A "Keeper" Redfish caught fishing in Steinhatchee.Fishing for Speckled Seatrout (Specs)

Specs can be caught year round in Steinhatchee, but are most plentiful from mid-March through mid-June. Unlike other areas of the State however, Steinhatchee has a period of the year where trout stack up at the mouth of the river in amazing numbers.  During this time we have often caught our limit in less than 10 minutes and landed more than a hundred fish in less an hour.  To catch this particular time of the year you must pay attention to the cold fronts that push through along the Gulf coast and make a call to the River Haven Marina.  Typically after the first major front the trout begin migrating off the flats into the deep channel at the mouth of the river.  If the water temperature stays cold for any length of time as it usually does in December and January the fish are likely to be in these deep areas in abundance.  Call River Haven Marina to make sure if this incredible bite is on.

If you’re looking for big fish, don’t leave the dock without a top water plug tied onto at least one rod. Big trout tend to ambush baits from below, and top water plugs are known to entice them.  We like to use Top Dawgs, Top Dawg Jr’s and Popa Dawgs by Mirro-lure because of their action, but other plugs or poppers will work as well.

We also recommend that you have a selection of suspension and diving baits available because when twitched quickly, just below the surface, they can be deadly on big fish.  We prefer to use the New Series III Catch 2000 or the New Lumo Series “Mirodine BCH.

We have also had a lot of luck using soft plastic grubs or D.O.A shrimp on lead head jigs.  Be sure to use as light a jig as possible so that you get the best action along with a light Fluorocarbon leader at least 24” long.  A recent addition to the soft bait family and one that has revolutionized the in-shore fishery is the “Gulp” series by Berkley.  These are incredible baits for many reasons – they come in a variety of colors and sizes and catch fish like no other plastic bait we have used.  They are also tough and as such, they stay on the hook when other baits are torn to pieces by schools of marauding pinfish.  When selecting Gulps we suggest starting with the large copper penny colored shrimp as it works especially well in Steinhatchee.  Try other colors and configurations as recommended by the Riverhaven Marina staff or some of the locals.  Fish these plastic baits by bouncing them along the bottom and varying your retrieve speed until you find what prompts the bite.

While bottom jigging is effective, we have found that anglers on the shallow grass flats around Steinhatchee find these soft baits deadly when fished under a popping or rattling cork on a leader just long enough to keep the jig 6” to 12” above the grass.  This technique allows even the amateur fisherman to “see” when there is a bite.  Just watch the cork – when it goes down, wait a couple of seconds, reel in any slack in the line and set the hook.  We suggest you use Cajun Thunder or Thunder Chicken popping/rattling corks.  They are durable, come in a variety of colors and work best for us.  When fishing with a popping or rattling cork be sure to pop it every now and then as you slowly retrieve your line.  The sound imitates that of a feeding Trout and attracts the fish.

A variation of this technique – using live bait on a hook instead of a plastic bait and jig is usually the most productive method of fishing Steinhatchee.  Our hook of choice is the Gamakatsu Mutu Light because of its strength, sharpness and semi-circle design. We simply love using live bait because it is a guaranteed way to catch fish, even the most finicky – nothing seems to be able to resist a frisky pinfish or a live shrimp around Steinhatchee.

When using a live shrimp simply put the hook it sideways through the head between the two dark spots.  Being careful to avoid these areas will keep your bait alive for much longer.  There are two or three hooking techniques when using live pinfish or other live white bait.  When wanting your bait to stay relatively high in the water column we recommend hooking the pinfish from under the jaw up through the hard part of the head near the mouth.  Keep the hook forward of the eyes to avoid killing your bait and be gentle with your casts.   When wanting your bait to swim closer to the grass hook it just behind the first spine on the dorsal fin.  This location provides a very strong hook set and allows you to abuse your bait with long casts.

We also recommend you consider using a countdown, vibrating plug like a chrome Rat-L-Trap as it can sometimes attract fish that haven’t been biting anything else.

A final recommendation about tackle – when you fish a new location always ask the locals what is working right then.  We have an excellent relationship with the owners and employees at River Haven Marina and they will be happy to assist you in every way possible.

Now that you know what type of bait and tackle to use let’s talk about where you should fish in and around Steinhatchee.  In short, the fishing is great darn near everywhere.  Whether you fish south or north of Steinhatchee, take your boat out the channel to at least marker 9 before making your turn.  The shallow areas and limestone protrusions can damage a  prop – especially at low tide.  Go about 3.5 miles in either direction or until you find clear water and the lush grass beds that the area is known for.  Try fishing in areas where you see sandy spots among the grass beds.  Also look for deep cuts and work the edges.  We have had consistent luck south of Steinhatchee in the grass beds near Rocky Creek.  To the north we recommend fishing inside the sand bars near Dalus Creek.  Regardless of where you choose to fish, you should always try to fish a moving tide. This is when trout and most other fish for that matter bite best.

Remember, always ask the locals and marina workers where to fish.  We highly recommend you speak with the folks at River Haven Marina – they will be very helpful in filling your cooler.


Fishing for Redfish (Reds)

Redfish or Red Drum as they are also known, are one of the most sought after fish on the Gulf coast and Steinhatchee is a great place to catch them.  There is so much natural habitat here that the fish congregate in large numbers and often in schools numbering in the hundreds.  Reds can be caught year round in Steinhatchee if you know about their habits.

Redfish prefer a diet of finger mullet, shrimp or crab but they will eat just about anything. They are bottom-feeders, relying heavily on their sense of smell to locate and catch prey. In fact, smell, sound and sight all help this fish find food.  Reds can often be caught on cut bait.
We typically put a “tail” (the back half of a large pinfish cut on a diagonal from the dorsal fin to the anus) on a popping cork and let it float about 75’behind the boat with great results when drifting the flats.

Reds also love structure – any kind of structure, but especially that in shallow water where tidal flow forces bait out of creeks or rivers and inlets.  Look for oyster beds, rocks and heavy concentrations of Gulf weed near creeks along the Steinhatchee coastline and you will find Redfish.  Fish these areas one hour or more before or after a high tide and you have a great chance of catching one.  We typically find the structure we want and drop anchor.  We then cover the area with a variety of baits cast in different directions and wait for the Reds to bite.  Once you have one take a bait, chances are you will have a multiple hook-up in short order. You will find plenty of areas like this to fish both to the North and South of Steinhatchee.  Try the area around Dallus Creek to the North and the area off Rocky, Sink, Buck and Cow creeks to the South.  It is easy to get confused along this coast so we recommend you purchase a good waterproof chart of the area before venturing out.

Another tactic is to fish the shoreline casting near the grass with golden spoons or lead head jigs.  Spoons may be fished plain or with a soft, plastic bait, but jigs must be baited with a piece of shrimp or grub of some kind.  As when fishing for Specs, using a Gulp is a wise choice with any jig or spoon.   If anything they may have more effect on Reds because of the smell attracts Reds and Fishing creek mouths and points of land is especially rewarding when using this tactic.

When fishing for Reds we recommend using12- to 15-pound test line with a 30 or 40 pound Fluorocarbon leader on a rod that is six to seven feet long. This setup will work well along shorelines, in deeper water and on the flats.

We like sight fish We like to sight fish early in the morning when the tide is right and the wind blows out of the East because the Gulf waters are very calm up near the shoreline.  On days like this you have the chance to see these cagy fish tailing in the shallows.  In shallow water especially, you must be quiet when approaching  schooling Reds.  They spook easily, but will usually return to the area if there is a good food source.

Remember, always ask the locals and marina workers where to fish.  We highly recommend you speak with the folks at River Haven Marina – they will be very helpful in filling your cooler.