Each fall, anglers departing Steinhatchee or Keaton Beach ask me about the best place to drift and catch spotted seatrout. My standard answer is “Dog Head”.
A staple of our Big Bend fishery, seatrout hang out over lush grass beds, hunting for the pinfish, white bait and crustaceans that swim there. And successful anglers, eager to catch a trout dinner, often look for spots where deep water surrounds a shallow bar or hump. Once a productive area is found, and easy limits of slot trout are caught by the first wave of cool-weather fishermen, the place usually gets a name and a place on the unofficial list of “go-to” fishing holes. And Taylor County’s Dog Head is one of those spots that’s managed to produce lots of trout, year after year.
Why the name, “Dog Head”? Although to me it’s a stretch of the imagination, when some old-timers looked at NOAA navigation charts, they thought the westward-facing shallow hump of flat 2-miles off Piney Point looked like a dog’s head. Maybe so; maybe not–but the name stuck, and now it’s name is shown on many fishing maps and charts, including our own Florida Sportsman #020. Located almost 10 miles northwest of Steinhatchee Marker #1 and 4 miles south of the Keaton Beach channel, anglers find the run to the Dog Head area an easy one, especially on those calm days between early-season cold fronts. However, if it’s windy understand that the seas in this area can get sloppy, and be forewarned!
The Dog Head is simply a three-sided hump of 4-foot water. When you drift off any of the deeper edges (south, north or west), you’ll be in 6 to 8 feet and know that it’s time to reset your boat. Speaking of resetting a drift, many of us rely too heavily on hitting the “man overboard” button on our GPS receiver when the bite gets hot and heavy. But with no visual clues, it’s sometimes a pain in the neck to navigate back to a mark using that device. Why not rely to the old-fashioned method of tossing a floating jug or marker, weighted with a few sinkers, when the fish are found? Even better, throw one when the bite starts; another when it slows. That way, you’ll see the track of your drift without having to run to the helm and squint at your electronics to find it.
Cool-weather drifting at Dog Head will usually bring all sorts of fish to the boat. While seatrout are likely a main target, anglers can expect to hook Spanish mackerel, bluefish and even keeper black sea bass. The local baits of choice are live shrimp or small pinfish, pinned to a 2/0 or 3/0 light wire hook rigged to float just above the grass tops under a popping cork. As you drift, give the cork a noisy “pop” every 30-seconds or so. That noise will entice hungry predators to investigate. If live bait isn’t your preference, use something artificial, also under a cork, like a 3-inch D.O.A. #314 shrimp (clear glitter) or a Berkley Gulp!
While Dog Head is easily found, know that it’s not the only place where the fishing’s good in November. There are other spots—many shown on charts—where you’ll find shallow-ish humps of grass surrounded by deeper water. Try them all; give your favorite one a special name; and remember it for years to come!