Recently on a trip leaving out of the Plantation on Crystal River I was reminded how unusual it is to leave the docks surrounded by 72 degree fresh spring water, idle through brackish water (salt and fresh water mixture) and anchor in less than three feet of salt water along the protected mangrove points of the St. Martin’s islands. It’s a quick trip, less than an hour if I cut through the Salt River to access the Gulf of Mexico. The manatee protection idle speed zones add travel time onto the crystal river fishing experience, but it’s a bonus for fisherman to often grab a glimpse of the protected marine mammal that calls Crystal River home.
Target Species – Redfish – Crystal River Fishing
Fishing for Redfish requires stealth, changing tactics, and optimizing the use of an incoming tide to land the spotted tail brute of a fish. The rocky bottom makes Crystal River fishing some of the best along Florida’s Gulf coast. Redfish take advantage of the nooks and crannies that funnel baitfish along the edge of an island to ambush their prey. When bites are scarce using a Gold spoon or anglers aren’t keen on constant casting, anchoring and floating cut bait or live shrimp with the current along the shorelines is often successful. Redfish spook easily, a noisy motor or hastily dropped anchor can ruin the opportunity to toss a hook next to a school of Reds. A trolling motor or good old-fashioned polling power keeps noise at a minimum and crystal river fishing opportunities at the maximum.
Target Species: Snook-The Power of a Power Plant
When anglers think of popular snook fishing destinations in Florida, Crystal River isn’t normally on the top of the list. Destinations like Sanibel/Captiva, Tampa Bay or anywhere along the perimeter of Florida where sandy beaches or extensive stands of mangroves islands exist is primary snook habitat. Crystal River has no naturally occurring beaches and a limited amount of mangrove island habitat. So why do we have one of the lesser known but extremely productive snook fisheries? Well, a logical mind would come to the conclusion that the naturally occurring springs in the area combined with the warm water discharge canal of the famous Crystal River Power plant (located just north of City of Crystal River) are the answer.
Crystal river fishing for snook has two legal time periods to catch and keep one fish per angler which is the spring (March & April) and the fall (September-November.) Although snook can be caught and released year round in the area the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission restricts keeping fish during their summer breeding season or during the winter months when they are subject to cold stress. Snook are agile, aggressive and amazing when they slam a topwater plug in shallow water. Hiring a guide that can maneuver through the skinny waters and sight cast for snook is an investment that will pay off in high fives and huge smiles.
Target Species: Spotting, the Spotted Sea Trout
The first time I spotted a spotted seatrout while underwater snorkeling for scallops I understood why my fishing tactics of tossing an artificial plastic or floating a live pinfish in the transition zone of a sandy spot and seagrass made perfect sense. Trout get excited about three things: the scent of a baitfish, the sight of a baitfish and sound of a baitfish and they lie in wait camouflage along the edge of a seagrass meadow, waiting for the bait to swim by or make noise. That’s exactly what I observed, a trout getting ready to ambush an unsuspecting pinfish. I, however, was on the hunt for scallops and lost sight of the good camouflage trout in less than a minute.
A day of Crystal river fishing for spotted sea trout is possible all year, it’s just important to know that in the summer it takes a little longer to get to the fishing grounds as they hang in deeper waters (8-10 feet) and in the winter they will hover closer to the rocky shoreline to stay warm. So no matter when you can make the time, to take the time to go fishing, it’s likely seatrout will always be on the list of targeted species that you can catch on our crystal river fishing excursion.