The Nature Coast (central north west coast) from Anclote to Chrystal River is a labyrinth of shallow water, rock piles and is tough on outboard motors. The guides that work this area are worth the price, for if you do not know the waters, your outboard repair bill could get exciting. Dead man’s cove, Philmans bayou, and the backwaters of Ozello are names of places any angler worth his salt would love to fish. However, the best waters of Ozello are best fished in a kayak or canoe.
If you are a live bait angler, greenbacks, pin fish and live shrimp are the baits to use. In winter, live shrimp do well, as the pin fish are not as aggressive as in summer when they eat your shrimp off the hook. You can usually cast net the greenbacks and pin fish to use for bait.
However, if you are prone to the use of artificial lures, you can cover more ground and often catch more fish than live bait anglers, as jigs work extremely well. When working a school of trout, you can often catch a trout on every cast. The trick, is finding that school.
But the good part is, that although treacherous to lower units, this area of the Nature Coast is also a great place to find red fish, trout and a host of other species too. Knowing the tides and waters gives most guides the edge over the public. Trout and red fish are very abundant in late fall and winter months. However, guides that work the area year round can also find cobia, jacks, black sea bass, mackerel and shallow water grouper.
One such guide is Captain David Graham of Salty D’s Charters. Captain Graham has been fishing these waters for 30 years and is always looking for a new rock pile or hole to fish in. Originally born in Indiana, Captain Graham came to the Nature Coast of Florida at age 10 and hasn’t strayed since.
As he grew up, he became a certified outboard motor mechanic for several brands. As such got to know the existing guides as he grew older and then became a U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain and guide (it is always handy to have a mechanic on board too). You might say he grew up in these waters. Captain Graham has an affable personality and is good with kids.
Depending upon the time of year, the winds and the water temperature of the Nature coast, Captain Graham catches trout, red fish, mackerel, sharks and shallow water grouper. In this area the gag grouper often are found in very shallow rock piles as that is where bait fish often abounds. Along with those most sought after species, there are also jacks, black sea bass, lady fish and very large hound fish.
One secret of shallow water grouper fishing is trolling. In water over 4 feet deep shallow rocks will house grouper up to 23 inches (keeper size). Trolling is a very easy way to catch that grouper dinner. Otherwise, approaching a shallow rock patch to bottom fish is an entirely other matter. Stealth is the key, and tackle is also important. Should you manage to get close enough you still have to get bait to the grouper.
If you cast a live greenback, or dead bait to the rock pile without hanging up, you are still only part way home. The next trick is to hook the grouper and keep it from going into a hole or behind the rocks. The first 5 seconds will tell the tale,
In June of each year, scallop season opens and Capt Graham is fully insured to offer scallop trips. Diving for scallops is not only fun, but a tasty outdoor activity. You must be able to snorkel and dive 4 to 6 feet to the bottom, where you pick them up off the bottom like silver dollars lying there. Once in a while as bivalves, they will attempt to flee by squirting water out of both sides of the shell. This is a hilarious dance and worth the time to watch.
Scallops may be eaten raw by some, fried by others, but the best way is to remove the top shell and entrails, leaving the meat stuck to the bottom shell, fill them with fresh chopped garlic butter and Panko bread crumbs and broil just until the bread crumbs brown; yum. Once you try this recipe, you won’t go back to your old method.
If you are a fly angler, Captain Grahams boat is ideal. It is a 19 foot Action craft flats boat which is very wide and very stable, which makes casting out of it a fly casters dream boat. Powered with 150 horse power mercury and trolling motor, Captain Graham can work both shallow and deep flats water easily.
Apart from loving the inshore waters, Captain Graham is anticipating adding an offshore boat to his boat stable, as he also loves to offshore grouper fish. Captain Graham can be reached at 352-428-6291 or www.saltydscharters.com for full day, half day, night trips and eco tours.