Grouper diggers, these are the months we’ve been waiting for. The fall gag grouper season will open for both state and federal waters on September 16th and remain open through November 15th; it should be outstanding. Ledges, rock piles, artificial reefs and wrecks from 10 to 70 feet will be holding excellent numbers of grouper. Many of the offshore locations have not seen any pressure for close to nine months and there should be some hefty gags ready for a one-on-one battle. With the cooling water temperatures the grouper become more aggressive and readily take live, dead and artificial baits.
This time of year is ideal for tolling large, lipped plugs such as Yo-Zuri Mag Minnows or Rapala X-Raps over your favorite grouper structures. Experiment with natural and bright color combinations to see what “flavor” the grouper are looking for. For the bottom fisherman, always start the bite with frozen sardines or threadfin herring and then send down that frisky live pinfish and hold on!
On the inshore scene, the speckled trout will start moving back inshore from their deep summer haunts. Look for shallow “yellow” hard bottom areas in 3 to 4 feet of water with kelp grass growing on it. The grass has been growing all summer and is a haven for both bait fish and trout. DOA Deadly Combos with the glow or holographic root beer shrimp combinations are very effective. The floating grass that has made topwater lure fishing almost impossible all summer is now going away, so bring out the top water plugs again. Rapala Skitter Walks, MirrOLure Top Dogs and Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencils are all great topwater choices.
The over-slot redfish from the Spoil Islands off Crystal River to St. Martin’s Keys off Homosassa are always a favorite for the early fall time of year. Cut baits such as mullet and ladyfish are hard to beat, and if you catch a lizard fish earlier in the day while trout fishing, keep it on ice, cut it in two-inch pieces and pitch it towards the groves - I have not had a redfish refuse a piece yet. This little trick is an old timer’s Homosassa favorite and it gives us anglers a positive use for a lizardfish.
Another best bet with the cooling water temperatures is the Spanish mackerel bite. Look for them harassing baitfish over hard bottom structures and especially in the intake canal off Crystal River. Have a spoon rig ready with a small piece of tie-able wire to prevent cutoffs for when the occasion arises and you’ll have an instant hook up. Option two for mackerel is to anchor up with a chum bag and freeline some live shrimp on a #2 long-shank hook for some drag-screaming fun. Also, the scallop season has been extended two extra weeks this year. Get them while you can and have fun.
As always, if you have any additional questions about the area, feel free to contact me. Good fishing!
Capt. Dan Clymer was born and raised on the Crystal River and has
been fishing Citrus County’s waters his entire life. Dan is a full-time
guide, chartering the Crystal and Homosassa rivers and a proud member of
the Homosassa Guides Association. He has had his captain’s license
since the age of 18 and specializes in shallow water grouper, flats and
back country fishing. Dan has been featured in numerous magazines, on
serveral television shows and is endorsed by Orvis.Contact Info: Capt. Dan Clymer(p) 352 418–2160(w) crystalriver-fishing.com