and Stanley Bair, shared it with me. It’s simple, and flexible. The key to its unique flavor is the dressing, the hearts of palm, and the chopped, sugared dates.

 

Seasonal greens and fruits (sliced kiwis, grapes, strawberries, melon chunks)

Sugared dates, chopped

Hearts of palm, cut into bite-sized pieces

 

 

 

 

Dressing (serves 4-6)

 

Thoroughly combine the following and re-freeze. Put a scoop atop the assembled salad just before you serve.

 

1-pint vanilla ice cream

1-pint lime sherbet

1/4-cup peanut butter

1/4-cup mayonnaise

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Just One Point North–Rocky Points Along Florida’s Big Bend

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Cedar Key, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

Big Bend Action Spotter, Florida Sportsman Magazine

October 2017

 

There are many rocky points along Florida’s Big Bend. And I suppose there are many places labeled “rock point” along the United States’ coastlines. After all, it’s not a particularly innovative name. But there’s only one Rock Point near Steinhatchee, in Taylor County.   And it’s one you should know about if you’re interested in some pretty good inshore fishing.

Unlike local Sponge Point, that has no sponges, and Sand Point, which has no sand, Rock Point DOES have rocks. Lots of them. While its rocks offer good cover for redfish and the adjacent flats and backwaters can also add good numbers of spotted seatrout, getting there can be a tedious exercise. Rock Point is only about 3 miles north of the Steinhatchee River channel, but to get there, especially on low water, you need to dodge some offshore sand bars and shallow inshore grass flats. My advice is that you take a northwesterly course from Marker #7 in the channel, staying outside the bars, and SLOWLY and CAREFULLY head towards Rock Point when you’re offshore of it. The shoreward approach towards Rock Point isn’t especially rocky, but it’s important you respect the integrity of grass flats you’ll cross. On low water, you may need to shift modes from your outboard to your trolling motor or push pole. On higher water, usually above 2-plus feet on your tide chart (Use the “Steinhatchee River Mouth” tide station.) you might be able to idle with your outboard jacked or trimmed up. In either case, be careful not to damage the sea grass. Doing so is a fineable offense.

The rocks at Rock Point are not pebbles. Some are boulder-sized and the niches and canyons between them offer shelter to predators waiting for schools of bait, usually small mullet, to cross the point with the tide. Knowing that, and that it happens on almost any tide and in any season, should give you a clue to fishing this point—and any others you might encounter that are similarly structured. The tide runs across the point, so set your boat up in order to make long upstream casts. Don’t crowd the point. This may mean casting into the wind, but larger and heavier lures will work here. The “hatch” you’re trying to match are likely to be 6-8inch mullet, so big lures like MirrOlure Top Dogs or D.O.A. PT7s are good choices. If the tide’s full, you might try something that suspends, like a Paul Brown Devil, but be careful not to work them too deep or too slowly. If you do snag one on a rock, break it off and try to fetch it after the catching’s done!

The fact is that “one point don’t make a whole day of fishing”.   So, while you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of some other October options here. The seagrass beds you’ll cross on your way to Rock Point will finally be devoid of summer scallopers and the trout they scared away should have returned to fatten up for the winter. There are some deeper potholes to the southwest of the point, and more important, a deeper creek channel in the bay to the south. The small rock pile on the north side of the creek bed is a good place to try, and a drift into the southeast corner of the bay is a worthwhile exercise, if the mullet are jumping. The tip of Rock Point is actually a small island, and the north shoreline inside the cut that separates it from the mainland can also be fishy, provided you take a stealthy approach. For some reason—maybe lack of pressure—the redfish along this shore can especially spooky. Long casts and silent running are a must.

This particular Big Bend “Rock Point” is pretty typical of many similar points that you’ll find from the Suncoast Keys in Citrus County, all the way to the shoreline near St. Marks. Learning each one might take a lifetime, but having knowledge of just a few can make for lots of fun days of fishing.

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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.

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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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Greater Amberjack–Florida’s “Reef Donkeys”

by on Jan.01, 2015, under Cedar Key, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Steinhatchee

Amberjacks are plentiful and with the 2015 season now open, fair game for Gulf anglers

Amberjacks are plentiful and with the 2015 season now open, fair game for Gulf anglers

Amberjack are found throughout Florida’s offshore marine environment. The species is very strongly associated with wrecks and artificial reefs in waters that exceed 60 feet in depth. Amberjack swim in schools and feed on baitfish, squid and crabs. Anglers typically use 50 to 100 pound tackle, but lighter tackle can also be used in many situations. Amberjack are not shy or picky, so you can make all the noise you want, and almost any lively baitfish will be readily accepted. Commonly used baitfish species include blue runners, pinfish, pigfish, grunts, cigar minnows and sand perch. Because amberjacks like to swim around above the reef, it’s a good idea to use just enough lead to keep the bait in the middle of the water column. When amberjack get excited, they will also come to the surface and explode on top-water plugs, jigs, spoons and diving lures. Amberjack are extremely strong fighters with great endurance. To avoid lost or broken tackle, it’s important to have the drag pre-set to match the strength of the angler and the equipment.

When you hook up on an amberjack, expect fun--and a good fight!

When you hook up on an amberjack, expect fun–and a good fight!

Greater amberjack reopens in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico beginning Jan. 1. 2015  On Florida’s Big Bend, most “AJs” are caught in deeper Federal Waters, beyond the 9-mile limit.   The season is closed June 1 – July 31 in the Gulf of Mexico.

There are several charterboat captains specializing in reef species such as amberjack.  Let them “hook you up”!

Capt. Brian Smith, www.bigbendcharters.com   Capt. Smith docks his boat at the Sea Hag Marina,Steinhatchee

Capt. Steve Hart, www.legallimitscharters.com   Capt. Hart docks his boat at Good Times Marina, Steinhatchee

Capt. Phil Muldrow, Native Son Charters, 352-543-9930  Capt. Muldrow docks his boat at Cedar Key

 

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2014 Steinhatchee Community Fishing Tournament, March 15

by on Mar.10, 2014, under Cedar Key, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

The 13th Annual Steinhatchee Community Fishing Tournament is coming up on March 15.  With a relatively inexpensive $30 entry fee, this popular tournament attracts anglers from all over Florida’s Big Bend and Nature Coast.  The event is co-sponsored by the Taylor County Tourism Council and the Steinhatchee Community Projects Board.

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Marine Flea Market, Mangrove Creek Outfitters, Chiefland, March 22, 2014

by on Feb.17, 2014, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Cedar Key, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

Mangrove Creek Outfitters in Chiefland is planning another “Marine Flea Market” event on March 22.  There will be lots of used fishing, boating and related outdoor gear on the tables of folks who have been doing some spring-cleaning.    The last Flea Market was a huge success, with deals for all the fishermen in your life!

If you’re interested in selling, the charge is only 20 bucks. Call Robert or Kathy at (352) 493-0071 for details. Otherwise, just go by, say “hi”- and then buy!

Mangrove Creek Outfitters is located at 1109 N. Young Blvd., just north of the US19/US129 intersection, across from Hardee’s and next to Pizza Hut.

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Investigate the Inside of Cedar Key’s Islands and Find Seatrout and Redfish

by on Dec.04, 2013, under Cedar Key

All too often anglers spend lots of time circling the islands near Cedar Key, failing to realize that on higher tides that there’s enough water inside the islands to float small boats and paddlecraft.  Two examples are Atsena Otie Key and Snake Key, located due south of the boat basin at the end of SR24.  I don’t recommend you run at high speed, and do advise that you keep a sharp lookout for “sneaky” oyster bars once you approach and enter either of these islands.  I think you’ll be surprised to find lots of baitfish, as well as hungry seatrout and redfish along the mangrove shorelines and bar edges.  High water is key to succeeding in these backwaters, and it’s important that you plan your exit with enough time to beat the low tide.

Aerial view of Atsena Otie Key, Cedar Key, FL
The mangrove-lined shoreline of Snake Key, south of Cedar Key is typical to local islands.
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NOAA’s latest mobile app provides free nautical charts for recreational boating–Public is invited to try beta version of ‘MyNOAACharts’

by on May.20, 2013, under Apalachicola, Carrabelle and St. George Island, Cedar Key, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Horseshoe Beach, Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa


NOAA’s latest mobile app provides free nautical charts for recreational boating
Public is invited to try beta version of ‘MyNOAACharts’

As recreational boaters gear up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes, NOAA is testing MyNOAACharts, a new mobile application that allows users to download NOAA nautical charts and editions of the U.S. Coast Pilot. The app, which is only designed for Android tablets for the testing period, will be released today.

MyNOAACharts, which can be used on land and on the water, has GPS built-in capabilities that allow users find their positions on a NOAA nautical chart. They can zoom in any specific location with a touch of the finger, or zoom out for the big picture to plan their day of sailing. The Coast Pilot has “geotagged” some of the major locations–embedding geographical information, such as latitude and longitude, directly into the chart so it is readable in the app–and provides links to appropriate federal regulations. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play™ app store.

“Easy and workable access to nautical charts is important for boating safety,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA Office of Coast Survey. “I’ve seen a popular t-shirt that has a ‘definition’ of a nautical chart splayed across the front: ‘chärt, n: a nautical map that shows you what you just hit.’ As creative as that is, a boating accident can kill. Keeping a nautical chart on hand – to avoid hitting something – can save lives.”

The beta test for MyNOAACharts will expire this Labor Day, Sept. 2. Coast Survey will then evaluate usage and user feedback to decide whether to release a finished version of the app.
The NOAA Charts for Florida’s Big Bend and Natural North Florida are:

11404 40,000 Intracoastal Waterway Carrabelle to Apalachicola Bay;Carrabelle River
11405 80,000 Apalachee Bay
11406 15,000 St.Marks River and approaches
11407 80,000 Horseshoe Point to Rock Islands;Horseshoe Beach
11408 80,000 Crystal River to Horseshoe Point;Suwannee River;Cedar Keys

“Expanding the app across a multitude of platforms, ensuring easy accessibility to over a thousand charts and nearly 5,000 pages of U.S. Coast Pilot, will take considerable resources,” Glang said. “We can do it if the boating community likes the app. We truly want the users to let us know if the app meets their needs.”

Boaters without an Android tablet should not despair. The Office of Coast Survey provides free BookletCharts, which are 8 ½” x 11″ PDF versions of NOAA nautical charts that can be downloaded and printed at home. The U.S. Coast Pilot is also available in a free PDF version. Those products, and information for purchasing other nautical products, are available at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

Important notice for commercial mariners: The mobile app MyNOAACharts and the BookletCharts do not fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, originally formed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, is the nation’s nautical chartmaker. Its hydrographers survey the coastal seafloor, respond to maritime emergencies and search for underwater dangers to navigation. Join Coast Survey on Twitter and check out the NOAA Coast Survey Blog for more in-depth coverage of surveying and charting.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

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Nature Coast Challenge–Kayak Fishing Tournament, April 27, 2013, Yankeetown

by on Mar.14, 2013, under Cedar Key, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

This is a “catch-photo-release” tournament that should be lots of fun.  It also has some good prizes for redfish and spotted seatrout.  For complete information, go to www.naturecoastchallenge.com

Hosted by the Inglis-Yankeetown Lions Club
inglis.ytownlions@gmail.com
(352) 505-7936

All net proceeds go to charity

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