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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Suwannee

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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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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Cross City’s Historic Putnam Lodge to Re-Open in Early 2014

by on Jan.17, 2014, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Steinhatchee, Suwannee

Ed and Beverly Pivacek are excited about tourism in Dixie County and the Florida Nature Coastline.  As a result, they’re re-opening the historic Putnam Lodge in Cross City.  Licenses have been obtained and it will open its doors for business by early February, with its kitchen and restaurant likely opening by early March.  If you’re heading to Steinhatchee, Horseshoe Beach or Suwannee on a fishing (or summer scalloping) trip, this will be THE place to stay inshore of those ports.  Ed can be contacted at (813) 390-4489.

Putnam Lodge “Then”
Putnam Lodge “Now”

Here’s some history:

Putnam Lodge, built in 1927-28 by the Putnam Lumber Company, is part of a bygone era in Florida’s forestry history. Here, beside the old Dixie Highway, Putnam Lodge, part of the “company town” of Shamrock, accommodated tourists, transients and company executives and clients. The lobby and the dining room of the 36-room lodge were decorated exclusively with the still preserved, artfully stenciled “pecky cypress,” a now virtually extinct lumber product. In its day, the Putnam Lumber Company, founded by William O’Brien, a timber magnate of Irish descent, and associates including E. B. Putnam, employed hundreds at its two state-of-the-art sawmills in Shamrock. The mills annually produced and shipped worldwide millions of feet of “deep swamp tidewater cypress” and “dense Florida longleaf yellow pine” lumber, products that are now rare because the old growth trees are gone. Shamrock provided its residents and employees with comfortable homes, a commissary, a store comparable to “any city department store,” two schools, two hotels, the Shamrock Dairy Farm, and an ice plant producing 18 tons of ice daily. The lodge is representative of a time of local timber supremacy and economic prosperity.

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2013 Bay Scalloping Season to Open Early–June 29!

by on Jun.26, 2013, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Ozello to Crystal River, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and St. Joseph Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina, Steinhatchee, Suwannee

The FWC has just announced that the season for harvesting bay scallops has been extended and will now open on June 29, rather than July 1.  That means there will be an extra weekend to have a great time and bring home some good eats!

If you’re not a seasoned scalloper, you might want to read “Bay Scallops–The Gulf of Mexico’s Tastiest Treat“.  Just click HERE

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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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Fishing and Boating Yard Sale and Flea Market, 4/6/13, at Mangrove Creek Outfitters, Chiefland

by on Mar.12, 2013, under Cedar Key, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Ozello to Crystal River, Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

Don’t miss this event if you’re interested in some real deals on boating and fishing gear.  Expect lots of folks to be cleaning out their closets, with rods, reels, lures, line, trolling motors and all sorts of goodies.  It’s free to attend, and only $20 to have a table or a display of any goodies you want to sell.  It’s on Saturday, April 6, from 8AM ’til 4PM. Click on the link below to see the list of things I’ll have at the sale.  My loss at Spring Cleaning is your gain!

FOR SALE by Tommy Thompson

Mangrove Creek Outfitters

1109 N. Young Blvd.

Chiefland

(352) 493-0071

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Big Bend Tour, August 1, 2012–Suwannee, Horseshoe Beach, Shired Island and Steinhatchee

by on Aug.01, 2012, under Horseshoe Beach, Steinhatchee, Suwannee

I took a few extra hours the other day to visit the coastal Florida Big Bend towns of Suwannee and Horseshoe Beach, while on the way to Steinhatchee.  These are a couple of my favorite spots, but now that my boat’s stored at the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee, I don’t seem to get there as often as I’d like.  And it’s not a short trip if you leave Fanning Springs, go to Suwannee, then return to Old Town, travel up to Cross City and drive the 20-plus miles to Horseshoe Beach.  And then it’s a 20-mile trip back to Cross City and about another 15 to “downtown” Steinhatchee!  So, if you want to see these places in one day–plan a full day.  If you measure the distance from one to the another on a nautical chart, they’re pretty close.   But by car–it’s a different story.

Anyway, my main reason for visiting Suwannee was to scout a location for an upcoming Sportsman’s Kitchen column in Florida Sportsman magazine.  And I’d also heard that the Salt Creek Restaurant had taken up temporary residence at Suwannee Marina.  A recent fire had destroyed the old facility.  I ran into long-time guide Capt. Butch Tharpe (352-542-9376) at the marina and he filled me in over a glass of sweet tea.  Yes, the old restaurant was destroyed, and Suwannee Marina owner Allen Clark had graciously offered the use of the marina’s kitchen and restaurant space until the restaurant was rebuilt.  Butch seemed to think that it would be completed around Labor Day.  Salt Creek will be serving their usual great food on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as Sunday lunch.

Instead of making the whole 24 mile trip back to Old Town plus the 9 miles to Cross City and then the 20 miles to Horseshoe Beach, I decided to take the old Dixie Main Line Road that crosses from Suwannee to the Shired Island Road, cutting lots of miles off the trip.   That also gave me an excuse to drive out to Shired Island and see the state of the boat ramp there.  The 8-plus mile Dixie Main Line is an old logging rail line that’s been graded. It crosses the headwaters of Johnson and Sanders creeks, which eventually enter the Gulf at Pine Island, south of Shired Island.  While there was no standing water on the gravel and dirt road, the roadsides were flooded with amber-colored water.  This gave me a reason to estimate that it’s going to take several more weeks for all the water to leach through the leaves and finally reach the Gulf.  It’s going to be a “brown water August” on parts of our Big Bend.   The recently-built boat ramp at Shired Island was busy and several folks were wading in the creek mouth.  I’m not sure what they caught, but the waders probably had equal access on the rapidly falling tide.  Shired’s mouth is shallow and can be treacherous if you don’t take time to explore.

Horseshore Beach was busy, as I’d expected.  It attracts lots of scallopers who make the easy run up to the Pepperfish Keys, where most of the scallops have been found so far this season.  I had a chance to visit with Jimmy Butler of Compass Realty and get a look at his rental offerings.  He has t a whole range of really nice places to rent, including condos with dockage on the canal.  I also had a chance to talk with Capt. Gary Patterson, who runs Horseshoe Beach Marina.  They’ve been busy, and Gary reports that there are still lots of RV spaces available for rent.  And despite the scalloping crowds, folks need to remember that Horseshoe Beach is convenient to some good offshore fishing, and that the oyster bars and backwater of Horseshoe Cove are hard to beat when it comes to catching seatrout and redfish.

Steinhatchee was bustling, as it always is during recreational scalloping season.  By the time I arrived restaurants were busy, and the Sea Hag was putting away the fleet of rental boats.  Most of the scallopers had run south towards Pepperfish Keys (between Steinhatchee and Horseshoe Beach), finding the water murky and dark from the runoff of Tropical Storm Debbie, that had come ashore a full 5 weeks earlier.  And the big mid-day high tide didn’t help.  This next weekend’s mid-day low tide should prove better.  I also found out that some seasoned scallopers hadn’t followed the “fleet” and had found some clear (but stained) water and lots of scallops northwest of Big Grass Island.    My advice is to head northwest, stopping every so often to take a look over the side of your boat.  Then, if the water’s clear, put a couple of divers overboard and hope for the best.  I’d sure head that way this coming weekend!

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Aerial View of Deer Island, Between Cedar Key and Suwannee–Great Fishing There!

by on Jul.06, 2012, under Cedar Key, Suwannee

Try this out-of-the-way spot for seatrout and reds.  It’s a good place to avoid scallopers on hot summer days.

Double-click on image to see full size.

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