Fishing the Nature Coast

A fly fisherman battling a tarpon on the bow of a boat in Homosassa

Florida is divvied up between different coasts based on their location. Much like the state’s nickname, the sunshine state, different coastal areas have nicknames as well. Some of which you may have heard of. Beginning in the Pensacola area we have the Emerald Coast, the Forgotten Coast, Nature Coast, Sun Coast, Cultural Coast, Lee Island Coast, Gold Coast, Treasure Coast, Space Coast and finally, the First Coast which encompasses the Jacksonville/St. Augustine area. All of these coasts are popular for different reasons, and their nicknames may allude to those quality traits. But one thing is for certain, they are all known for their fishing! Let’s focus on one coast in particular, the Nature Coast.

The Nature Coast of Florida spans from Wakulla county, heads east and south around the big bend area to Pasco county, just north of Tampa Bay. The term was coined in 1991 to promote tourism within the area, and it worked. Now the Nature Coast is a household name that attracts thousands of visitors each year. If you’re one of those visitors, and you’re looking to do some fishing, then be sure to check out the Homosassa area. Homosassa is a unique area because it is surrounded by freshwater, spring-fed rivers that stay a constant 72 degrees year round. This is important to the thriving marine life found in the Gulf of Mexico. The Chassahowitzka River feeds the gulf from the south and the Crystal River to the north, with Homosassa River right there in between. These areas are also home to a number of wildlife refuges, aquatic preserves and state parks leaving this specific area of the coast largely undeveloped. This is what makes fishing this area such a treat.

Ozello is a popular area to fish along the Nature Coast for both local and visiting anglers alike, and it’s not hard to see why. Ozello is an area that is divided up by small rivers, creeks and mangrove islands providing a labyrinth of shallow, inshore fishing fed mainly via the Salt River. The north area, where the Salt River reigns supreme, offers up incredible chances for finding tailing redfish along the many oyster bars that riddle the area. Gator trout can also be found roaming the shoreline where the spartina grass grows uninhibited. Work a topwater in this area for explosive strikes, or lay a fly out in front of an unsuspecting redfish. The opportunity is there.

In this same area, within the southernmost portion of the Nature Coast, are chances for snook. This is about as far north as you’ll find snook on the west coast, and the southern end of the Ozello region is a great place to target these line-siders. Here, the brackish waters of the Salt River collide with the beautiful crystal clear waters of the St. Martins Keys providing a fisherman’s paradise. All inshore saltwater fish species can be found roaming the waters within Ozello.

But let’s face it, the Silver King reigns supreme within the waters of Homosassa. Targeting monster Tarpon with a fly rod is an experience like none other. The tarpon grow big here in the Nature Coast region, and that may be contributed to the fact that they migrate in from offshore about this time of year. It is not uncommon to find tarpon within the 150 pound range. Fishing for these prehistoric monsters here in Homosassa is unlike anywhere else. You’re poling around open water flats in gin clear water spotting rolling tarpon from a distance. You slowly position yourself to intercept and gently lay a fly right on the tarpon’s nose. Then chaos. Sweet, sweet chaos.

The Nature Coast provides anglers with a smorgasbord of fish to be had. Whether you want redfish on a fly or snook and gator trout on topwater, or to be the envy of all your friends with your tarpon story, Capt. Brian Sawyer with Old South Expeditions can help get you there.

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