Hernando County Report By: Capt. Joel Gant

The Good and Bad

Well, as you have always heard, there’s the good news and the bad news. Usually, we like to hear the bad news first–so here it is. On the Nature Coast, we are known for the gag grouper. Most of you fishermen and fisherwomen know the gag grouper season ended on December 31st–that’s the bad news. Now for the good news. We had a really good season in 2018. A lot of keeper and under-size gags were caught in November and December. I’m sure you’re wondering what under-size fish has to do with the good news. This shows us that the grouper management of size, limits and open/closed season is working. More good news. We can still fish for the groupers.

The bite should continue to be good even in the shallows. For my shallow-water grouper, I start in my 8 to 12-foot spots. Anchor away from your spot and start with some cut up baits to chum. You can either toss a crank bait, a live or cut bait to work the area. I have found that the fish in the shallows will make a longer run to try and find a safe spot. Be prepared with strong enough line and drag set properly.

For you inshore guys, have some patience. Look for trout, redfish and snook to be back in the real shallow backwaters. Try to get back near some springs, oyster beds or even mud bottoms. These places will warm up faster than the outer flats. Your best baits probably would be live shrimp or cut bait. These baits will put out sound and smell. With the colder waters, these fish are not going to exert too much energy to hunt down a bait–that’s why I say be patient.

Remember that from the Hernando/Pasco line you cannot keep snook or redfish till May 10, 2019, because of the red tide to the south. This means if you fish in the Aripeka area, you cannot keep these fish. Again, good news, the trout bite has been really good and you can keep them. Regulation are five per person. They have to be more than 15 inches and less than 20 inches. You may possess one over 20 inches. The ones over 20 inches are usually the breeders so, if you can, please release these. There are also bull redfish, as in this picture, that we caught on a recent charter trip.

Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family!