Back in the day” is one of those phrases we anglers hear all too often. Typically it refers to how good the fishing used to be. We also use it to describe how few boats used to fish a particular area, how many more boat trailers there are at the boat ramp or how many condos block our view of the water. It’s funny how we find an area that we like and then love it to death; look no further than Boca Grande Pass or Mosquito Lagoon.
There is one area in Florida that gets loved to death for a couple of months out of the year and then falls back into sleepy anonymity. Steinhatchee in Florida’s Big Bend has long been considered the scallop capital of Florida. Each summer, thousands come to pluck these tasty mollusks from the grass in the shallow, clear waters surrounding this little fishing village. The rest of the year it quiets down into a slower flow, just like its sweet-water namesake, the Steinhatchee River.
Developer Dean Fowler had a vision of how to mix the past with the present while keeping that “Old Florida” feeling. The result is a destination fishing camp with the feel of a 1920s Florida Cracker outpost. The tin roofs of the Victorian and Cracker style accommodations at Steinhatchee Landing Resort are a perfect fit, nestled among the live oaks and cypress trees lining the river as it meanders towards the Gulf of Mexico. A stunning chapel and a dirt road winding through oak and magnolia hammocks deliver you back to the day; time almost stands still – like “island time” in the Bahamas with Spanish moss.
For the fly angler, this area offers the opportunity to fish for redfish and trout and gives your spouse or significant other the option to go with you or enjoy a bit of quieter, slower, Southern charm. You can either dine in your own cottage or visit a local restaurant to try some fresh seafood – maybe even fried mullet. I know you’re probably thinking “bait,” but when in Rome ? don’t knock it till you try it!
You can bring your own boat and dock it at Steinhatchee Landing’s large dock,
but the fishing here is very tidally influenced, and it would be wise to hire a professional guide the first time or two. This area is known for its speckled-trout fishing, but don’t be surprised to see redfish, tarpon, mackerel, bluefish and cobia too. (Offshore fishing for grouper is also very good on conventional gear.)
If targeting trout, topwater gurglers work great on overcast days and early in the morning. Switching to a bright “electric chicken” pattern with lead eyes (like a Deep Silhouette in chartreuse and pink) will elicit strikes later in the day when fishing the channels of creek beds that continue far out into the flats.
Redfish tails appear early in the morning in the shallows and demand a stealthy approach in these clear waters. They are there, but they must be fished with the tides and sun if you want to be successful. The dark grass bottoms can make redfish harder to see than bonefish on the flats. Casting to pushes can be productive at times.
Off the flats in the channels, pods of diving birds may indicate feeding schools of ladyfish and jack crevalle. Poling up some of the creeks in the marshy areas to the north of town, you never know what wildlife you will see. Alligators, osprey and all manner of wading birds are abundant. We even saw a pair of what I swear appeared to be black swans (although they are native to Australia) nesting in a tidal creek. I was amazed; when I started researching what we had seen, the closest thing to it was the white-fronted goose, also known as a speckled-belly goose. This region isn’t called “The Nature Coast” for nothing!
If you want to slow down and have some great fishing along with accommodations that won’t break the bank, give Steinhatchee Landing a try. If it is just the two of you, ask for a “Honeymoon Cottage.” The brownie points you’ll earn are well worth the trip.
Steinhatchee Landing Resort
**Fly Fishing Guides
Capt. Rick Bouley
Capt. John Peyton