Fishing report: Big Bend—where the action is

For area saltwater anglers, the Gulf’s Big Bend is definitely “where the action is.”

Things are about to go wide open in the Steinhatchee area. Seasonal favorites, bay scallops and red snapper, will be open and available to harvest on June 15 and June 17, respectively, joining the gag grouper that just opened to recreational harvest in federal waters on June 1.

The top inshore targets—trout and redfish—are also in season and biting well.

Doug Johnson’s Reeling for Kids (RFK) Saltwater Challenge is coming up June 10-11 out of Steinhatchee. It’s the most prestigious tournament held annually on the Big Bend Coast, and anglers—especially offshore anglers—will swallow hard and burn lots of fuel in pursuit of its sizable cash prizes. Mostly, they’ll be after the bragging rights.

The RFK offers considerable prizes in a wide range of categories including redfish, trout, red/gag grouper, cobia, kingfish, and Spanish mackerel. There are Inshore, Offshore, Junior, and Lady Angler divisions. The big prizes, though, are for the Master Offshore and Master Inshore winners. These will be the teams that have weighed in the heaviest total of multiple designated species.

Teams competing for the Master Inshore prize will be looking for a good trout, a top-of-slot redfish, and a big drag-stripping Spanish mackerel. A 15-pound total here is usually hard to beat.

Since red snapper will be just a few days away from being legal, they can’t be included in the Master Offshore species this year. This year, offshore competitors will be after a gag grouper, a red grouper, a mangrove snapper, and a kingfish.

All reports indicate the fishing is very good out of Steinhatchee and, with any luck from the weather, tournament catches should be impressive.

John and Danny Leibach fished last weekend with Terry and Brad Stradomski. The father/son teams caught a few scattered redfish and trout south of Horseshoe Beach on Saturday, but between the Memorial Day weekend boat traffic and the anglers pre fishing for the RFK Tournament, the best-looking spots were on the crowded side.

Sunday, they found a bit more solitude, but the fish didn’t bite really well until later in the day when the high tide started out. That’s when the live baits the four anglers fished over flooded bars and along flooded grassy points started getting lots of interest. They boated a slew of fish.

“For a while, we hooked a trout or a ladyfish on every cast…and I’ve never seen so many mullet,” John said.

Their Sunday catch was topped by a pair of 22-inch trout plus several good reds up to 26 inches.

The fishing in that area apparently did not decline through the week.

Warren Marshall, Jason Cole, and Bill Martin left out from Suwannee early Thursday. The angling trio ran up to the river’s east pass, through it, and into the gulf. They cast Mirrodine lures in search of trout, but there was scant grass growing on the flats and the water was too dark to see it well.

Finally, they did succeed in finding a productive zone near Deer Island and steadily hooked trout and ladyfish around the oysters.

By 10:15, the three had their combined limit of 15 top-of-slot trout. The largest they took home was a 22 incher.

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