In My Opinion

Outdoors: Scallops and redfish make up a Homosassa doubleheader

 

If you go

To book a scallop/fishing trip with captain William Toney, call 352-422-4141 or visit homosassainshorefishing.com

For lodging in Homosassa, call MacRae’s of Homosassa at 352-628-2602 or visit macraesofhomosassa.com.

Restaurants that will cook your catch: Homosassa Riverside Resort (352-628-2474) and Neon Leon’s Zydeco Steakhouse (352-621-3663).


scocking@ MiamiHerald.com

H If you’ve got the urge to dive for your dinner but don’t want to wait two weeks for the annual two-day lobster mini-season, why not head up to Homosassa in Florida’s Big Bend region?

Bay scallop harvest season has been open from the Pasco/Hernando county line to Mexico Beach since June 28, but there are still plenty of shellfish for the plucking in shallow Gulf waters off this small Gulf coast town before the season closes Sept. 25.

And even better, you can catch fish and scallops all in the same day and have a local restaurant cook it all up for you.

One of the top local fishing/scalloping guides in the region is captain William Toney, a fourth-generation skiff guide and president of the Homosassa Guides Association. On our outing Monday, Toney and I caught three gallons of scallops and 14 redfish to 29 inches. We kept all the mollusks and two of the slot-sized reds (between 18 and 27 inches) to eat. What a treat!

“You have to time your trip on the tide phase,” Toney said. “Low tide is better for scalloping and the incoming tide for the redfish.”

Scallops are easier to spot nestled on tufts of sea grass or on the sandy bottom in less than six feet of water. In deeper water, they are harder to see, especially with a strong tide stirring up sediment and seaweed and pushing against a diver.

But the small, delicately-flavored shellfish are always easier to catch than lobsters because they are slow-moving and don’t put up much of a fight.

This season, Toney said, scallopers have had to work a bit to gather their limit, but most have managed it in a half-day outing. For those who don’t know how (or don’t want to bother) to clean their catch, several locals have set up cleaning stations along the Homosassa River and at local marinas charging about $5 per pound.

Gulf waters were warm and clear when Toney and I jumped in to look for scallops. We had to move a couple of times, but we were done just after midday. By then, the tide was rushing in and we decided to look for hungry redfish in Homosassa Bay.

Poling his 23-foot Tremblay skiff close to a mangrove island, Toney could see redfish patrolling the shoreline but staying beneath the shade of the leafy overhangs.

He staked out the boat about 50 feet from an undercut in the mangroves and directed me to cast an unweighted shrimp close to the narrow opening. I free-lined the bait for a few seconds until the braided line started zipping off the spool. Then I flipped the bail closed and set the hook.

If this scene had occurred at Flamingo, I would have sworn a snook had eaten my bait. The drag was making a zeee-ing sound and the fish was powering toward the mangrove prop roots with the seeming intention of tangling in them.

“Pull him out of there,” Toney said.

I made steady progress, and suddenly the fish darted out into open water away from the island. Most snook wouldn’t have done that.

About five minutes later, I reeled up a very feisty, oversized redfish that we photographed and released.

For the next hour and a half or so, Toney and I caught and released redfish until a thunderstorm threatened, then we headed back to MacRae’s marina on the Homosassa River. One of the locals cleaned our scallops and Toney filleted the redfish.

They were very delicious served blackened, fried and broiled Monday evening at the Homosassa Riverside Resort restaurant.

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Boaters and divers look for lobster off Cape Florida on Wednesday July 30, 2014.

    LOBSTER MINISEASON

    Ex-Penn football player dies on dive during lobster miniseason

    A Broward man lost his life diving on the first day of the lobster miniseason. He might have run out of air.

  • Fishing report

    Captain Gil Gutierrez of Lucky Fishing Charters out of TNT Marina in Keystone reported that nighttime snapper fishing on the reefs offshore of Miami has been red hot. Plenty of mangrove, mutton and yellowtail snappers are biting cut bait over the reef in depths of 25 to 60 feet of water. Captain Bill Hauck from the party boat Sea King out of Marathon reported the nighttime mangrove snapper fishing on the reef is off the chart. Nighttime snapper anglers are having no problem catching a limit of snappers, which are eating ballyhoo and threadfin herring.

  • Outdoors notebook

    Off-road vehicles such as swamp buggies, street-legal 4x4s, ATVs and UTVs will be allowed back in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Friday, marking the end of the annual 60-day recreational closure to ORV access. Only the designated primary trails in the backcountry will be open. All secondary trails will remain closed for an additional 60 days. The closure does not affect landowners’ access to private property using permitted trails. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/bicy.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category