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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Tag: horseshoe beach

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

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Mar.13, 2014, under Horseshoe Beach, Steinhatchee

If you’re planning a fishing trip to Horseshoe Beach or Steinhatchee, consider making The Putnam Lodge your headquarters.  Yes, it’s a few miles from either port, but the accommodations are first class, with a touch of Florida history.  And on April 1, 2014 you can expect the lodge to be operating in full gear.

Here’s some history of the Putnam Lodge:

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.

And here’s what to expect from new owners, Ed and Beverly Pivacek, when the Putnam Lodge opens in April, 2014:

The restored and modernized Putnam Lodge will offer 25 guest rooms (kings, queens, suites–and even a bridal suite!), meeting facilities for groups of 25-30, facilities for weddings and parties of up to 250, and a full service restaurant and bar.  There are even plans underway for a paintball course on an area adjacent to the lodge.

Guests at the Putnam Lodge will be impressed by the quality of the restoration.  The dining room is almost in its original state, with hand-painted pecky cypress walls, ceilings and columns.  The dining room opens onto a newly-constructed deck designed to handle overflow from the dining room during special events.  The comfortable lobby and lounges also retain the original design of the Lodge.  Modern upgrades like central heating and air conditioning and plumbing make the guest rooms as comfortable as those found in upscale “big-city” hotels.  Along with the upscale restaurant offering the finest dining in the area, the Putnam Lodge facility is perfect for small meetings, family reunions, weddings or other social gatherings.

To contact the Putnam Lodge, email putnamlodge@gmail.com or call: (813) 390-4489

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New (2013) Artifical Reefs off of Horseshoe Beach – GPS coordinates

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Nov.12, 2013, under Horseshoe Beach

Thanks to the great volunteer efforts of Old Town resident, Charlie Fornaciari, with the support of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners, Suwannee, Horseshoe Beach, and Jena/ Steinhatchee fisherman and women will enjoy a boost in our ability to offer great offshore fishing.  This improvement is based on the create and expansion of a artificial reef in the Gulf.  Here is a note from Charlie Fornaciari :

“Enclosed please find the coordinates for 5 of the nine new reefs. We are still refining the accuracy of these coordinates but I’m sure you will not have trouble finding the reefs.

Additionally we have now started the mapping on the 4 remaining new reef sites. It will be up to the seas and weather.

There is a lot more structure in the area than expected. Most likely they are reef balls from previous deployments back in the mid ‘90s and ’05. The dives of September 9th prove some of that out.

We use a letter / number pattern to lay out the entire project plan. Location D3 is the very most center of the reef building project and the coordinates are provided as follows for location D3.

We will be refining the coordinates over time and we will provide the coordinates of everything else on the project area, such as reef balls, hard bottoms, etc.

Although plant life and fish are starting to show up it will take about 18 months for the reefs to mature. This allows for the marine plant life and invertebrates to colonize the limestone and pipe that has been placed.

All reefs are made up of approximately 30 tons of limestone and culvert pipe.

Some of the people working on this project, Horseshoe Beach Artificial Reef, believe the reef will attract Sheepshead this winter. If you are a diver or a fisherman please let me know what you can via email. Photographs are always welcome and some will end up on the Dixie County Tourist Development website and the artificial reef site when set up. Keep your clothes on when taking pictures of the fish! We do not want to scare anybody.

The other reef site coordinates so far:

D2: Lat. 29°19.682’ / Lon. 83°26.313’

D3: Lat. 29°19.692’ / Lon. 83°26.252’

C3: Lat. 29°19.720’ / Lon. 83°26.247’

C4: Lat. 29°19.750’ / Lon. 83°26.192’

E2: Lat. 29°19.624’ / Lon. 83°26.299’

All material height is between 3’ and 5’ off the bottom.”

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Scalloping and Fishing Report, Steinhatchee, FL, July 8, 2013

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Jul.08, 2013, under Horseshoe Beach, Steinhatchee

Anglers and scallopers hoping to be on the water at Steinhatchee during the 2013 July 4 holiday weekend were met by rain squalls on both Thursday and Friday.  However, by Saturday the humidity fell,  the skies (and the water) cleared, and limits of bay scallops, sea trout and redfish were seen at the cleaning table at the Sea Hag Marina as early as 11AM.

Don't want to clean your catch? See the "scallop cleaning crew" at the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee.

As is usually the case during the early days of the recreational bay scallop season, snorkelers find that they often have to move around to find concentrations of the tasty bivalves.  Several areas within easy reach from the mouth of the river are considered “trustworthy” and those were the sites of huge gatherings of boats flying dive flags.

To the north, the grass flats near the Big Grass Island bird rack were busy.  This area is about 9 miles northwest of the Steinhatchee #1 marker.  Here, reports for the past weekend  were of better catches in the deeper cuts, with the scallops on the small size, with smaller muscles.  Water clarity was good, depending on the tidal flow.  The weekend’s pre-new moon tides were strong, and did affect water clarity.  The upcoming weekend’s neap tides will be slower, making sighting your prey easier.

To the south of Steinhatchee, there were three areas that attracted scallopers this past weekend.  Most popular was the area of grassy flats north of the Pepperfish Keys.  The run to Pepperfish is about 9 miles from either Steinhatchee or Horseshoe Beach.  This past weekend, snorkelers reported “hundreds” of boats in this area.  Other options for Steinhatchee scallopers are the areas off Rocky Creek or Hardy Point, just south of the river mouth.  At the southern spots, scallops seemed to be larger and more mature, with a higher yield of meat. The waters to the south were more clear and than those to the north.

For a detailed story on scalloping, please see:  Bay Scallops–The Gulf of Mexico’s Tastiest Treat.

Scallopers don’t usually get very close to shore, so anglers targeting reds and seatrout have lots of shoreline all to themselves.  Capt. Rick Davidson and I fished the weekend, and found the fish hungry and eager to eat topwater lures.  Floating grass was an issue in some areas, but the best bite seemed to be in  shallow water (1 to 2- feet), right along the grass, at the bottom of the tide, after the grass had washed away from shore.

Capt. Rick Davidson with a nice mid-summer redfish.

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

by Capt. Tommy Thompson 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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Week Four, Steinhatchee Scallop Season, 2012

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Jul.22, 2012, under Steinhatchee

Week Four of the 2012 bay scallop harvest got off to a slow start with lots of thunderstorms and rain.  Luckily, the worst days were Monday through Thursday, and by Friday (July 20), skies were clearing and chances of storms had diminished.  That’s not to say that folks weren’t watching the weather closely, as “your 30-percent chance of rain” can always sneak up in the form of a violent storm, with lots of wind, rain, lightning and even hail!  And with the bulk of the scallops being taken in the Pepperfish Keys area, riding home the ten or so miles can be arduous is it’s storming.

There's great scalloping just north of the Pepperfish Keys channel, south of Steinhatchee

It seems that the continuing runoff from Tropical Storm Debby still has the waters to the north of the Steinhatchee River muddied up or stained, making scalloping difficult.  I’d bet that there are plenty of scallops in the deeper waters near Nine Mile Bank, but they may be hard to see, and deep.  At Pepperfish, it’s waist-deep on low tide, making the exercise easy and fun.  In general, the scallops are still coming to the cleaning table at the Sea Hag Marina by the buckets-full, and the meat (adductor muscles) is big this year, with 2 gallon limits producing just over a pound of clean scallops.

Another factor that can make the ride south difficult is the huge influx of floating sea grass.  This is caused by the natural shedding of old growth and accelerated by the persistent westerly breezes along the Big Bend.  There’s no danger in running through the grass, but be sure to check you water pressure gauge frequently to be sure your cooling water intakes are not clogged.  Another method is to watch the “pee hole” of your outboard.  If the stream is weak, your motor’s likely clogging up.  Many outboard motors now come with an alarm system that sounds upon overheating, and then slow the engine speed down automatically.  If you do clog up, DO NOT STOP YOUR MOTOR.  All that will do is seize a piston to the cylinder wall (not a good thing!).  Shift gears from forward to reverse, and keep the revolutions (RPMs) up.  Higher revs mean that you’re pumping more cool water into your engine’s water jacket.  Usually a minute or so will clear the intakes and you’ll be on your way.

I can’t stress enough the need for any boater to have some sort of assistance “insurance” in the form of either Sea Tow or Tow Boat US membership.  Getting a tow home can be expensive.  At Carrabelle, Steinhatchee and Horseshoe Beach, I recommend Sea Tow.  At Yankeetown (Levy and Citrus County) Capt. Matt Fleming of Tow Boat US is always on call.

Sea Tow/Horseshoe Beach now has a presence at the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee.

Capt. Matt Fleming of Tow Boat/Yankeetown is waiting to assist!

For a few hints on successful scalloping, click HERE!

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Sea Tow/Horseshoe Beach Adds Shallow Water Tow Boat!

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Feb.29, 2012, under Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Steinhatchee

Take a look at this rig.  It will be a welcome sight if you get stranded in the shallow waters near Horseshoe Beach and Keaton Beach.  I saw the boat a the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee, as suspect that’s where Capt. Sammy Royal will dock her for the upcoming warm months.  Sea Tow / Horseshoe Beach is always standing by on VHF Channel 16–just in case.  Or, if you have phone service, call (352) 498-4144.

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Automated VHF Radio Check Now Available on Florida’s Big Bend

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Feb.19, 2012, under FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina, Steinhatchee, Suwannee

As a courtesy of Sea Tow/Horseshoe Beach and the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee, boaters wishing to have a ‘radio check’ may simply transmit a request for a check on VHF Channel 26. The proper call is:  “radio check, radio check, radio check, channel 26″.   That message will get you an almost immediate response from the automatic operator.

Thanks to Capt. Sammy Royal (Sea Tow) and Charlie Norwood (Sea Hag) have added this great feature to their radio capabilities.  Also, with a newer, higher antenna, the range of their broadcasts is greatly increased.  Not only is this a convenient way to check your radio’s functionality, but it’s a great way to call for help, should you need it.

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Take a Trip to Horseshoe Beach…and Fish Florida’s Last Frontier

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Dec.20, 2011, under Horseshoe Beach

From Capt. Tommy Thompson’s Saltwater Angler’s Guide to Florida’s Big Bend and Emerald Coast (UPF 2009):

“Horseshoe Beach has no beach, unless you count the twenty-foot strip of white sand next to the county boat ramp.  You will find horseshoe crabs there.

A small commercial fishing village, Horseshoe Beach is located on a small spit of Gulf coastline between Suwannee and Steinhatchee.  By road, it’s about 25 miles from Cross City, a major town on US19/98.  A well-maintained channel leads to the Gulf and to deeper water. Horseshoe Beach marks the northern end of the Suwannee River’s effect on water clarity.  Unless muddied by winds or torrential rains, inshore and near shore waters here remain clear for most of the year.

Facilities at Horseshoe Beach are limited, and many visiting anglers rely on the amenities at Cross City.  If you’re willing to put up with the lack of some conveniences, you’ll find this a great, secluded fishing destination.  On the way into town, there’s a sign proclaiming Horseshoe Beach as “Florida’s Last Frontier”.

A good source for local information at Horseshoe Beach is Capt. Gary Patterson, who runs Horseshoe Beach Marina.  Gary can be reached at (352) 498-5687.  When he’s not at the Marina, he’s found guiding and is usually happy to dispense local information to visitors.

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New and Improved Boat Ramps Now Open at Horseshoe Beach!

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Jul.27, 2011, under Horseshoe Beach

According to Jimmy Butler at Compass Realty in Horseshoe Beach, the County Boat Ramp on 8th has been re-vamped.  It’s been doubled in size (2 lanes) and has a new floating dock, marked parking spaces, and some steps from the sand beach to the parking lot.  Jimmy also reports that several local folks have worked really hard to restore an old ramp that’s on the main canal near the Horseshoe Beach Cafe.   These additions and improvements should be a real plus to those of us who like to fish or scallop at ‘Florida’s Last Frontier’.  Also, if you need a place to stay, Jimmy has some excellent condos for rent.

Horseshoe Beach, Florida

Horseshoe Beach, on Florida's Big Bend, offers excellent fishing and scalloping. Come visit 'Florida's Last Frontier'!

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Read the March 25-27 Florida Sportsman Big Bend Fishing4Cast and learn about my ‘Super Secret Sheepshead Spot’

by Capt. Tommy Thompson on Mar.25, 2011, under FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST

From this week’s online Florida Sportsman Fishng4Cast:

I promised last week that I’d write about rigging for sheepshead and Spanish mackerel. That follows later in this column, but first—a funny story:

Sheepshead fishing is fun, and when I was offered a ride to a friend’s “super secret sheepshead spot” and a chance to compete in the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club’s Sheepshead Shootout, I was excited. I’ve caught my share of big female sheepshead, and a shot at them on an undisturbed rock off Horseshoe Beach was something I couldn’t refuse. And there was a whopping $100 prize at stake!

All I heard last week was a repeated refrain of “I hope we have this spot all to ourselves like we did last year.” I suggested we leave port early—just to be sure we’d be alone on the one-acre sized rockpile when we arrived. Not a chance!
Read more: http://www.floridasportsman.com/4cast/bb/index.html#ixzz1HbsyhZU6

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