Reef Fishing - Shallow Water with William Toney

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Instructor: William Toney

Reef fishing offers diverse species, depending on depth and time of year. Captain William Toney shares valuable tips for shallow water reefs along the Gulf coast of Florida, including boating, anchoring, baiting, and finding good reefs. Listening to experienced fishers can help catch bigger fish.

Description / Review / Instructor


    Location: Florida Nature Coast
    Focus: Fishing rock piles, natural reefs, wrecks, ledges, and spring holes.
    Species: Gag grouper, mangrove snapper, grunts, Sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, snapper, seabass, flounder, trout, etc.
    Key Tips: Proper boat anchoring, identifying fishing spots, understanding fish migration, and using the right gear and bait.

Fishing the Reefs

In The Spread brings you Capt. William Toney sharing his expertise on fishing various underwater structures:

  • Rock piles
  • Natural reefs
  • Wrecks
  • Ledges
  • Spring holes

Throughout the year, these reefs are home to a variety of fish including Gag grouper, mangrove snapper, grunts, Sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, seabass, flounder, trout, and more.

Florida Nature Coast: A Fishing Paradise

The Florida Nature Coast is renowned for its shallow water fishing. Captain Toney provides insights on:

  • Finding prime fishing spots
  • Anchoring techniques to maximize angler space and target multiple species simultaneously
  • Adapting anchoring based on tide and current

Discovering Fishing Spots

You can locate fishing spots on charts that highlight reefs. While some of these charts are available online and through specific services, you can also:

  • Venture out on calm days to spot yellow patches in the water
  • Investigate these patches to confirm if they're structures
  • Observe signs of underwater structures, like spotting a turtle

Remember, sometimes a small rock might be more productive than a popular wreck. It's all about location and how many anglers are aware of the spot.

Seasonal Migration of Florida Reef Fish

Fish species vary with the seasons. Captain Toney delves deep into targeting specific species like:

  • Mangrove Snapper
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Gag Grouper

The Homosassa area in the Florida Nature Coast is abundant with spring holes, wrecks, ledges, and reefs. An interesting fact shared by Captain Toney is that the average water depth increases by only 1 foot per mile. This makes the Florida Big Bend area ideal for those targeting depths of 8 to 12 feet.

Gear and Tackle Insights

  • Light Wire vs Fluorocarbon: When targeting Spanish Mackerel, it's essential to note that they have keen eyesight. A thicker line might deter them from biting.
  • Bait: Live bait, especially live shrimp, is highly recommended. Learn the best ways to hook a live shrimp for optimal results.
  • Chum Bag: Understand the benefits of using a chum bag in tandem with bait.
  • Catch and Release: Sometimes, it's best not to pull a fish out of the water immediately after catching it.

Reef fishing offers a multitude of experiences, whether you're looking to teach a young one, fill your cooler, or simply enjoy the thrill of the catch. Join Capt. Toney as he discusses tackle, techniques, and other essential tips. Don't forget to check out our other fishing videos for more insights!


Q: How do I find fishing spots?
  •  Charts marking reefs are a good starting point. Some are available online, while others can be accessed through specific services. Alternatively, calm days are perfect for spotting yellow patches in the water, which can indicate potential fishing spots.

Q: What indicates an underwater structure?
  • Turtles are often a sign of an underwater structure. Additionally, yellow patches in the water can also indicate potential spots.

Q: Which bait is recommended for this time of year?
  • Live shrimp is the most effective bait during this season.

Q: Why is the Florida Big Bend area ideal for fishing?
  • The average water depth in this region increases by only 1 foot per mile, making it perfect for targeting depths of 8 to 12 feet.

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Captain William Toney

Captain William Toney, a Florida native, is a fourth-generation fishing guide known for his expertise in Redfish, Sea Trout, Mangrove Snapper, Snook and other fish species. He is a licensed and insured guide, a Homosassa Guide's Association member, and hosts 'In The Spread', an online fishing instruction platform. Toney's expertise in redfish, tides, and bait presentation is unparalleled, and he shares his knowledge on seasonal fish migration patterns and tidal flows. His dedication to passing on his knowledge to younger generations is invaluable.

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