Crystal River is located on Florida’s Nature Coast along the Gulf of Mexico, and offers an amazing fishing destination for anglers.
A few weeks ago, we were honored to be invited to a media event hosted by several of the top manufacturer’s in the fishing industry. These manufacturers included Navionics, Cuda, Okuma Fishing, Savage Gear, Raymarine, Power Pole, Mustad, Maui Jim, and Yo-Zuri. We were based at the Plantation on Crystal River for this event for the week. The Plantation on Crystal River is simply one of those places where you can do pretty much everything, including golf, meetings, water sports, snorkeling, etc. They even rent out kayaks and paddle boards, have a small marina for your boat, and a small tackle shop for those forgotten tackle items.
The Trip was planned as such, head down on a Monday for a “get together” Monday evening, then fish Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before heading back home on Friday. Granted, they had me at “fishing”, and I was more than excited to get the opportunity to fish an area I’d never been before. I was already excited about getting to spend several days fishing since it had been months since I’d spent any quality time on the water. But, add in the fact that I would get to fish and hang out with my good friend, Sid Dobrin of Inventive Fishing, and I knew beforehand that this was going to be a great week.
Truth be told, it had been about 4 months since I’d been on the water. I was asked to coach my son’s Little League baseball team, and little did I know that it would pretty much consume all my time. Don’t get me wrong, those several months with those kids were nothing short or amazing and a great time, but dadgumit, I missed fishing!!! Crystal River is roughly 3 hours drive southwest of Jacksonville, FL, but Sid & I had already laid down the groundwork to get a little kayak fishing in before the event even started. We’d meet at Fort Island to get a little time in on the flats before checking into the Plantation. After catching up a little bit, we got our gear put together, and launched from a quaint little beach area. The only issue was the winds were howling a bit, which could make for tough paddling on the flats of the Gulf. We rounded the bend to head back into the creeks and it wasn’t long before we were getting hits. I set my Power Pole Micro down, and pitched out one of the new Bozka Salt Runner lures I’d just gotten from TTI Blakemore. This lure is a road runner jighead matched with a soft plastic. I was using the Electric Chicken color, and after a couple of quick jerks on the retrieve, a nice 20.5″ spotted sea trout nailed it. Sid and I fished around a little more and explored the area we were in before we had to pack it up and get back for the event kick off.
The kickoff party was great. We met a lot of new folks and were able to meet some old friends as well. We picked up some swag bags, had an amazing dinner, got our plans for the next day, then headed back up to the room to rig rods and get ready for a full day of fishing. Tuesday technically marked the beginning of the event, and Sid & I would be spending the day with Capt. Will Burbach from Fish Tampa Flats. We’d decided that we weren’t going to mothership our kayaks this day, we simply wanted to ride out and get on some fish! Capt. Will proved to not only be extremely knowledgeable on the water, but we had an amazing time and a ton of laughs with him. We powered out in his boat to start fishing a few spots and before long we were on them. Our first stop we found a nice little pot hole with some snook in it. I pitched a Road Runner Jighead matched with a Bass Assassin Treuce Goose soft plastic out, twitched it once, and bam it was fish on! I fought and reeled in a nice 30″ snook, my personal best!
From there we worked our way around to a spoil island with some rocks and quickly got on a few reds. We were also flagged down by another boater who surprisingly gave us a great time to work this one island behind us for some great redfish action. We motored or way around and quite easily spooked a school of 50+ redfish. It was amazing to be sitting in that tower, looking down in that gin clear water seeing all those redfish! We decided to go goof off for a little bit to give that huge school a chance to relax and come back to the island and boy did it pay off! We lit into them, with each of us landing quality redfish! Sid & Will were doubled up on one occasion, and I stuck a nice 31″ pig myself!
Our time on the water was coming to a close, but our first day in Crystal River could not have gone any better. We’d got ourselves into a mess of redfish, a stud snook, some black sea bass, and even a small gag grouper inshore. The week could not have kicked off any better! We’d gotten into a mess of fish, seen tons of wildlife, had a ton of laughs, and cracked open a cold one for the ride back to the Plantation. We were stoked for what lay in store the rest of the week!
Wednesday marked day 2 of the event, and I’d decided I wanted to get in a little more time on the yak, so we fished with Capt. Will again, this time we loaded up my Kaku Kayak Wahoo 12 onto his boat and headed out to the flats and some spoil islands. The tides were a tad shallower than what we were wanting so we had to drop off a bit further out, but trust me, paddling over those shallow flats is simply nothing short of amazing. The ability to see everything is truly a blessing, especially with tons of bonnethead sharks, bait fish, and turtles everywhere. I paddled back out to where we’d seen that school of snook the day before, but the fish were extremely spooky this day. The only things not being spooked out mostly were turtles and small bonnetheads, which were everywhere. I fished around a little more, popped a couple of small trout, a small black sea bass, hooked into a bonnethead for about 3 minutes before he cut my line, and ventured around exploring the natural beauty that is the Nature Coast and Crystal River. I paddled around fishing and exploring for a few hours before joining back up with the guys on the boat. It seems they’d found a ridiculous spot which was a mangrove spoil island that was littered with redfish. We trolled up and there had to be 100-150 redfish swimming to and around this spoil island.
We get set up and start casting lures and cut mullet and lady fish towards the island. It seems the had found this earlier stuck a few stud redfish, then came to get me so we could get back on them. We drop the Power Poles down and start pitching lures and baits towards the redfish. Capt. Will had an amazing tower on his boat, so that allowed me to climb up to get a bird’s eye view of the flats. Low and behold, I look over and see massive schools of snook piled up in these potholes to our side. Sid and Will pitch over and double up on some great snook, which measured out to be 32″ & 35″! To say I was a tad jelly is an understatement, but I was definitely glad my friends got on a stud snook. We headed back in soon after that, but everyone was still pumped at such a beautiful day on the water.
Day 3 and the final day of our trip marked a little change in fishing. I decided to do a little offshore fishing with Capt. Jimmy Nelson and my partner for the day was the GM of Cuda, Rick. The bite was extremely tough on this day, but I cannot say enough about the company and conversation to be had with Rick. We worked hard for the fish, but they simply weren’t really biting as they sometimes do. We chased a monster cobia where we pitched baits and lures at it dozens of times, but just couldn’t get her to commit. As time was starting to run out on us, we headed back to the Plantation.
I cannot say enough about the amazing fishery that Crystal River has to offer: the pristine waters, the amazing fishery, and the downright amazing hospitality that we experienced during this trip. If you’re in Florida, or heading to the “Fishing Capitol of the World” then I highly suggest checking out the Plantation on Crystal River and exploring the flats and offshore waters of his area. You can best believe that I am already planning another trip to chase some big snook and redfish sometime in the very near future!