It’s a good year for scallops

Beautiful Steinhatchee Sunset

Beautiful Steinhatchee Sunset

From The Gainesville Sun:

Following a couple of weeks of open bay scallop season in the Steinhatchee area, it’s clear that the shellfish stocks there are healthy.

Guiding out of Steinhatchee, Capt. Bobbi Cannon confirms that it’s a good year for scallops — in some ways, better than last year. “The scallop meats are running from 5 to 6 pounds per 10-gallons of scallops in the shell. That’s definitely better than early in the season last year.” She added, “More people are asking to mix hook-and-line fishing with shellfishing. The other day, the Gunn family from Fleming Island caught 3 trout, 2 flounder, and a redfish to go with ten gallons of scallops...and we were back at the dock at 12:30.”

Dale Melms also had an interesting mixed bag. The High Springs angler visited us at the shop late Wednesday after spending the day out of Steinhatchee. Fishing alone, he started the morning casting a DOA shrimp just north of the river and was surprised to hook a nice sized snook along with a slew of ladyfish. After releasing the 24-inch fish, he ran north — all the way past Keaton Beach. Visually scouting for scallops while easing along in the shallows, he stopped to cast a sandy spot. Here, his DOA lure produced four redfish, a few smallish trout, and two odd, seldom-seen ‘lookdown’ fish. A little while later, Melms found a spot well-populated with scallops and picked up a gallon bucket full. “I really didn’t want to clean more than that”, he said.

The pressure on the Steinhatchee-area shallows might ease up a bit starting Sunday, when bay scallop season opens in the rest of our Big Bend waters on July 1. Crystal River and Homosassa are especially-popular scalloping destinations, and if scallops turn out to be as abundant there as they are in the Steinhatchee stretch of coast, shellfishing fans will gain many more good miles of snorkeling water.

Tripletail and sheepshead laws for recreational Florida anglers change on July 1 as well. The minimum legal length for the increasingly-popular tripletail goes from 15 to 18 inches, while the daily bag limit remains 2 fish per person. Tripletail can be taken with hook-and-line only (no nets or spearing). The longstanding 15-fish daily limit for sheepshead drops to 8 fish per angler, year ’round --- while the minimum length remains 12-inches. Further, a fifty-sheepshead-per-vessel limit will be enforced during March and April, regardless of the number of fishers aboard.

While the gulf red snapper and gag grouper bite remains dependable offshore, inshore trout and redfish reports have been generally unimpressive. Several of the most successful trout anglers have revealed that they’ve had to go out pretty deep to find their fish. It seems that some of the best trout limits taken out of Cedar Key, Suwannee, and Steinhatchee have come from water at least 10 feet deep.

At the late-June full moon, panfishing is predictably good in area lakes. Orange and Lochloosa might be producing best, and 50-fish limits of bluegill and shellcracker are being seen here commonly. At the Lochloosa end of Cross Creek, the folks at Twin Lakes Fish Camp have seen big bream limits daily, taken by fishers dropping grass shrimp and crickets in beds of grass or pads. Warmouths and occasional speckled perch are being seen, as well ....and for them, live bait is not a must. A handful of fishers are still picking up a few specks out deep with crappie jigs, and at least one casting Beetle Spins in Orange’s north end with ultralight tackle has recently caught plenty of thick warmouths.

Regular rains are supporting lakes that are already healthy and high ... a cloudburst that dropped three inches on Cross Creek Tuesday evening was enough to sink a couple of boats moored at Twin Lakes in only an hour’s time.

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