4 Counties Open Gag Grouper Recreational Harvest on April 1

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From WCTV Eyewitness News:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- State waters off the coast of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will soon open to recreational harvest of gag grouper.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says that the regional gag grouper recreational harvest season will run from April 1 to June 30.

This includes all waters of the Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass, including those in gulf county, and all waters of the Steinhatchee River, including Dixie County.

FWC says gag grouper caught in state Gulf waters (from shore to 9 nautical miles out) off the four counties can be landed on the Gulf County side of Indian Pass and the Dixie County side of the Steinhatchee River, but may not be taken ashore in other areas that are closed to harvest.

To see maps of these areas, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Grouper.”

In the remainder of Gulf of Mexico state waters, anglers will be able to keep gag grouper from July 1 through Dec. 3, with the season closing Dec. 4. State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will not be open during the July-through-December season. Monroe County state waters follow Atlantic grouper rules.

The season in all federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico also opens July 1 but closes Dec. 3, with the last day of harvest being Dec. 2.

In the Gulf, the gag grouper recreational harvest minimum size limit is 22 inches total length and the bag limit is two gag grouper per person.

Recreational anglers targeting groupers in the Gulf may harvest no more than four grouper per person per day (within this four-fish limit, anglers may keep only two gag grouper).

To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Grouper.”

More music to the ears of inshore anglers | Gainesville.com

The trout are hot right now in Steinhatchee

From the Gainesville Sun:

By Gary Simpson
Fishing columnist

For fishers, nothing much has changed during December. Salty gulf shallows remain dependably excellent, while area lakes remain less productive than it seems they should be. This report might sound like a broken record, but at least it's a nice tune for the inshore saltwater enthusiast.
A serious wad of speckled trout invaded the Steinhatchee River several days ago, and they have offered folks casting jigs and suspending lures fairly easy pickins most days since then. Captains Rick Davidson and Tommy Thompson have long enjoyed casting Paul Brown Devil lures, and these soft-bodied lures are again producing for the well-known guides.
It took Capt. Tommy and his fishing partner all of 15 minutes to fill their combined 10-fish limit one morning early this week, and all were nice 19-inch fish. Though the multitudinous trout are undeniably easy to access in the deep river, a number of knowledgeable cold-weather trout seekers say they are finding bigger fish, on average, still in the shallows well outside the river and creeks.
Late last Friday, Joey Landreneau found a bunch of sizable fish in water two-feet deep on a rocky point not far from Steinhatchee. In two hours, the big-trout specialist hauled in and released seven good ones. The largest weighed 4.5-pounds and the smallest was a stout three-pounder.
A couple of nice redfish, too, found Landreneau's prototype suspending lure irresistible.
While scores of boats were congregated at the mouth of the Steinhatchee Saturday, Dan Rhine and Julie Burke located their quality speckled trout on the nearby grass flats. Casting Sebile lures, they bagged limits of trout up to 4.5-pounds and added three nice reds.
Capt. Jesse Wooten and Troy Charles have spent several recent days sniffing out fish in the Steinhatchee area, and have pulled in big numbers of trout. But it's not the numbers that are most impressive. While many folks are happy with filling limits of barely legal fish, these guys are nailing some hefty specimens. Casting Live Target lures, Livingston topwaters, and Mirrodines, Wooten and Charles have boated around 50 trout at least 20 inches long, and up to 28 inches.
Sunday afternoon, Tanner Meadows, Andy Stark, and Jeffrey Dealmeida fished out of Horseshoe Beach. The Gainesville trio first ran up the coast to the flats near Pepperfish Keys, where they cast live shrimp and Stinky Fingers lures to bag a few trout and two redfish.
When the tide rose sufficiently, they headed back south and eased into a tidal creek near Shired Island. Adding gold spoons to their lure arsenal, they worked deeper pockets in the creek's bends.
The young trio caught lots of fish — sometimes doubles and triples — until the fading light forced them back to the launch site. Of 60-plus fish, they harvested five nice reds and a dozen legal trout.
Fishing Suwannee on Sunday, Mike Davis and a pair of his fishing buddies located tons of fish. The Gainesville angler was one of a few to come in early this week saying something like: “The Suwannee fishing is ridiculous.” Working the river's East Pass and several creeks near its mouth, the three fishermen caught around 60 trout and 40 redfish. At one point, 14 straight casts yielded 14 reds.
Most were sublegal, but plenty reached the keeper marks (15 inches for trout and 18 inches for reds) to fill limits. The reds, Davis said, went for jigs, while the trout were higher in the water column and the best producers for them were Rapala X-Rap lures.
The oddly slow December speckled perch fishing in the lakes nearest Gainesville hasn't improved much.
Wednesday, Curtis Wright of Melrose did manage an impressive box of Lake Santa Fe slabs. Wright fished minnows near the bottom in water 18- to 20-feet deep just off the north end of big Santa Fe. He finished the day with 17 fish, and every one of them was plenty big enough to fillet.
Some serious local crappie fishers say they've had to hit the road in order to find fish in pleasing size and numbers. Several have found the smaller lakes just upriver from Lake George to be the nearest specking hotspots. Just south of Astor, Lakes Woodruff and Dexter have produced excellent speck catches for a few weeks now — the kind of action fishers continue to hope for in lakes closer to home.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.

Speckled trout abundant at Steinhatchee

The season's best run of speckled trout into a gulf river apparently arrived last week and weekend at the Steinhatchee's mouth. Richard Blake, his 5-year-old son Richard Jr., and Elliott McDavid made it onto the water around noon Saturday from Sea Hag Marina.

By 1:30, they had a 15-fish, three-person limit of trout. The three cast various lures and almost every one worked, but Mirrodines accounted for the lion's share.

They released lots more fish, and the day's highlight occurred when young Richard Jr. hauled in three trout on one cast. Seems like a pretty amazing feat to me. Some other Steinhatchee trout fishers reported catching and releasing as many as a hundred river trout.

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