June 12, 2012
Mason Creek is a tidal creek just outside of Homosassa on the Nature Coast of Florida. Located just south of the Crystal River, it flows into Porpoise Bay and out into the Gulf of Mexico. It is on the north end of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established in 1941 and comprises over 31,000 acres of saltwater bays, estuaries and brackish marshes. The refuge was established primarily to protect waterfowl habitat and is home to over 250 species.
The shoreline in this area is mainly grassy with little to no mangrove cover. It's mostly a rocky bottom and there are many oyster bars crossing the creeks and bays. The tides run quickly through narrow channels, out of vast bays, making this area an excellent ecosystem for redfish, trout and big snook.
This is where I met up with Brian Stauffer (A2OZ) of Brooksville. Brian is a Land Surveyor and owner of Fishhead Kayak Charters. Brian has 20 years of experience fishing the Nature Coast and is an active member of Hardcore Kayak Angler's Club. He knows these waters like the back of his hand and frequently puts his clients on big bull redfish.
We met early, close to the hotel I stayed in, and I followed him to the launch. Good thing too as it was a few miles of twisting roads to get there. We were expecting bad weather, but when we arrived at the launch, the water was slick calm and we could make out a tinge of blue sky.
We paddled for a while before we fished. The creek system was beautiful with grassy shorelines--it almost resembled the Everglades. I could see how easily one could get lost here. Soon, we arrived at the area Brian wanted to fish. It wasn't long before we started hooking up with small trout. We were using Zara Spooks, mainly because jigs and other weighty lures tended to get stuck on the submerged rocks along the shore. We moved along casting toward or along the grass line. Sometimes fish would follow, sometimes not.
We went between this island and the next, probing the shoreline for activity. Then there was a big crash and Brian's drag started to scream! His rod was bent over and it was obvious he had a big fish. Brian worked him for what seemed like forever. Finally, the big bull came close to Brian and turned over at the surface. Brian yelled “It's a huge redfish, well over 30 inches.” But the fish wasn't done yet and took off for one more run. It swam around one of the several oyster covered rock strewn on the bottom. Just like that, it was over--the line parted. Disappointed, we moved on.
It wasn't long before Brian landed a beauty 27-inch redfish. This was the largest of several fish Brian caught. I caught three altogether to 24 inches and a couple of nice trout as well. We used the spooks all day and the fish loved them. Brian told me that this was actually a slow day due to all of the recent rains and fresh water entering the system. The water was tannic, and Brian said that it's usually clear. If it was a slow day, nobody told the fish.
If you decide to fish this area, consider hiring a guide. The creeks here are like mazes and it's easy to get lost. At the very least, use a GPS. The launch is at the end of Mason Creek Rd and has limited parking. From there you can go deep into the backwater and find your adventure!