by Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist firstname.lastname@example.org [Steinhatchee, FL.–] Looking down through my dive mask at the patchy grass bottom about four feet deep in the Gulf …
Catch An Inshore Slam Near Crystal River
[Crystal River, FL.–] Hurricane Irma’s lashing winds and roiled waters have done nothing to degrade the fishing along Florida’s Nature Coast.
Sure, the Gulf and inshore waters got murky, but the redfish and sea trout don’t seem to mind. With the higher- than- usual high tides and lower-than -usual low tides of autumn; cooler water temperatures; and fewer anglers on the water, you the inshore angler stand an excellent chance of bagging an inshore slam of snook, redfish and sea trout. You could photograph and release them, or photograph them and keep one of each for dinner — now that snook season is open.
If you are unfamiliar with the Crystal River/Homosassa area, you could book one of several excellent inshore guides to take you where the fish are: Captain William Toney (352-422-4141); Captain Madison MacDonald (352-601-7392) and Captain Colin Guy (352-634-2901).
For the last few years, the Nature Coast has experienced something of a snook bonanza. This hard-fighting, line-sided speedster will make you work for it, but it is so much fun. Toney and MacDonald recommend casting a C.A.L. Shad jerkbait in glow/goldrush with a 1/8-ounce chartreuse jig head or a MirOLure Little John around the points of mangrove islands all the way up to the mouths of the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka rivers on the higher stages of the tide.
Once you’ve checked off the snook, the red should be a gimme. In the fall, bull reds way over the slot limit of 18 to 27 inches make their way inshore from their Gulf spawning areas following schools of mullet. According to Guy, they can often be found on the spoil banks off Crystal River, in the moats of mangrove islands and around rocky reefs on the rising tide. Guy and Toney say the best bait is live pinfish or shrimp. But for purists who prefer artificials, a good bet is 1/4-oz. Eppinger gold spoon, or various soft plastics.
Sea trout are becoming a lot easier to locate than they were a month ago. The go-to bait just about everywhere on the Gulf coast is a live shrimp fished beneath a popping cork such as a Cajun Thunder or Flats Equalizer. (Purists may substitute a soft plastic for the live shrimp.) Toney and MacDonald are finding the spotted sportsters on the south side of the Homosassa channel and north of the Chassahowitzka River channel and also just west of the St. Martin’s Keys.
You certainly don’t have to be an expert to score a slam; all three guides are happy to teach novices how to cast and retrieve their baits. And besides the satisfaction of besting the big three, you can have your catch cooked at any of several excellent local restaurants. Some suggestions: Katch Twenty Two in Lecanto (352-746-6691) and West 82 Bar and Grill at the Plantation on Crystal River (www.plantationoncrystalriver.com), which is also a great place to stay during your fishing trip. Call ahead to make arrangements for preparing your catch.
Take a break from post-Irma recovery with a brief fishing excursion. You might be able to write it off as therapy.