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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Tag: st. marks

Kevin’s Redtrout Shootout, Wakulla County, May 30, 2015

by on May.12, 2015, under Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina


It’s back! The Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel Redtrout Shootout will take place May 30, 2015.

Cash rewards will be paid out to the top 10 teams weighing in the heaviest combined weight of (1) redfish and (1) spotted seatrout. With an entry fee of $75.00 per angler and a guaranteed cash purse, you and your crew will want to get registered today!

This unique inshore fishing tournament allows teams to launch their boat at any boat ramp, fish their favorite holes and then weigh their catch in at Jerry’s Bait & Tackle located at 664 Woodville Highway, Crawfordville, FL. Click here for map!

If all that sounds good wait till you hear the rest. We have everything from Banquets & Kick Off parties featuring live music. So be sure to take a few minutes and navigate the website to see what else we have in store for this years edition of the RedTrout Shootout.

Click here today to register!

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Scalloping 101

by on Feb.13, 2014, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Recipes and Food

Anna Patterson, Chiefland Watermelon Queen, with a fresh-caught bag of scallops.

Recently, someone asked me if I could “teach him how to catch scallops”.   A more understandable request would have been asking me how to safely operate a boat in crowded waters, review with them the FWC’s rules and regulations regarding scalloping—or even show them how to clean and cook the tasty critters.  In a nutshell (or a scallop shell, for that matter), scalloping isn’t difficult, but there are a few basic things to know before you head out searching for them this summer.

Florida’s 2014 recreational scallop season begins on June 28 and lasts until September 24.  You may scallop in waters from the Hernando/Pasco County line, at the southern end of the Big Bend, to the Mexico Beach Canal, west of Cape San Blas.  Your catch must be landed, cleaned or intact, at ports within these boundaries.  Simply put, don’t run north from Hudson, in Pasco County, to the waters off Hernando Beach, catch a limit of scallops, and then land them back in Hudson.  The FWC knows all the tricks!  There are no size limits that apply to scallops, but there are bag limits.  Anglers may keep two gallons of unshucked scallops each (1 pint shucked), up to a boat limit of ten gallons (1/2-gallon shucked).  A shucked two-gallon limit works out to about a pint of those small white morsels which are actually the muscles that allow the scallop to open and close its shell.  Other rules that apply include the need for a recreational saltwater fishing license for everyone participating who would normally need a license, and a dive flag requirement for letting other boaters know you’ve got divers in the water.  It’s probably a good idea, even for scalloping veterans, to carefully review the rules and regulations, found online at: www.myfwc.com/RULESANDREGS/Saltwater_Regulations_bayscallops.htm

Bay scallops can be found all along the Gulf coast of Florida, including some areas that are well outside the harvest boundaries.  In fact, there have even been sightings of scallops in Tampa Bay in recent summers.  While scallops are likely to be found Gulf-wide at depths that are not practical for harvest by hand or with a dip net, it’s certain that what attracts them towards shore in certain areas, to spawn, is a combination of water salinity and clarity.  In some areas where darker water is the norm, particularly Yankeetown, Cedar Key, Suwannee and much of Apalachicola Bay, scalloping isn’t considered a worthwhile effort.   On the other hand, at Hernando Beach, Bayport, Homosassa, Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach, St. Marks, Lanark Village, Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach, coastal economies rely on visiting scallopers to make up for slow times and cold winters.  And to confuse matters, any of the places within the boundaries might have ‘off-and-on’ scallop harvests, depending upon rainfall, tropical storms or even abnormal river flows.

If you’re new to scalloping you might skip the first week of July—for a couple of good reasons.  First, despite attempts by many marinas and editorial outlets to have their spies (usually local fishing guides) pinpoint the largest concentration of scallops, the best information normally follows a week or two of the actual harvest.  You’ll find that you’ll do a lot less running around once the best area is found.    Word travels fast and a simple visual scan of the horizon will quickly spot the ‘fleet’ anchored over the best areas.  And second, the first weekend of scallop season is usually the 4th of July weekend and a time when partying (on and off the water) sometimes trumps safety and good common sense.

However, if your Type-A personality requires that you be the first on the water on the first day of the season, keep in mind that scallops are likely to be found near the grassy edges of sandy potholes, and that they tend to come to the top of the grass when the sun’s shining brightly.  Early risers should consider using the rosy dawn to catch a close-to-shore gator trout or redfish, and then wait for the sun to get high into the sky before undertaking the search for scallops.  Start your scallop hunt by running your boat at idle speed in water that’s three to four feet deep, using polarized sunglasses or a 5-gallon bucket fitted with a clear bottom to carefully scan the bottom.  Once you see reasonable numbers of scallops nestled in the grass, anchor up, hoist your mandatory dive flag, and get your crew overboard.

Safety is always a consideration for boaters and fishermen, and scallop season demands special attention and awareness.  It’s important to recognize that you, or others around you, may not be regular boaters or snorkelers, and may not be accustomed to motoring a boat or diving in what are likely to be crowded waters.  Accidents, sometimes tragic, during scalloping season can be avoided by motoring at idle speed within 300-feet of boats flying dive flags or of swimmers and snorkelers.  In recent years, many local marinas have been selling and making recommendations that individual snorkelers tow dive-flagged buoys.  This is not a requirement, but certainly a great idea.   Make sure, too, that your boat’s operator remains alert and tuned-in to his or her task.  Even the slightest distraction, including casual conversation, can be disastrous, so let them concentrate on getting everyone out and back safely.  And while some in your party may wish to partake of an adult beverage while scalloping, boat operators should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES participate, remembering that the FWC and local authorities frown heavily on boating under the influence.  Scallop season also coincides with Florida’s thunderstorm season, and maintaining a visual ‘weather watch’ (or an ear tuned to the WX channel on your VHF radio) is a good practice.  Also, avoid making a decision to run home too late, as some narrow channels and boat ramps get pretty crowded as storms force boats back to port.

In-the-water ‘essentials’ for recreational scallopers are snorkels, masks, swim fins, plus mesh bags for gathering your harvest.  Most folks simply swim along the surface in the clear summer water and dive down only when a scallop is spotted.  Depending on the bottom, you’ll likely see some scallops ‘face up’, looking at you with a row of brilliant blue eyes around the slightly opened shell.  Others will be lying flat, with either the light or dark side of their shell facing upwards.  It doesn’t take much practice to learn to spot them like a pro, and even the kids will become experts after just a few minutes.  If the water’s not in its usual gin-clear state, you may have to dive down and skim the grass tops, swimming into the current, to get a better view of the scallops.   Most scallopers simply pick up their catch bare-handed, but many prefer scooping with small bait nets.  Scallops don’t bite, but will sometimes try to flutter away from an incoming human hand and a net sometimes makes the gathering easier.  Once caught and measured in a bucket, put your catch under ice immediately.  This not only keeps them fresh but also makes the scallops open up for easier cleaning later.

Cleaning a catch of scallops is not nearly as much fun as gathering them.  The ‘goodie’ in a scallop is the white adductor muscle, and the rest of the bivalve critter is discarded.  Scallops, even those iced on board, should be cleaned quickly to ensure freshness.   Some scallopers clean the catch on their boat, but care needs to be taken to not throw the offal (guts and shells) into the water while snorkelers are about, as there have been instances of sharks being attracted to a ‘scallop chum line’.  Cleaning scallops isn’t difficult and simple tools like oyster knives, sharpened tablespoons and garden gloves speed the messy job.  Ashore, most marinas have good stand-up cleaning tables, and some even have professional scallop cleaners standing by who will, for a more-than-reasonable fee, clean, rinse and bag your catch.

So, what’s the big deal about scallops and scalloping on Florida’s Gulf coast?  First, and foremost, if you’ve never eaten a Florida bay scallop, you’ve never really eaten a scallop.  Those bagged, frozen imports from South America that are regularly found in fish markets can’t compare in terms of taste, and store-bought ‘sea scallops’, though bigger, are often textured much like overcooked pork chops.  Our bay scallops are small, tender and best eaten the day they’re caught.  Preparation can range from sautéing in butter and garlic (served over pasta) to deep frying–just be sure not to overcook them.  Actually, they’re pretty darned good right out of the shell, raw, or as the basis for a simple lime and hot-pepper ceviche.   And second, eating your scallops is only half the fun.  A summertime scalloping trip to Florida’s Big Bend coast is an excellent opportunity to get family and friends—even the ‘Moms’– together for a fun day on the water!

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Flats Fishing Clinics at St. Marks, Florida Feb. 8-9, 2014

by on Jan.10, 2014, under Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

Seats are still available for the popular Flats Pro Seminars next month, but they are going fast and organizers expect another sell-out. Advance registration is required. Featuring six hours of comprehensive instruction by Captains Dave Lear and Chuck Simpson, along with Brett Shields, president of Shields Marina, this course teaches novice and veteran anglers alike how, when, where and why to catch more inshore game fish in Florida’s Apalachee Bay. It is geared toward small boat owners, kayakers and wading anglers and includes sessions on fish habitat and habits, diet, tackle, lures, baits, knot-tying, seasons, flats etiquette, boat rigging and basic maintenance and conservation. Attendees receive a gear bag with lures and Eagle Claw terminal tackle, plus more than $1,000 in door prizes will be awarded each day. Prizes include Polar Bear coolers, lure kits, tackle bags, accessories, Costa polarized sunglasses, rod and reel combos and Shimano reels.

The one-day Flats Pro Seminars will be held Saturday, February 8 and Sunday, February 9, 2014, at Shields Marina in St. Marks, Florida, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The cost is $85 per adult and includes a catered lunch. Junior anglers (ages 12-17) can attend for $25 if accompanied by an adult. Advance registration is required. For more information or to register, please visit www.captaindavelear.com

Capt. Dave Lear
Silver King Communications
1510 Dove Road
Tallahassee, FL 32317
captaindavelear.com – See more at: http://www.thefishingwire.com/story/308356#sthash.eXmrw3Um.dpuf

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Big Bend Kayak Classic, May 3 & 4, 2013, Wakulla County

by on Apr.04, 2013, under Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

This tournament will be headquartered at the 3Y Ranch in Crawfordville and anglers will be able to fish within a 50 mile radius of Wakulla County.  Your $75 entry fee (and your angling expertise) puts you in the running to win some great prizes. For complete registration information, go the the tournament website or call (850) 926-7145.

Camping is available at 3Y ranch (email skip@3Yranch.com for details).

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Where to look for scallops at Homosassa, June 2011

by on Jun.10, 2011, under Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST

As of June 10, Capt. William Toney has already spotted a few scallops from the surface, and expects a good harvest this year.  He’s sure there are a lot more in the grass that he can’t see from ‘up top’.  He recommends heading out on the low tide, which will be in the afternoon of opening weekend (June 25-26).  Look for areas of short turtle grass, especially near the Chassahowitzka Tower, 5 or 6 miles south of the Chaz boundary poles.

(Capt. Tommy note:  I think he’s talking about the area at about N28 39.192 W82 44.107)


Florida's recreational bay scallop season begins on June 25, 2011. Look for good catches to come from Homosassa, Crystal River, Steinhatchee, St. Marks and Port St. Joe

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New and Improved St. Marks Lighthouse Boat Ramp Reopens April 23, 2011

by on Apr.15, 2011, under St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

From the St. Marks NWR folks:

The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge staff and construction contractors have been working hard to get the ramp up and running. We realize this Gulf of Mexico access point is prized for its close proximity to the East and West Flats fishing grounds. This new ramp offers a divided launch for two vessels at the same time, plus a safety curb at the ramps end for runaways.

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Apalachee Bay, St. Marks, Panacea Fishing Report from Capt. Dave Lear, 2/22/11

by on Feb.22, 2011, under Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

It’s a matter of hours now, not weeks, before the spring season officially gets underway, says Captain Dave Lear (850-320-2001; captaindavelear.com). The inshore water temperatures continue to edge closer to the magic 68-degree mark and the fish are responding accordingly, staging near the mouths of rivers and creeks. Last weekend the redfish were prowling the shoreline and tailing on the flats, but most had lockjaw. Expect that to change with this warming trend. Keeper trout are moving on to the flats in the eastern section of the bay from Rock Island to Keaton Beach. The usual offerings–DOA standard shrimp, topwater plugs, CAL jerk baits and ADL spoons won’t likely be refused as the fish bulk up after a long, chilly winter.

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Apalachee Bay Fishing Report, 2/16/11, from Capt. Dave Lear

by on Feb.16, 2011, under Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

All signs continue to point to an early spring, starting this weekend, says Capt. Dave Lear (850-320-2001; captaindavelear.com). The redbud trees and camellias are starting to bloom and water temperatures are nearing the 60-degree mark. The warming trend and full moon should accelerate the timetable. Look for trout and redfish near the mouths of rivers and creeks or on adjacent shallow flats during the middle of the day. Topwater plugs in bone are a great option right now, along with ADL spoons and DOA CAL jerk baits worked fairly slow. Historically, the eastern section of the bay seems to kick off first.

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St. Marks, Apalachee Bay Fishing Report, Capt. Dave Lear, February 8, 2011

by on Feb.09, 2011, under Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

The recent heavy rains and runoff are pushing the larger trout down the rivers and creeks towards higher salinity levels, says Capt. Dave Lear (850-320-2001; captaindavelear.com). Focus on mud flats and oyster bars with topwater plugs like Skitterwalks, Top Dogs or Zara Spooks to draw strikes from sunning fish. Now is prime time to look for tailing reds in shallow water. Long, accurate casts with ADL spoons and DOA CAL jerk baits will get their attention. Sheepshead and sea bass are thick around inshore structure and the nearshore reefs

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St. Marks, Panacea, Apalachee Bay Fishing Report, 1/24/11, from Capt. Dave Lear

by on Jan.24, 2011, under Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

The inshore bite improved recently despite the chilly overnight lows, says Capt. Dave Lear (850-320-2001; captaindavelear.com). Schools of reds and trout can be found in the shallows, but the fish are wary due to water clarity and threat of dolphins. Long casts and soft presentations are the key to triggering strikes. Soft plastic jerk baits or shad tails like the DOA CALs in chartreuse, new penny and glitter patterns have been working. Topwater plugs such as Hall ‘em In B-29s, Skitterwalks or Top Dogs twitched over oyster bars and mud flats will entice sunning fish. There are still plenty of fish up the rivers, but the majority are undersized. Black sea bass and sheepshead are holding around rock piles and other structure.

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