Steinhatchee strong bet for year’s first trip

Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 10:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 10:03 a.m.

The new year arrives with a large number of North Florida freshwater fishers feeling unfortunate. They’re happier, though, than the saltwater specialists who are feeling underappreciated.

Freshwater fans are having a tough time accessing many of their favorite waters after the final months of 2010 brought precious little rainfall. It is a setback to which they have become accustomed.

Saltwater anglers, and particularly offshore enthusiasts, have long endured diminishing bag limits. And now a full six-month gulf gag grouper closure has, for many, been the last straw. It’s a buyers market for big boats and heavy duty used tackle. Certainly, almost everyone whose livelihood depends on a healthy offshore fishing effort is looking for another line of work.

The water in our lakes will come back, and the big water fishers that don’t hang it up altogether will find another acceptable target species. But the run-of-the-mill North Florida angler is generally pretty bummed.

Ken Tenney’s favorite sporting objective remains unaffected by the tightening rules. The Gainesville angler fished far off St. Augustine on New Year's Eve with his son, Kenneth, and Doug Biley. Trolling C & H lures 60 miles offshore through a light rain, the trio knew quickly that they had arrived with the Wahoo in a feeding mood. By noon, they had filled a combined six-fish limit of sleek beauties weighing 86, 67, 52, 49, 43 and 42 pounds.

And at least one inshore gulf hotspot definitely remains a strong bet for first-trip-of-the-year success.

Steinhatchee speckled trout action has been as good in the welcomed warmth that started late last week as was in the icy conditions that preceded it.

Last Thursday, Ed Ellett and Greg Howard headed to Steinhatchee for their last fishing trip of 2010. They fished in the river with old standby trout producers … slow-sinking Mirrolures. Ed used the TT 28, while Greg opted for the silver-sided version of the same lure, a TT 26. After a couple of strikes there, the Gainesville men concentrated their efforts in the vicinity of channel marker 31. By 10:30, they had their combined limit of trout up to four pounds, and released 15 to 20 more, including several more than 20 inches. They ramped out at noon, having used just a half gallon of boat gas.

Jerry Kimball of Hawthorne and Wayne Blankenship of Starke found their fish just outside the Steinhatchee River’s mouth. To avoid the rocks along the river channel, the men ran all the way out to Marker 10, and then curled back south through Deadman Bay to a cove just south of the river. There, they cast Mirrolures and white Gulp! shrimp on jigheads to fool four good redfish and 10 trout. The total take was impressive to see, as two of the trout measured a bit more than 20 inches, and the other eight nearly touched the 20-inch mark.

At a time when really good spots to fish are scarce, anglers very early in 2011 can be thankful for the Gulf’s Big Bend rivers, and especially, the Steinhatchee.

At the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club’s monthly meeting later this month, well-known Keaton Beach fishing guide, Pat McGriff, will discuss Early Spring Tactics for Trout and Redfish. This will be a great chance to learn from a great angler. The Jan. 25 meeting starts at 7 p.m. at UF’s Veterinary Academic Building, Lecture Hall A. For more information, visit the club’s website at

Gary Simpson is a veteran tournament angler who works at The Tackle Box.

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