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Tag: suwannee

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.


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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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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Cedar Key Fishing Report, 5/31/12, from Capt. Jimbo Keith

by on May.31, 2012, under Cedar Key, Suwannee

Hey there folks I hope y’all weathered the storm this past week. That was some much needed rain that will help in more ways than one. The rain will not only help the farmers it will help the fishermen. With all the rain we got the water temp will drop and cause the fishing fire up because of the cooler temps. Well the Trout bite is still exceptional with some bigger fish being caught up to 4.5lbs. The hot color this week was Stinky Pink made by Saltwater Assassin. If your looking for a good fight. There are some big schools of Big Uglies”Black Drum” on the flats. You can also find the tailing on top of oyster bars on the high tide. The favorite method of mine to catch these fish is a dead shrimp or a broken crab. I like to find the Drum tailing and cast the bait to him like you would a Red Drum. There has also been some Tarpon being caught right now. The best action is the mouth of the east pass of the Suwannee River around Dan May. Well folks hope this helps you land a big’un this week. Y’all stay safe and we’ll see you on the water.

Captain Jimbo Keith

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4th Annual Suwannee Stone Crab Festival, April 28, 2012

by on Mar.06, 2012, under Suwannee

Head on down to the end of Highway 349 to Suwannee Town and watch the parade, mullet toss and corn hole tournament.  Also expect to eat some great seafood and hear some live music.  This year’s Suwannee Stone Crab Festival promises to be the best one yet!

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Mangrove Creek Outfitters, Chiefland, FL

by on Nov.05, 2011, under Cedar Key, Steinhatchee, Suwannee

If you’re in the Chiefland area, headed towards Suwannee or Cedar Key, be sure to stop by Mangrove Creek Outfitters.  Located on US19/98 near the intersection of ALT29 and US129, Robert Hornsby has a great selection of tackle, kayaks, coolers and even a few boats for sale.

Mangrove Creek Outfitters, Chiefland, FL

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

by 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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3rd Annual Trenton, FL Rotary Fishing Tournament, April 30, 2011, in Suwannee

by on Mar.21, 2011, under Suwannee

Don’t miss this fun inshore and offshore fishing tournament.  Complete information and schedules can be found online at the Trenton Rotary Club’s Web site.   Great Prizes, too!

Trenton Fishing Tournament

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All About Sheepshead- Catching, Cleaning, Cooking


Here’s an excerpt from The Saltwater Angler’s Guide’s  chapter, “It’s all about the fish…” To learn about other species, get the book by clicking on the link to Amazon.com on the right side of this page.

Sheepshead, found all along Florida’s west coast, are legendary bait stealers.  During most of the year, these small-mouthed fish inhabit coastal oyster and rock bars, dock pilings and rock jetties searching for their favorite prey–crustaceans, including small crabs, shrimp and even barnacles.  It’s these smaller fish that are very difficult to catch, as their ability to crush bait, swallow the meat, and spit out the exoskeleton (with the hook!) is unrivaled.  Small hooks and small baits, such as fiddler crabs and cut shrimp pieces, are the key to catching close-to-shore sheepshead.  Patience helps, too.  Learning to feel the signature bite of a sheepshead takes time, and you’ll likely miss a few before you get into their rhythm.  And, while the size limit on sheepshead is 12”, a fish that size yields very little meat upon cleaning.

It’s the bigger spawning sheepshead, usually found during the late winter or early spring, that excite gulf anglers.  These fish, found mostly in deeper water and around structures such as rock piles and old navigation markers, sometime reach weights of 10 pounds, or more.  When their spawning ritual begins, these big sheepshead will mill around the structure and seemingly eat any bait presented them.  Chumming with crushed crabs, oysters or shrimp heads will increase the feeding frenzy, but don’t over-chum.  They’re hungry, but they do get full!  As spawning fish are larger fish, their mouths are bigger and most anglers rely on whole live shrimp as bait.  A simple ‘knocker’ rig and a sturdy #2 hook is sufficient, but many anglers simply thread a shrimp, tail-first, onto a 3/8-oz jig head. The advent of braided line has certainly hurt the sheepshead population in the last few years, allowing anglers a better feel for what’s going on down below.  Many sheepshead ‘experts’ agree that you have to set the hook on a sheepshead BEFORE he bites, or you’ll miss the hook-up!

Sheepshead are delicious to eat (fried or grilled), but as difficult to clean as they are to catch.  Big boned and heavily scaled, the meat-to-total weight ratio of sheepshead is low (about 33% yield of meat is average), and most anglers opt for electric knives at the cleaning table. And, no matter how good the meat, cleaning the unrealistic legal limit is a chore.  Take what you can eat that night and NOT the 15-fish limit, remembering that big spawning sheepshead represent the future of the fishery.

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Suwannee Fishing Report, March 20, 2011, from Capt. Les Flaherty

by on Mar.21, 2011, under Suwannee

Capt. Les Flaherty at Suwannee reports that trout are moving along the big bars at Lone Cabbage Reef, Tarpon Gap, Seven Brothers and Red Bank Reef.  Sheepshead have shown up, but are mostly smaller male fish.  Look for them around Hedemon and Red Bank.

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