Holy Scallops! You can keep the Gag

-A A +A

 By Capt. Brylee
Special to the Pioneer

July 1 Scallop and Gag Grouper seasons opened. The inshore waters are still feeling the wake of Tropical Storm Debby. leaving many of the bays stirred up and murky in places.
 Hagen’s Cove, between Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach is one such bay.
 Although the waters weren’t favorable close in shore many scallopers found success 400-500 yards off shore.
Danielle with Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee said many people hit their 10 gallon limit. Most of the success stories seemed to come from those scalloping north of the river.
Reports south of the river were that they were scattered and hard to find. Right now most of the scallops have been found in deeper waters around seven feet. This makes diving a little harder, but they are out there.
In addition to the scallops many anglers have been catching Red Snapper and Gag Grouper. Using frozen Spanish Sardines and cut bait have proven the best baits and fishing in around 40-50 feet depths.
 Always look for structure to fish. Captain Steve Hart with Legal Limits Charters in Steinhatchee says” the Gag are going to concentrate around rock ledges and cliffs while the Red Grouper often in grassy structure and sandy holes along the bottom.” The Gag Grouper will hit your bait and back up into a hole, so be sure to set your hook quickly and retrieve fast, this will prevent snapped lines and re-rigging more than catching.
Captain John Blouse with Hooked Up Charters in Cedar Key reported having a good weekend. Saturday, on two half day trips, he was able to catch a medley of fish. In around 30 foot waters about 12 miles out Captain John’s charters were able to land Red and Gag Grouper as well as Black Sea Bass, Grunts and Spanish Mackerel.
Sunday Captain John went out for an all-day charter and fished waters ranging from 60-90 feet.
For waters from 25 feet to about 60 feet, the best baits have been whole Mullet, Red Fin Herring and Northern Mackerel. When using the whole Mullet, John cuts the fish in half, using the head end for one bait and the tail section as a second.
“Your best baits will always be the baits naturally found in the areas you are fishing” John said.
Hooked Up Charters was able to land a 4-foot Cobia and missed one about 5 feet using frozen Herring. They also caught Vermillion Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, Red Snapper and even a Trigger Fish.
Once he hit water depth of 90 feet or more, Captain John said he changes to whole squid, as that is the most common natural food to the fish in these depths. They were able to land red Snapper, Gag and red Grouper. “The only thing we were missing on Sunday was a King Mackerel.” Captain John said.
David Moore with Moore’s Bait and Tackle in Crystal River had reports of scallopers limiting relatively quickly scalloping in 7-8 feet waters.
 “They seem to be concentrated when you find them.” David said. Most people were able to limit in just a few hours. Most of the scallops in Crystal River seem to be found just SW of Crystal River near Gomez Rocks. Reports from Homosassa again found scallops in 7-9 feet. Using a long dip net may help in getting your limit, and minimizing how far down you have to dive to retrieve them.
Our feature catch this week was a 3-foot Black Tipped Shark caught just off the number Four Bridge in Cedar Key.
Remy Acosta and his fiancée, Janet Overhultz of Gainesville, knew they had something big when their live pinfish began to pull drag like crazy.
Fishing in a small boat with light weight gear, Remy was able to boat the shark after about 30 min. of reeling in and releasing drag until the ole Black tip was too tired to fight. Grabbing the shark by his back fin Acosta hoisted the fish in the boat, and not sure he and Janet wanted to ride all the way back to the boat ramp with a mad shark at their feet, he decided to let him go to fight another day.
Please obey all Local and State Laws and remember to CATCH AND RELEASE. Good luck catching.