Reddish salt shallows providing unlikely good fishing

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:55 p.m.

A large area of tannin-stained water stretching for miles around the mouth of the Suwannee River has worried inshore gulf anglers for weeks. This occurs fairly often during the spring season following major rain events that cause the river to flood.

And usually, the “red” water encroachment bodes badly for anglers. Understandably, saltwater fish prefer high salinity. This season, salty predators seem to have made an exception — and that's fortunate for anglers. Inshore action (especially trout action) has remained good even in the fresh, reddish shallows.

Saturday, Jack Buys and Jeff Kanipe arrived at the Cedar Key boat basin early enough to beat the crowd that would later attend the island community's annual Arts Festival. When they pulled up on a favorite nearby grass flat the Gainesville anglers found the water to be “dark and stirred up”. In spite of this, Jack quickly hooked a nice 21.5-inch trout. Casting both cut bait and Saltwater Assassin Jigs set under Cajun Thunder rattling floats, the men went on to enjoy fairly steady action. They harvested nine speckled trout, all above 17-inches long. A half dozen sand trout of at least 15-inches joined the specks in their ice chest.

The Suwannee and Cedar Key flats aren't alone in being less-than-clear. Last weekend, anglers launching at Horseshoe Beach saw that rain and wind events over previous days had darkened the usually clear flats considerably.

John Matthews and Greg Mikel fished out of Horseshoe Saturday. They found the grass flats to be churned up, with sand and debris visible in the water column. When the tide turned to come in a little later in the day, the water seemed to clear slightly. And the fish started biting like crazy. Through the rising tide near Pepperfish Keys, the Gainesville men caught no fewer than 60 trout measuring up to 24-inches. White Gulp! shrimp fished along with Cajun Thunder floats accounted for most of the fish. One interesting thing they noticed was that when many of the trout came aboard, small shrimp were falling out of their mouths onto the boat deck.

Danny Leibach, Rick Scarborough, and Terry Stradomski of Gainesville and Stu and Gabe Hancock of Bell fished last Wednesday out of Horseshoe with Capt. John Liebach. They ran north and worked shallow shell bars near Pepperfish Keys. The Gulp! Jerk Shads and MirrOdines the six anglers cast drew plenty of fishy interest. They filled a combined 30-fish limit of speckled trout up to 22-inches long, and released quite a few more. Three redfish on the small end of the 18-to-27-inch legal slot joined the trout on ice, and two big “bull reds” of 32 and 34-inches were released. Capt. John noted that “as the tide builds, bigger and bigger trout arrive in the shallows — and most are full of roe”.

A few miles to the north, fishing at Steinhatchee remains excellent. Trout fishing is stellar, more mackerel and cobia are being seen every day, and even a good number of late-season sheepshead remain in their spawning haunts on offshore reefs.

Paul Taylor of Longneck, Delaware fished alone Saturday aboard a Sea Hag rental boat. On a grass flat about two miles south of the Steinhatchee River mouth, the visitor cast pearl white Gulp! shrimp on a red jighead to bag several trout and Spanish mackerel. Taylor also boated a pair of cobia measuring 27 and 36 inches. He kept the larger, legal fish, later weighing it at 18 pounds.

Charles and Charlie Holt and Larry Southworth of Jacksonville fished a rocky spot near Steinhatchee Reef Saturday with shrimp and fiddlers. They returned with a 45-fish combined limit of large sheepshead.

Boaters looking to launch at Steinhatchee are advised that the contractor is completing boat ramp improvements that have been in the works for a few weeks now. The parking area adjacent to the ramp is scheduled to be paved Monday through Wednesday.

On these days, the county and contractor request that boaters using the ramp park across 1st Avenue, So., on the county-owned grassed area.

The 17th Annual Save Rodman Reservoir Open Bass Tournament will go out of Kenwood Landing Saturday.

This is always the best-attended Rodman tourney of the year; and judging from recent pre-fishing activity on the reservoir, this year's contest will see another big turnout. Contestants may fish anywhere they can reach by water, so the pool and the nearby waters of the St. John's River system have been combed fairly thoroughly by fishers searching for the larger bass that will give them bragging rights for the coming year.

Lots of different areas and techniques are producing. And we'll soon know which has produced best.

Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.

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