Fishing Old Florida’s Celebrated Cedar Key

West coast hot spot delivers nonstop inshore action in a laid-back location.

December 9, 2019

Executive Editor Chris Woodward traveled to Cedar Key, Florida, this fall to sample some of the inshore fishing. What she found was nonstop action for six different species, easy conditions, and sensational Old Florida charm.

Cedar Key aerial
Cedar Key is a wisp of a town located on an island off the northwest coast of Florida, at the end of a long, mostly two-lane highway. It’s surrounded by sections of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, designated in 1929 to protect its bird rookeries. In the foreground lies a marina with a ramp, and row of restaurants, such as Steamers Clam Bar & Grill, and shops, as well as a fishing pier. Marshes and oyster bars stretch inland; to the west lie numerous keys. Adrian Gray
Sand key off Cedar Key
One of many shell-and-sand keys that proliferate off the Cedar Key coastline. The tiny blue-and-white dot at top left is the boat we fished with Capt. Jimbo Keith of Saltwater Assassin Charters. Adrian Gray
24-foot Carolina Skiff fishing Cedar Key
Staked Out! Our group—which included Jim McGowan (left), marketing manager for Raymarine—fished dead bait, plugs, and Bass Assassin lures for redfish and trout with Keith aboard his customized 24-foot Carolina Skiff, equipped with an elevated helm station, Raymarine Axiom electronics and twin Power-Pole shallow-water anchors. Adrian Gray
Releasing a redfish
Keith releases the first of countless redfish we caught that ranged from rats to overslot bulls. Rod: KastKing’s Estuary series rod. Reel: Tsunami Evict with KastKing Pro Braid. Adrian Gray
Slot redfish
SF Executive Editor Chris Woodward, left, and Keith celebrate a beautifully spotted slot red. Rod: Tsunami Shield 2. Reel: Tsunami 3000 Evict. Adrian Gray
Cedar Key trout
Cedar Key trout prove plentiful, particularly as water temperatures cool, and can be taken on lures such as this Bass Assassin jig. Adrian Gray
Tripletail caught in Cedar Key
Bonus fish! Keith Nets a tripletail for photographer/videographer Adrian Gray. We found the fish, which are more prevalent in warmer months, floating around a stake near Cedar Key’s clam beds. The region is known for its clam aquaculture. Chris Woodward
Cobia caught on jig
Another bonus! This cobia surprised is by snatching a jig. Adrian Gray
Spanish mackerel caught in Cedar Key
Wow, even more! How about a Spanish mackerel? Adrian Gray
Flounder caught in Cedar Key
…or a flounder! These waters proved very fertile and easy to fish. Adrian Gray
Launching a drone
Gray wanted to launch his DJI drone using Raymarine’s UAV app on Keith’s Axiom display. So here, Keith holds the drone in preparation for launch. The display shows the picture the drone camera sees. Adrian Gray
Island Hotel in Cedar Key
Our Cedar Key home for the week—the Island Hotel, built in 1859—is now run by Andy Bair and his wife, Stanley, who previously owned the Bair Bahamas Guest House on South Andros Island in the Bahamas. In its first years, the building served as a general store before the Civil War brought an end to the region’s growing prosperity. Today, this bed-and-breakfast comes with loads of historic charm: It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and among many of its famous guests, music superstar Jimmy Buffett is said to have been a frequent visitor during the 1980s. Adrian Gray
Island Hotel's front desk
The Island Hotel’s front desk (left) and parlor (right) really reflect the Old Florida look. Only a handful of such places exist anymore in this popular tourist state. Chris Woodward
Island Hotel room
One of the beautifully appointed rooms in the Island Hotel. We never saw ghosts, but we always wondered…. The hotel’s lore suggests possible hauntings. Adrian Gray
Steamers Clam Bar & Grill interior
The vibe at Steamers Clam Bar & Grill is laid back and casual. The restaurant overlooks the Gulf. Adrian Gray
Clams from Cedar Key
Some famous, and delicious, clams from Steamers. Since the 1990s, Cedar Key has become known for its shellfish aquaculture. Adrian Gray
2nd Street Café salad
Foodie anglers….a serious wedge salad from the 2nd Street Café. Adrian Gray
Local arts in Cedar Key
The local artist scene shows up on the street and in the boutiques and shops. Adrian Gray
Fishing statue in Cedar Key
Fishing has always been a premier Cedar Key pastime. Chris Woodward
Island Hotel’s Neptune Bar
Locals gather to enjoy music and swap stories in the Island Hotel’s Neptune Bar. Adrian Gray


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