October’s cooling waters seem to have a positive effect on the fishing in Suwannee Sound, the stretch of rugged coastline between the mouth of the Suwannee River and Cedar Key.
Keeper seatrout have moved off the deep flats. While not yet holed up in the rivers and creeks, they’re moving closer to shore, especially around the old spoil bars that make up the Suwannee Reef, stretching all the way from the McGriff Channel southward to Derrick Key, off Shell Mound. As tides flood over these bars, expect trout to hunt on their westward sides, anticipating bait to wash towards them. Logically, as tides fall, fish into the receding current. Light spinning gear and long casts make the difference between success and failure here. Avoid making a disturbance and even consider wading away from your anchored boat. Live shrimp rigged under popping corks can be successful, but pinfish are still around, guaranteeing lots of pecked-apart baits. My preference is to cast a free lined 3-inch D.O.A. #372 “avocado/red glitter” shrimp and to retrieve it slowly, with an occasional twitch. Trout just can’t resist this imitation!
Closer to shore, around the mouths of creeks (Moccasin, Dan May, Barnett, Big Trout, Little Trout, Giver, Clark and Dennis), you’ll find redfish and big black drum rooting around for dinner. If you want a “Suwannee sleigh ride”, put a chunk of crab or a dead shrimp in front of a black drum and hold on. Otherwise concentrate on the more edible and feisty red version of the drum species. Of course, reds will eat live or cut bait, but consider using artificials. There’s nothing quite like watching a big red chasing down a MirrOlure Top Dog (the 94MR-CHPR is my favorite) and then participating in the ensuing battle on light spinning tackle.
Suwannee Sound is fairly shallow, with the exception of the old channel that runs from East Pass of the river, outside Lone Cabbage Reef and Deer Island, and connects to the marked channel north of Derrick Key. Away from there, I advise taking it easy your first trip here, as oyster bars and clam leases abound. A #019 Florida Sportsman Fishing Chart will be a big help learning these waters.
If you’re headed to this part of the Big Bend, you’ll find good access for boats from both the south or the north. At Suwannee, both Miller’s and Suwannee Marina have nice ramps, and the municipal ramps at Cedar Key are first-rate. And if you’re paddling, consider the primitive ramp at Shell Mound, at the end of CR326, northwest of Cedar Key.