With the water on the flats rapidly warming, the action on spotted sea trout has exploded. All the folks contributing to the fishing report raved about the outstanding action. One report in particular caught my attention as being too informative to be lost in the teeny-tiny type of the report. I’ve moved it up to the easier-on-the-eyes section of the column.
It’s from Captain Pat McGrif out of Keaton Beach.
“Monday was simply a spectacular day on the Gulf. Billy Pillow and I went out and caught a hundred pinfish in just over an hour, then drove north, pulled into 3.2 feet of water and started a drift that lasted right at an hour. We decided to fish with anything but the live bait to start off …we never drowned a pinfish. We literally caught or missed a fish each cast for that entire first drift. When the smoke cleared we had keepers and caught over 50 trout.”
“The next drift we made a rule that I couldnâ€™t mention a plug or bait here in my report this week, unless we caught three straight fish on three casts in a row. Well, hereâ€™s the list: Assassinâ€™s 5-inch shad rigged un-weighted on a 5/0 Offset Daiichi worm hook in the following colors; Croaker Shad, Pink Ghost, Arkansas Shad, Limetreuse Ghost, then in the Salty Snack rigged the same way, Glow Green and Fried Chicken, and the bait I caught the most fish on, again rigged the same way, the Assassin 5-inch Die Dapper in the Sand Trout pattern.
â€śO.K. now Billyâ€™s baits: (again with the 3 for 3 rule intact) Paul Brown Devil in # 91, and white /red head, FishBites Fight Club 5-inch Brawler Jerk Bait in the Chartreuse pattern rigged on the Daiichi 5/0, Cordell Rattlinâ€™ Redfin in Gold, Clown and the Purple headed yellow one, the original Redfin in Gold, Renegades Clown, Golden Shiner and Bronze, Yozuri Hard Shrimp in Pink and Green, a Bomber Long A in Gold, and to tell you the truth I may have forgotten one or two but we easily caught 100 trout..something you rarely have a chance to do.
â€śOh and we quit at 4:30 which means we caught all these fish in three and a half hours. Oh yeah, Billy caught a flounder on the Cordell NEW CC shallow minnow plug in the Fire Tiger pattern. We were in water 3.5 feet deep to start off the day; then 5 feet by the time the last drift was done. We left them biting. My last three casts with an Assassin Glow /Orange Sea Shad on a 1/8 ounce Chartreuse Flash jighead yielded an 18.5, a 17 and a 16-inch trout. All released, as we had long since landed our ten keepers. Unbelievable day. Oh and the water temps had made it back to 70.8 degrees by dayâ€™s end.”
Four counties open April 1 to gag grouper recreational harvest
State waters off the coast of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will open to recreational harvest of gag grouper starting April 1. This regional season will remain open through June 30. The season includes all waters of Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass, including those in Gulf County, and all waters of the Steinhatchee River, including those in Dixie County.
State waters off these four counties also open to recreational gag harvest Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
The gag grouper season in the remainder of Gulf of Mexico state waters and federal waters is open June 1 through Dec. 31. Monroe County state waters follow Atlantic grouper rules.
Gag grouper caught April 1 to June 30 in Gulf state waters (from shore to 9 nautical miles out) from off the four-county open region may be landed on the Gulf County side of Indian Pass and the Dixie County side of the Steinhatchee River, but may not be taken ashore in other areas closed to harvest. For example, a gag grouper caught April 1 in state waters off Jefferson County cannot be taken ashore in Levy County or parts of Dixie County outside of the Steinhatchee River. To see maps of these areas, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select â€śSaltwater Fishing,â€ť â€śRecreational Regulationsâ€ť and â€śGroupers.â€ť
If you plan to fish for gag grouper in Gulf state or federal waters from a private recreational vessel, make sure to sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler prior to your fishing trip (annual renewal is required for most anglers, including those over 65 years of age). To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on â€śRecreational Regulationsâ€ť and â€śGulf Reef Fish Surveyâ€ť under â€śReef Fish.â€ť Sign up today at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.
To learn more about grouper regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on â€śRecreational Regulationsâ€ť and â€śGroupers.â€ť
Spiny lobster season closes April 1
The spiny lobster recreational and commercial season closes to harvest in state and federal waters starting April 1, and will reopen Aug. 6. The two-day recreational sport season is the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July, which is July 24 and 25 this year.
Ladies’ fishing program at Bass Pro Shop
Bass Pro Shops Tallahassee Ladiesâ€™ Day Out is Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hereâ€™s the info the store provided:
â€śShout out to all the ladies that love being in the great outdoors! Join us at Bass Pro Shops, Tallahassee on Saturday outdoor gal or looking to get into something new and exciting, we’ll have great demos and activities to help you get outside! PLUS free giveaways to the first 50 ladies to check in at our welcome table, chances to win gift cards and a chance to win an outdoor package!
â€˘ 10 a.m. Archery and the Bow, get the facts, find the fit, take the challenge and win a gift card.
â€˘ 11am Knife Sharpening, basic tips on use, safety, selection and maintenance for all your knives. Have you ever wondered what knife to use? This seminar will answer all your questions and more.
â€˘ 12 p.m. Fashion Show. We will also be hosting a fashion show featuring the latest technology in fabrics specifically designed to enhance your outdoor experience.
â€˘ 1 p.m. Handgun Basics, Professional instructor will be speaking on safety and finding the type of firearm that is right for you. We will introduce you to different types and styles of handgun. How to clean your handgun properly, the proper fit for holsters and accessories.
â€˘ 2 p.m. Casting Perfection, learn casting techniques from our local pros: test your casting skills and win a gift card. Enter to win the Outdoor Giveaway valued at $1050. Join in on the fun Saturday March 30th 10-2pm at Bass Pro Shops Tallahassee.
Kathy Robinson at Robinson Bros. Guide Service (Robinson@FlaRedfish.com (850) 653-8896) in Apalachicola said sent photos of good trout and redfish catches made by anglers fishing in the bay.
St. George Island
Captain Russ Knapp on St. George Island (email@example.com) said Captain Randy Peart ( 850 320 4214 ) told him things in the bay are a bit slow. He suggests fishing in the afternoon when the water is the warmest. Use live bait or small lures worked slowly while drifting the flats, on the drop-offs or in the creek mouths. The Bob Sykes Cut is as normal, off and on. Drift it with live bait for redfish. First pompano are in the surf, use sand fleas if you can find them. A small piece of fresh peeled shrimp is a strong second choice.
Offshore its all about Gag Grouper season starting April 1st in state waters. They are still in pretty close so gas up and head out. Make sure to sign up for the GulfReefFishAnglers@GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Failure to sign up may result in an unpleasant talk with an FWC officer. Live bottom should have fewer out of season red snapper so that’s a good starting point.
Capt. Dave Lear of Tallahassee said: “Mother Nature has tapped on the brakes somewhat with a couple of mini-fronts and typical March winds thrown in the mix. But there were several reports of quality fish caught with the monthâ€™s last opportunity looking promising as well. Water clarity along the Forgotten Coast ranges from clear with a slight tannin stain to crystal clear to milky in spots. Most of the fish are coming from the clearer areas. Big, fat, Spanish mackerel are prowling the nearshore depths and they were more than happy to smash MirrOlure MirrOdines worked quickly. Silver casting spoons with a trace of wire or heavier mono leader are another viable option.
“Redfish have been scattered, but slot-size to over-slot fish are eating Capt. Mikeâ€™s or Aqua Dream weedless spoons. Gold is always a favorite; pink is a good choice with the tannin stain, while silver or chartreuse work well in clear water. Reds have also been caught on top-water plugs, Z-Man shad and live shrimp. Soft jigs like Sureketch or CAL bounced along the bottom work too and flounder might be a welcome diversion. Gold, pearl and chartreuse are the top colors lately. Trout are thick in places and they are pouncing on plugs, jigs, flukes and live shrimp under popping corks. Many are over 20 inches and a true trophy, a 30-inch gator, was fooled by a Rapala Skitter Walk in a refuge creek. That bucket-list fish was successfully released by the happy angler and Iâ€™d encourage others exceeding 20 inches to be released as well. They are the breeder stock and will pay dividends in the future.
“A few pompano have been reported around the barrier islands. Nylure and bucktail jigs bounced in the surf troughs will fool these tasty jacks. Make sure the jig hits the bottom to create a puff of sand so the fish can home in on the offering. Cobia are showing along the Panhandle beaches, so some should be filtering into the bay soon. There have been numerous sightings of big bull sharks in the shallows throughout the region, which is unusual for this time of year. The waning crescent moon wonâ€™t be much help with the tides this weekend. Highs will only be about 2.5 feet after lunch with very little drop to the next low. The incoming water in the mornings should be good, however. Expect a high activity feeding period from after 9 am until almost noon as the moon is up. An average window returns from 3 to 4 in the afternoon during moonset. The mid-week forecast showed tolerable winds clocking around from different directions, but you wonâ€™t know for certain unless you go.”
Otto Hough at Myhometownfishing.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) said: “Wind, that’s pretty much the story and the challenge over the past few days. In spite of the winds providing a certain level of aggravation, those anglers getting out during the afternoon hours as the water temps popped up into the mid-60s found lots of hungry trout feeding a tad down in the water column. Overnight drops in the water temps into the upper 50s served to slow the morning bite, but as the waters warmed over the course of the day the pace of the bite has most definitely increased. This 3-day stretch ahead for the weekend anglers ought to be dang sure close to fine. Pre-new moon tidal flows are beginning to increase. High tides will be coming just a smidgen or so after midmorning. Abundant sunshine in the forecast with warmer daytime temps heating the flats along with much improved water clarity will all work in concert to stimulate the bite.
“For the weekend ahead, a variety of artificial baits along with the trusty live shrimp under an Equalizer or Cajun Thunder will turn some heads as baitfish aren’t prevalent quite yet on the flats. So, for the hungry trout it is a diet of the offerings from the anglers in pursuit of the action generated with the slam. Soft 5-inch baits like the Saltwater Assassin, Gulp! and Z-Man jerk shads have been the ‘go-to’ meal ticket with the fish not aggressively going after the stickbaits and topwater lures. Also working well down in the water column have been the MirrOdine XL and Unfair Lures Rip-n-Slash 70. However, when the trout and reds have been attacking the stickbaits later in the day, they’ve been hitting the gold/orange bellied Redfin and Bomber Long A with authority. Each day this past week, when the flats water temps have bumped up towards 65 degrees or so the switch has been flipped on the bite. By later next week, daytime flats temps ought to be such that most every species known to cruise Apalachee Bay should be on-site to provide angling excitement. A few bluefish have already made their presence known. The Spanish, kings and cobia aren’t very far behind. For now, the trout and reds are the key prime-time players across Apalachee Bay.”
Hough said this coming Monday, April 1st, will mark opening day for gag grouper in the four (Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor) county State waters. “Long awaited and anticipated has been this day for many an angler. Water temps around the shallow water rock piles in State waters are a good ten to twelve degrees cooler this year than Opening Day last year. Many more quality gags in the 25 to 28 inch range are still enjoying the tail end of their winter spawning stay in the cool shallow waters of Apalachee Bay. Fingers are crossed that Mother Nature will offer up winds and seas conducive to the small boat anglers having the opportunity to enjoy some fun catching up a limit of gags. For me, I’ll be slow trolling my favorite Rapala Mag14 and Mag18 in both Fire Tiger and Green Mackerel color patterns in waters 14 to 18 feet over “Real Florida”, aka rock piles. When a rock is located holding a goodly number of gags and winds are light, some fun will be had jigging up a few gags using a 1 ounce white bucktail jig tipped with a seven inch pearl white or nuclear chicken jerk shad on my lighter weight jigging combos. Downsizing the jerk shad will also produce some really fine bowhead rock bass, aka black seas bass as well, as the feisty little guys will hang the rock piles too. However, they will normally be on a rock pile far removed from the dangers of being too close to a hungry gag. They too are part of the food chain and a favorite dining treat for the gags. Remember, Federal waters are still closed till June 1st and those gags must be at least 24 inches with the tail pinched, though I prefer to see only 25s and above make their way to my livewell to remove any size doubt. As a by-product, it allows the borderline gags more time to grow up a tad.”
Chaeli Norwood at Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee (352-498-3008) sent photos of huge redfish, limits of keeper trout, flounder, loads and loads of sheepshead, and a decent bull shark.
Captain Pat McGriff of One More Cast Guide Service (www.onemorecast.net, email@example.com (850) 584-9145) reported: “Tuesday, I had Larry Fortson and his grandson, Issac Hayes from Macon, Ga. and we had a great day. This pair had never fished in the Gulf, much less caught a trout and they caught their limit of trout to 20 inches, including several 18- and 19-inch fish as well. They fished live pinfish under Back Bay Thunders in 3.5 â€“ 4.5 feet of water to land their limit plus a slew of shorts to boot. It took just under 4 hours to get our trout. I then checked out four spots for reds only to find nothing on the first three; then Larry got a fine 25-inch red on the last stop. A Great trip that I am sure they will long remember. The water temperature in the Gulf rose from 70 up to 73 degrees by dayâ€™s end and the wind was blowing 12-15 from the west.”
Paul Tyre on Lake Seminole (PaulTyreFishing@yahoo.com (850) 264-7534) said: “Lake Seminole bass fishing has been exceptional this March. The bass continue to bed and as we move into April, the topwater fishing will get exciting. Lake Seminole is known far and wide for itâ€™s incredible topwater bass fishing. The Shellcracker will start showing up on beds in the next few weeks. Follow me on Instagram @Lakeseminolefishing or on Facebook @paultyrefishing for up-to-date news about fishing on Lake Seminole.”