Entries in Fishing (4)
Following a long closure in gulf waters, a special two-month gag grouper season opened last Friday in the Gulf of Mexico for recreational anglers.
After the long separation from their deep-water favorite, the opening-day crowd arrived at nearly every gulf port. And Friday turned out to be the best day, wind-wise, of the special season’s first weekend.
At daylight, Tommy Hines of Newberry, Sidney Hazen of Lacrosse and Richard Shellnut of Archer left from the Cedar Key ramp on their way to secret, rocky-bottomed spots in water 60-feet deep. After anchoring, they dropped frozen Spanish sardines to the bottom. Right away, hungry grouper slammed the offerings. As Hazen put it, “It was Johnny-Get-Your-Gun.”
The Steinhatchee Fisheries Management Area (SFMA), in planning and development for more than a decade, has just passed a major milestone, the construction of 452 of 500 planned “fisheries conservation reefs.” This project has been a long-term partnership between UF’s Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), with federal funding through Sport Fish Restoration for reef construction and NOAA Fisheries-MARFIN for research and monitoring.
The initial reef construction began in 2005, when Bill Lindberg, UF and Florida Sea Grant fisheries specialist, and his team placed a line of 40 standardized reefs, 160 cubes in groups of four, bracketing the Big Bend region of Florida. Reef cubes each weigh a ton and have a large central cavity sized for larger-bodied fish, like gag. These sites are used as fisheries independent monitoring stations intended to aid gag stock assessments and to evaluate the output of the conservation reefs now deployed in a 100-square-mile area permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about 18 miles west of Steinhatchee.
Inshore anglers working the Steinhatchee shallows continue to hook good-sized speckled trout. Sunday, Hardy Wood took a five-pound fish to Sea Hag Marina for a photo, and Judd Evatt of Sumter County topped that a few minutes later with a seven-pounder.
While practicing for the Fishing for Kids Saltwater Trout Tournament coming up Saturday, Robbie Emmons and Nathan Lee have fared very well. Casting five-inch Gulp! Jerk Shads in the New Penny color, the Gainesville anglers released “somewhere between 30 and 40” trout Saturday that averaged 17-to-18-inches in length. They targeted the grass flats just south of the Steinhatchee River mouth. Contestants in the 7th annual event that benefits Shands Children’s Hospital will depart from Sea Hag Marina in the morning at safe light and weigh in at 3 p.m. Call 800-284-6472 for more information. Sounds like it will be a good one.
Fishers venturing a bit farther offshore have encountered plenty of mackerel — both Spanish and kings. It’s not always necessary to run to deep water for the Spanish, though. Chase and Chaeli Norwood proved that a few days ago. The youngsters hooked and boated a couple of nice macks while casting well up the Steinhatchee River.