There are times of year when fishing from shore along the Natural Coast can be a better game. That time begins now.
Nights are cooler and gulf temperatures have dropped dramatically due to rain and cooling winds from Tropical Storm Nicole, so the next few days should see a big increase in action in residential canals, creeks, levees and in backwaters for hen, snook, trout, black drum, mangrove snapper and sheep. Live shrimp is the bait of choice, although frozen shrimp work just as well for snapper, sheepshead and drum.
Heading into the weekend, much of the freshwater flowing into backwaters from storm drains, retention ponds and spillways will have stopped flowing, salinity levels are rebounding from all the rain, and fish are returning to their patterns of normal food
Some of the most productive fisheries will be for less than glamorous species such as sheepshead and snapper. Use live and frozen shrimp caught on the bottom around the structure; fiddler crabs are even better.
Likely places to find them starting in Hernando County waters and heading south are in Hernando Beach channels, Bayport and Jenkins Creek docks, as well as creeks on Bayou Drive behind the Bayport Pine Island Road Inn. The levee at Mary’s Fish Camp is another good bet, although there is a small fee to fish. It’s also where pole anglers catch their mullet.
As we head into winter, more roach begin to move into the backwaters, creeks, rivers and canals, where they will wait things out until spring. Many large snook have already moved into the Cotee River, which can be fished from shore in several locations, including on Main Street in downtown New Port Richey.
The opportunities in Pasco begin at the bridges over Hammock Creek on Aripeka Road, where the main catches are mangrove snapper, sheepshead and the odd snook, red or trout. Heading south, the channel north of Sunwest Park is starting to produce this time of year.
The next stop south is Hudson Beach. Anglers fish the dike on the north side where walleye are an occasional catch this time of year. The boardwalk at the south end of the beach is a good fishing spot, with the deeper water and rocks along the boat channel in the Gulf and in the channel leading to the launch basin a good place for snappers, sheepshead, reds and sometimes trout.
Port Richey’s Brasher Park can be a fish spot this time of year as trout, reds, sheepshead and snapper move into the backwaters.
Fishing is available at Port Richey Waterfront Park, north of the Cotee River in Millers Bayou, and on the south side of the Cotee River near the US 19 bridge is the Clark Mallett Memorial Fishing Pier. Some fishermen haul snapper and sheepshead off the dock at the Nicks Park boat dock next to the Hooters restaurant. Lots of fish along River Road and the Main Street Bridge in downtown New Port Richey where there is always a chance for a big snook this time of year.
Key Vista Nature Park in Baileys Bluff offers fishing in the bay and along Rocky Creek, which can be very productive in the winter.
Anclote Gulf Park’s dock and mouth channel is one of the most popular fishing spots, especially as the gulf water temperatures drop and many species of fish settle in to enjoy the water warm expelled from the power plant. There is also fishing on the inlet side of the canal, just to the south, in Anclote River Park. The next stop south is the causeway at Fred Howard Park, where the two bridges are where most of the fishing is done. Reds, snook, trout, snapper, sheepshead, sharks, cobia and mackerel are taken. Some do well on the beach, fishing the rock jetties at either end.
Sunset Beach is just half a mile south, and anglers fish from the beach there, as well as along the short causeway.
Be aware that many of these fishing spots have rocks and balls. While both are one of the reasons fish are attracted to them, they also present a challenge to anglers, as the fish can tangle up lines and break them. A 20-pound test mono leader a foot or so is a good idea. A heavier leader is better, although anything more is likely to alert sharp-eyed fish and reduce the number of strikes.