Well, with a couple of weeks into the regular scalloping season on the Nature Coast, it looks like another bust in Hernando County waters. Capt. Josh Fritz said he and his brother have been finding very few scallops on their trips to the grass flats off Weeki Wachee, an area that traditionally can be quite good for harvesting the tasty shellfish. It was a poor harvest last year and from what he’s seeing and hearing from others, it looks like another bummer year. The scalloping is better north to Homosassa and Crystal River, however, so for those looking to go, he’s thinking it’s wise to head north.
The 10-day mini season in Pasco County waters opens Friday. Last season, the scallop counts conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission showed more scallops in Pasco waters than Hernando, which was just the opposite of what traditionally is seen. If this year is the same, scalloping in Pasco waters may be the ticket for those who don’t want to trek to Citrus County.
The theory on the poor scalloping last year was that Hurricane Michael in 2018 disrupted the scallop spawn and that the fishery needs to recover. It may be that the shellfish will need another year to bounce back.
Capt. Josh Fritz, 352-345-9304: Fritz reports he’s doing OK on gag grouper fishing hard, limestone bottom in 13 to 14 feet of water west of Aripeka. He’s bouncing between spots for the fish, as the bite doesn’t last long. On his last trip it took four hours to get a limit for his anglers. Inshore redfish action is good around the rocky islands and points north of Hudson. Fish are cruising over the flooded rocks and taking live pinfish or scaled sardines well. Trout north of Hudson have been scarce. There are sharks all over the flats and the near-offshore waters.
Tackle shop roundup
One Stop Bait and Tackle, 727-842-5610: Joe says offshore anglers are doing well on gag grouper, though they are going deep to get the big fish. Most of the action has been in 65 feet of water and deeper. Heading deeper from there, anglers are reporting the red snapper bite remains strong, though many are going to 100 feet and beyond. Fishing at night recently, Joe and a fishing buddy bagged a number of snook and reds working creek mouths, shorelines and docks. They also worked the deeper grass flats for some nice trout. They wanted a few fish to eat (trout, reds and snook are closed to harvest) so they fished the sand southwest of Anclote Key and landed a number of silver trout and whiting for the cooler. The live shrimp have been very small due to the hot Gulf water temperatures, so they used jigs tipped with the tiny shrimp for all of their fishing.
J&J Bait and Tackle II, 727-940-7928: James reports anglers are finding plenty of trout on the deeper grass beds north and south of the Anclote River. Jigs will get it done. Reds are around the mouth of the river, and up in the mangroves and over the rocks when the water is up. Snookers continue to find most of their fish on the beaches. The north and south ends of Anclote Key are where they are gathering for the summer spawn. Lots of sharks are on the flats and around the barrier islands. Offshore anglers report the red snapper bite is on, but count on a long ride to get to them. Many have been going to 100 feet or more for their fish.
Tarpon Trading Company, 727-937-1488: Guy says snook anglers continue to do well catching and releasing snook on the beaches. The fish are in the surf for the summer spawn, and the action has been good on both ends of Anclote key, and on the beach at Three Rooker Bar and Honeymoon Island. Live pigfish, pinfish or sardines are tops. Trout are on the deep grass flats now that water temperatures are up. Reds are moving up tight to the mangroves when the tide is up and anglers are reporting some jumbo jacks inside the Anclote River. Pods of tarpon are rolling along the south side of Fred Howard Park around sunup, the fish slowly moving to the south end of Anclote Key as the sun gets higher. Offshore anglers are reporting the best gag grouper action is in 70 feet of water. Big red grouper are thick in 110 feet and those wanting red snapper are doing best in about 140 feet of water.