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Where to launch

MaineRidaMaineRida Senior MemberMaine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
I am intermittently in Florida for now. (My five weeks of vacation). I want to begin my fishing experiences this year late spring (Mayish). I spent my November trip hunting and it was great. My launch question is to find the easiest navigation area to use an older 23' welcraft WAC. Eventually I will pick up a flats boat but that is three to four years away. There are three launches within 50ish minutes or less from my location, they are Cedar Key, Suwanee, and Steinhatchee. I know fishing shallow is out, which of these areas is the easiest navigation for running deep and provide my greatest opportunities.

Your opinions are greatly appreciated.

Replies

  • superfluke82superfluke82 Member Weeki wacheePosts: 81 Greenhorn
    whats closest place to where you are staying?
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    From my house I would say Suwanee but the differences vary by 5-10 minutes so the travel is insignificant.
  • superfluke82superfluke82 Member Weeki wacheePosts: 81 Greenhorn
    what fish you mainly looking to target? it's a pretty big boat some inshore stuff is out unless it's a deeper grass flat or deep creek
  • VertigoVertigo Senior Member Yankeetown, FLPosts: 617 Officer
    I would discount Cedar Key just because of the launch fees and parking situation. Suwanee is good, but I like the ramp and facilities at Steinhatchee better and there's a longer run out and more navigation necessary from Suwanee. As far as fishing goes, they're all good.
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    Targeting fish will be the key, I don't want to run out 30 miles for every trip. I want to catch what is available and learn the area. Long term plans will be retirement in this area and lots of outdoor activities, just starting the learning curve and would like to flatten it as much as possible. I've been reading posts for quite some time but I do not have the Gulf and local experience to contribute. I have fished the Cedar Key fishing pier and that is not my cup of tea.

    Looking to see what fish to target in the May time frame, but looking for the easiest channel to run as I learn.
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    Vertigo wrote: »
    I would discount Cedar Key just because of the launch fees and parking situation. Suwanee is good, but I like the ramp and facilities at Steinhatchee better and there's a longer run out and more navigation necessary from Suwanee. As far as fishing goes, they're all good.

    Thanks for the navigation advice, I have seen the Steinhatchee launch and the facilities look promising. The launch did seem packed on weekends so I would target weekdays to keep my puttering from annoying people.
  • Gator4LifeGator4Life Senior Member Gainesville,FlPosts: 576 Officer
    I can give you some positives and negatives about Cedar Key. The first negative is you will have to pay a $16 ramp fee. Most other ramps on the Big Bend are free or $5-$10. There is an inside ramp and an outside. Without looking at your boat I'll just assume you will have to use the outside ramp. It's for larger boats or ones that have tops on them. There are a couple places to pick up bait/lures/gear. Cedar Key Marina as you come into town and D,W & D Bait store. Both usually have live shrimp, pinfish and a variety of lures. May always seems to be the best fishing for us. So that's a good time to come. There are a couple of fishing tournaments in May so you may want to plan a trip on a weekday or Sunday if you don't want to fight the crowds and finding somewhere to park once all trailer parking is full. As far as fishing if you like Spanish Mackerel you can take the Main Ship Channel out to Seahorse Reef. It's about 6 miles off of Seahorse Key. If you want to fish for trout, Spanish, bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle around deeper flats you can take the South Channel out and after a mile or so turn south and go to the flats off of Snake Key. You might need a smaller/ shallower boat to do much redfishing. If you have a Navionics chart on your GPS you'll be able to see where you can get in and out of. If you don't just get a Big Bend Chart that covers all three of the areas you want to visit. Steinhatchee has two ramps. The on eon the west side of river has plenty of docking and trailer parking and last time I was there it was a $5 charge to use ramp. The Sea **** Marina has everything you need to go fish. If your fishing inshore just follow the channel(can't remember the #) out till your deep enough to turn North towards Keaton Beach or South towards Pepperfish. Then turn back to shore until you get 3-5' deep of grass to fish for trout. Some spots are better than other I would refer to chart again. Have'nt fished Suwannee in years. Good luck. Let us know how it goes.
    Grasshopper
  • FibberMckeeFibberMckee Senior Member Posts: 12,826 AG
    HomasassaRiverfish campout of otter creek& the barge canal almost under 19/98 bridge.
  • Jim311Jim311 Senior Member Gainesville, FLPosts: 4,961 Captain
    I'm boycotting cedar key due to absurd ramp fee. I'd probably choose steinhatchee but Suwannee isn't hard either. With all this said I think offshore fishing sucks out of most of the big bend right now. Red tide killed all the good spots that are most easily accessible.
  • Wishin i was fishinWishin i was fishin Senior Member Posts: 984 Officer
    Cedar Key had good access to offshore fishing spots but as others mentioned the ramp fee sucks. The last time as I was there with a fishing club 2 members were ticketed with their slips clearly displayed. Idk if the town is broke and seeking any poss source of income or what. It seems as though they are pushing us out really...
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    Gator4Life wrote: »
    . If you have a Navionics chart on your GPS you'll be able to see where you can get in and out of. If you don't just get a Big Bend Chart that covers all three of the areas you want to visit. Steinhatchee has two ramps. The on eon the west side of river has plenty of docking and trailer parking and last time I was there it was a $5 charge to use ramp. The Sea **** Marina has everything you need to go fish. If your fishing inshore just follow the channel(can't remember the #) out till your deep enough to turn North towards Keaton Beach or South towards Pepperfish. Then turn back to shore until you get 3-5' deep of grass to fish for trout. Some spots are better than other I would refer to chart again. Have'nt fished Suwannee in years. Good luck. Let us know how it goes.
    Gator, thanks for all the options, from what you've outlined Steinhatchee is the direction I'm leaning (at least with the larger boat). I am looking to upgrade my GPS/depth finder combo so I'll be sure to have it Navonics capable. The fish identified are interesting, I haven't caught or ordered King Mackerel for a meal, unless that is the standard mackerel found in sushi and that is not the favorite of the sushi consumed. I looked up lady fish which states good fight and good bait. I've caught some large Bluefish and understand what they are, great fighter then they will be released. As previously stated I read this site often and have been taking notes, gold weedless spoon, gulp shrimp. I already have lots of jigs and lures. I am also looking at smokers since both the fishing and hunting threads speak of smoked everything.

    Again, thanks for sharing the knowledge:cool:
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    Jim311 wrote: »
    I'm boycotting cedar key due to absurd ramp fee. I'd probably choose steinhatchee but Suwannee isn't hard either. With all this said I think offshore fishing sucks out of most of the big bend right now. Red tide killed all the good spots that are most easily accessible.

    I agree that is a substantial cost for launching, the convenience of the restaurants is nice but not worth that type of hit on a regular basis, this being due to other options at a similar distance.

    I won't mind the inshore fishing but this is not what I am currently set up for, that will come in time. I will net more fish than lip since I'm not sure what is in the mouth of each. :hairraiser
  • capt louiecapt louie Moderator citrus countyPosts: 10,881 Moderator
    The ramps mentioned being Cedar key and North are good with Steinhatchee possibly being the most user friendly. Starting in May the bite generally gets better from South to North so that may help decide about where to launch. King mackerel AKA kingfish , start moving through then but the smaller, better eating Spanish mackerel will be the best bet. There should be trout mixed in also.

    Check in and we can help steer you to some fish and are looking forward to seeing your reports.
    Good luck.
    "You'll get your weather"
  • ricerice Member Gainesville, FLPosts: 91 Deckhand
    I always catch fish in Cedar Key. The ramp stresses me out though. Too many idiots and that fee pisses me off. We need a new location for a ramp in Cedar Key. It does nobody favors in the middle of town. The airport would be a good location.

    Suwannee is harder for me (for fish) but it's beautiful and the two marinas are very useful if there is an issue. Gateway has a new ramp and non-ethanol gas. I go there more than anywhere else. I really like the east pass and the creeks. I've seen offshore boats with twins up some of the creeks.

    Steinhatchee is very nice. I have a hard time justifying the additional drive (from my location) but it is very good. I've seen some beautiful clear water up there.
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    Thanks Capt Louie, I will continue to monitor the bite and look for specific information when the time arrives (bait and technique). It can't come too soon, the last two days didn't reach the 20's for highs argh...
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    rice wrote: »
    I always catch fish in Cedar Key. The ramp stresses me out though. Too many idiots and that fee pisses me off. We need a new location for a ramp in Cedar Key. It does nobody favors in the middle of town. The airport would be a good location.

    Suwannee is harder for me (for fish) but it's beautiful and the two marinas are very useful if there is an issue. Gateway has a new ramp and non-ethanol gas. I go there more than anywhere else. I really like the east pass and the creeks. I've seen offshore boats with twins up some of the creeks.

    Steinhatchee is very nice. I have a hard time justifying the additional drive (from my location) but it is very good. I've seen some beautiful clear water up there.

    Thanks rice, lots of positives, I viewed Gateway Marina on the map, doesn't seem to show a new launch yet (google doesn't update much) but that is a nice no current launch area. What is the price to launch at Gateway, and do they have bait? Are they a busy ramp? How much does the tide influence running up and down the Suwanee and the launch area?

    What is the depth through the east pass, it looks dark/deep from google but that could be very deceiving.

    Thanks again for the info...
  • CallOfDoodieCallOfDoodie Junior Member Posts: 3 Greenhorn
    MaineRida wrote: »
    Thanks rice, lots of positives, I viewed Gateway Marina on the map, doesn't seem to show a new launch yet (google doesn't update much) but that is a nice no current launch area. What is the price to launch at Gateway, and do they have bait? Are they a busy ramp? How much does the tide influence running up and down the Suwanee and the launch area?

    What is the depth through the east pass, it looks dark/deep from google but that could be very deceiving.

    Thanks again for the info...

    We have a condo directly across from Gateway. I assure you the ramp is there  I think they charge $5 to launch, but not 100% sure because they don't charge Suwannee Cove residents. They seem pretty cool, I suspect if you pick up some bait from the shop, there may very well be no charge to launch at all. There's a very short (maybe 200 yard ) run out to the river. Depth is maybe 3-4 feet down the middle at the lowest of tides. The river is at least 15' once you get out there. If you head west, it gets quite shallow in the middle, be sure to stay in the channel which is close to the south bank as you approach the gulf.
  • SeaJaySeaJay Member Posts: 42 Greenhorn
    Where are you staying that you are 50 minutes or less from both Steinhatchee and Cedar Key?

    Are you familiar with the barge canal boat ramp(free) or Yankeetown($10 at marina or free at end of highway 40)? Just my personal opinion, but I think the fishing off the barge canal is better than any points from Cedar Key, north.

    I would definitely stay away from the Suwannee, specifically because of the sturgeon spawn, which hits it's peak in May, If you are not familiar with this, I'd Google it. People get hurt by it every year. Plus, Fowler's or Suwannee is just too far of a run to open water compared to other ports. Personally, I like putting in at the marina in Yankeetown or at the barge canal and you are literally moments from the action. There's grouper and snapper in as shallow as 10 feet of water in the surrounding Crystal River area. You won't find that north of the Yankeetown area. The closer you get to the Suwannee, the darker the water gets and harder it is to fish.
  • ricerice Member Gainesville, FLPosts: 91 Deckhand
    The sturgeon are way up the river when spawning and jumping, miles from the marinas we are talking about. (Though a sturgeon jumped a few feet from my boat a mile from shore last month)
  • capt louiecapt louie Moderator citrus countyPosts: 10,881 Moderator
    I am planning on trying to catch said sturgeon this year. Again. Think I'll try near the mouth starting around the first of March ?

    No luck upstream in the summer.
    "You'll get your weather"
  • Jim311Jim311 Senior Member Gainesville, FLPosts: 4,961 Captain
    capt louie wrote: »
    I am planning on trying to catch said sturgeon this year. Again. Think I'll try near the mouth starting around the first of March ?

    No luck upstream in the summer.


    My understanding of it is that they simply don't eat when they're in the rivers to spawn. You might be chasing the impossible dream. Maybe Doc can verify. I see tons of them as far up river as where the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers meet.
  • SeaJaySeaJay Member Posts: 42 Greenhorn
    Definitely more prevalent upstream. I have definitely seen more than a handful jump closer to the mouth and the pass, and I have seen one lying dead in the spartina grass near the mouth. Impressive animals and getting hit by one would suck. That's all I'm saying.:)
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    SeaJay wrote: »
    Where are you staying that you are 50 minutes or less from both Steinhatchee and Cedar Key?

    Are you familiar with the barge canal boat ramp(free) or Yankeetown($10 at marina or free at end of highway 40)? Just my personal opinion, but I think the fishing off the barge canal is better than any points from Cedar Key, north.

    I would definitely stay away from the Suwannee, specifically because of the sturgeon spawn, which hits it's peak in May, If you are not familiar with this, I'd Google it. People get hurt by it every year. Plus, Fowler's or Suwannee is just too far of a run to open water compared to other ports. Personally, I like putting in at the marina in Yankeetown or at the barge canal and you are literally moments from the action. There's grouper and snapper in as shallow as 10 feet of water in the surrounding Crystal River area. You won't find that north of the Yankeetown area. The closer you get to the Suwannee, the darker the water gets and harder it is to fish.

    I am in proximity of the Lighthouse Restaurant in Fanning Springs, 35 minutes to Suwanee, 45 - 50 min to Cedar Key, 50 ish minutes to Stienhatchee. I've been to Fowler's Bluff but only for a meal. The launch looked acceptable, but too far from Salt water, is the water there brackish?

    Yankee town seems to be a bit further, but I am still learning the area. For my newly navigation in the area and currently having a deep draft, which is the best option? I'm learning and will be taking it slow, which navigation point is easiest to get out and sling a lure?

    Sounds like a lot of options, I'm looking for easy as I acclimate from the northern Atlantic to shallow Gulf fishing. I am use to a river with a channel at 60-80' and being in 200' at 14 miles. With my limited time in Florida, I'd rather not spend it with extensive lower unit repairs. Later I will focus on purchasing a 19 ' Carolina skiff with a jack-plate and look to shallow water.

    Thanks for all the info...
  • SeaJaySeaJay Member Posts: 42 Greenhorn
    That would be something else! What do you use for bait?
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    capt louie wrote: »
    I am planning on trying to catch said sturgeon this year. Again. Think I'll try near the mouth starting around the first of March ?

    No luck upstream in the summer.

    Catching a sturgeon is on my list of fish to catch. There is a launch in the Suwannee a few miles from my house. The one in Fanning Springs.
  • SeaJaySeaJay Member Posts: 42 Greenhorn
    MaineRida wrote: »
    I am in proximity of the Lighthouse Restaurant in Fanning Springs, 35 minutes to Suwanee, 45

    From Fanning I'd say try Horseshoe Beach or Steinhatchee, but that's just my opinion. Suwannee might work better for you.

    There is a large stretch of swiss cheese called sea bass alley out of Steinhatchee, as well as the Cube reef and the shrimp boat relatively close by. That is all good offshore fishing area. Lots of grouper, sea bass, grunt and hogfish.
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    From Fanning I'd say try Horseshoe Beach

    There is a large stretch of swiss cheese called sea bass alley out of Steinhatchee, as well as the Cube reef and the shrimp boat relatively close by. That is all good offshore fishing area. Lots of grouper, sea bass, grunt and hogfish.[/QUOTE]

    What is the launch like at Horseshoe Beach? Is it deep, what is it lie at low tide?
  • MaineRidaMaineRida Senior Member Maine & FloridaPosts: 331 Deckhand
    SeaJay wrote: »
    From Fanning I'd say try Horseshoe Beach or Steinhatchee, but that's just my opinion. Suwannee might work better for you.
    . Lots of grouper, sea bass, grunt and hogfish.

    I have seen hogfish and grouper caught on a bunch of TV shows, the grunt and sea bass are unfamiliar. I will have to research their habitat and the fishing techniques. ( and edibility)
  • ricerice Member Gainesville, FLPosts: 91 Deckhand
    Grunts are good eating but not a lot of meat. Sea bass are generally small but excellent meat for the size of fish. Both can be annoying when fishing for bigger quarry. Both have saved a fishing day and provided dinner.
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