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Outfitters Stories | Adventure Stories | Post Adventure Stories

Fishing on Florida’s Nature Coast
by Jennifer Harpez

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Map of Central, Florida

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> Central West Florida
> Fishing
> Homosassa Fishing

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Florida, Homosassa, nature coast, tampa, citrus county
seminole, west indian manatees, manatees, spanish mackerel
Florida, bluefish, sea bassm grouper, bald eagles, ospreys, nature trails
Florida, bobcats, cougar, fishing, homosassa fishing, fishing guides
Florida, fishing guides, tarpon, redfish, bait, tackle shop

Homosassa is a town of unhurried wonder. It is “The Nature Coast” of Florida, located north of Tampa, about 70 miles away from the bustle of the city, in Citrus County. Like most of Florida’s oldest towns, native Americans first established homes in Homosassa. The Seminole and Calusa Indians were the first.

The first known white man’s settlement occurred in 1846, by David Yulee, a former United States Senator. His plantation was home to a sugarcane mill that supplied the Confederate Army at one point in time. The sugar mill, with most of its machinery, still stands, and can be visited as a State Park Historic Site in Homosassa.

The finalization of the Civil War forced families to settle on several of the islands near Homosassa. This was the start of a genuine community in the area. The families became self-sufficient as they built a church, schools, began commercial fishing, and established mail service to their area.

Over the years, the Homosassa region attracted well-educated and wealthy individuals in search of real estate opportunities. They brought their families, former slaves, and great business ideas. In the 1920’s the transportation system of the region matured, and investors began to pour in. Shortly thereafter, the vicinity remained dormant for thirty years, following the end of the Florida Boom.

Ecology & Environment
Citrus County is proud to be home to seven rivers. Some of these rivers are spring-fed, the warm waters of which make a nice winter home to West Indian Manatees, and numerous species of fish, including redfish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and speckled trout. The gulf waters breed sea bass, grunts and grouper. In addition to fish, there are playful dolphins and hundreds of bird species. Bald eagles and ospreys are seen often as well.

The flora is healthy, with Spanish oak trees and marsh grasses, not to mention the palms living abundantly.

Area Attractions
Since the early 1900’s tourists have taken time out to visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. First, people found the park via a train rest stop. This train picked up spring water, crabs, cedar, and fish from the locale. Thousands of saltwater and freshwater fish congregate at the spring and headwaters of the Homosassa River. This is the only known place in the world where this happens.

Visitors to the park have many options for recreation and activity. Strolling along the nature trails will reveal the park’s dynamic flora and special wildlife, including cougars, otters, bear, and bobcats, and even the elusive cougar. Among the thousands of bird species, there’s a solid chance that trekkers will spot herons, flamingoes, and even an osprey, hawk, or bald eagle.

After changing hands several times of the years, the park has settled into the care of the State of Florida. It is managed by Department of Environmental Protection, to save the lands’ precious resources.

The park is much more than just undeveloped land. Injured and/or orphaned West Indian manatees find refuge within the park, as do manatees that are born in captivity. The mammals use the springs to re-acclimate themselves to an environment much like their real environment before they return to the open waters. In addition, there are daily programs educating visitors on flora and fauna of the park. The Children’s Education Center offers the young ones a place to learn hands on.

The park is reputable. Over the years, there have been many articles written about the park and its happenings, from notes regarding the park’s improvements in 2001, to actor, John Lithgow’s visit where he signed his book on manatees.

Adventures & Activities
Homosassa Fishing, an outfitter run by Captain Mike Locklear, is a sure-fire way to get your fill of adventure and activity. He promises to provide fishermen with the best fishing guides in Homosassa. He proclaims, “Over the years my regular clients have landed hundreds of redfish, trout and tarpon.”

Captain Mike will ensure an adventurous excursion, any time of the year, aboard one of his two flats boats, 18' Hell's Bay Whipray Marquesa or the 23' Tremblay. The Captain proudly descries his boats by saying, “My Hells Bay Marquesas is a special use flats skiff. Its design is made with the serious fisherman in mind. The cost is very pricey, but it’s my office so I spare no expense. I can catch many more fish using a boat of this class. The reason why is, that the boat is stealth, light and controllable with minimum effort.”

Mike serves all types of fisherman, casual or competitive, children and families included. “Tanner Commons landed his first fish and many more there after and he did not want to quit fishing. It is very important that a child catches some kind of fish even if it small and not edible. It is important that the captain spends time with the child and teaches him good angling practices,” says Captain Mike.

Although Captain Mike’s specialty is reeling in tarpon, redfish, trout, and grouper, there are many other types of fish to pursue in the waters of Homosassa. Spotted seatrout is a species that can be found year-round. Spanish mackeral and bluefish are the kings in the spring and fall. Gag grouper and sea bass are abundant on the floor of the gulf, and make for fabulous eats afterward. Captain Mike states, “There are two types of specialty fishing I like to concentrate on during the early spring and summer months. They are the challenge of the hard-pulling redfish and the acrobatically jumping silver king tarpon. It's a welcome challenge to catch both redfish and trout on the fly rod, or for catching mass numbers of "catch & release" fish, conventional or spinning tackle is provided.”

Anglers get competitive at certain times of the year. The months of May and June are the dates that international hopefuls come to Homosassa to catch the ultimate tarpon. There goal: to catch a fish that weighs in over 202 pounds! Captain Mike gets involved. He says, “For the ultimate challenge, I do prefer using fly tackle exclusively during tarpon season.”

Captain Mike also takes responsibility for the well being of his beaches and environment. He says, “I planned one of the first organized clean-ups on the Homosassa River back in 1990. There is not a floating can, bag or bottle that I will pass up on my daily charters. I don't see much trash on a regular basis, but there are windy days when stuff blows out of everyone's boat if they don't have a secured trashcan. That when I get busy with my dip net. Customers love to help out.”

Lodging
When travelers have completed their day of adventure on board Captain Mike’s boats, they can conveniently retreat to a lodge that will carry through their nature theme. The rockers on the front porch are reminiscent of historic Homosassa. Its personality on the outside is charming, but its quarters are modern and comforting. The lodge is located on the Homosassa River, only 4 1/2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and 1-1/2 miles from the springs.

McRae’s has a Bait & Tackle Shop on site, offering fishing tackle, baits and lures, maps, boat rentals, conference room, Tiki bar, and a boat ramp and dock available at no charge. Dining
Homosassa has a plethora of local casual restaurants to choose from, most are fantastic family places. Riverside Crab House is located on the water. The 2-story building overlooks Homosassa River and Monkey Island. Diners can eat inside or outside. The restaurant offers live blue crabs, among a great deal of other types of seafood, and for those who aren’t seafood eaters, steak and pasta. Riverside Crab Houe is open for both lunch and dinner. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $5.59 to $19.95.

For a more casual affair turn to Yulee Café, serving breakfast and lunch only. One guest of Yulee’s gave this review, “I've been having breakfast at this quaint cafe whenever in town for several years. The food is homestyle, the atmosphere very local for a fishing village, and the prices can't be beat. Holly, the owner and cook makes everything right in your view, the waitstaff are polite and hardworking. I highly recommend it.” Yulee’s is located on W. Yulee Drive in Homosassa.

Arranging Your Trip
Capt Mike’s web site is a handy resource. Visitors can buy a gift certificate, view fishing reports, weather conditions for surrounding areas, photos of notable catches, and valuable links to other fishing related web sites.

Captain Mike gets involved in the booking process. He will tell interested parties the most promising days to fish, using future tide charts. He has experience with, and enjoys, hosting big parties, including corporate groups.

Captain Mike prefers to book with a decent amount of notice, so that he can build the most memorable experience possible. He conveys via his web site an important piece of information: that different types of fish require a certain lead time or particular month of booking. For instance, tarpon fishing requires about four months notice to grab a spot within the last of April through August. Captain Mike will also assist clients with hotel reservations.
Although I’m sure Captain Mike would prefer to take everyone as his excursions, he knows he can’t. Demand is high and he wants everyone to have a chance to fish near Homosassa. The proof is in his effort to help anyone connect with a guide. Captain Mike offers his help by stating, “The trouble is that most of these expert guides I know stay fully booked, so it is very hard to get in with them unless you are directly referred. That's where I come in. Waiting lists are common with some of the veteran guides, but sometimes you can get in by giving me your phone number. I network with other captains. When one of them gets a cancellation, I will call you, and hopefully you can fish on short notice.”

When it comes to pricing, give Captain Mike a call. He’s trips are custom built, and so are his prices. Packages are also available and include fishing, lunch, and sometimes lodging. Mike’s specialty is his 3-hour fishing seminar he conducts every year, for only $25.

Visit Tropical Adventure.com Destinations search page to see other activities in Central West Florida.

RESOURCES

Area Attractions

Homosassa Fishing
LOCATION: Homosassa, Citrus Central Florida West
ACTIVITIES: Boat Charters, Fishing, Fishing - Fresh Water, Fishing - Salt Water, Groups 10+ Water
DESCRIPTION: My goal is to give you the information you need to arrange your fishing trip or charter using the best fishing guides in Homosassa. Homosassafishing.com is a web site dedicated to helping you make the most out of your fishing vacation to Florida.
Phone: (352) 628-4207
www.homosassafishing.com
SEND EMAIL TO OUTFITTER

Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park
4150 S Suncoast Blvd
Homosassa
352-628-5343
www.hsswp.com

Scott Faulkenberg's Manatee Safari
425 North Citrus Ave
Crystal River
1-866-FLA-SWIM
www.manateetours.com

Crystal River State Archaeological State Park
3400 N Museum Point
Crystal River
352-795-3817

Lodging

MacRae's of Homosassa
5300 S Cherokee Way
P.O. Box 318
Homosassa, FL 344487
(352) 628-2602


Dining

Riverside Crab House
5297 S. Cherokee Way
Homosassa, FL, 34448
1-800-442-2040

Yulee Cafe
Good Breakfast and Lunch
10605 W. Yulee Dr
Homosassa
352-628-7177

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