Lochloosa speckled perch bite is for real

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 11:32 p.m.
There is an extra spark of excitement these days among anglers - whether they are fresh or saltwater enthusiasts. With the change of season has come fine fishing in both.
Lake Santa Fe's level remains so low as to create boat-launching problems. Still, from the Little Santa Fe ramp, most boats are able to gain access. Folks drifting crappie jigs and live minnows are pulling in substantial catches of speckled perch - and they're doing it without a lot of competition from other speck seekers.
The reason for the Santa Fe speck fishers' solitude is not the low water - it's because just about everyone else is lined up to fish suddenly outstanding Lochloosa Lake, near Hawthorne. Two to three years ago, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stocked hundreds of thousands of hatchling crappie into Lochloosa. The ongoing speck-catching jubilee is the result of this stocking and subsequent successful spawns.
Suddenly, Finway Fish Camp and the public boat ramp at the town of Lochloosa are crowded and hopping following years of minimal fishing activity.
Twenty-five fish limits of specks have become almost expected by the cane-pole fishers who have become Lochloosa regulars. The specks are being pulled from all parts of the lake, out in open water from 4 to 8 feet deep. Top baits include minnows, grass shrimp and a great variety of small, 'crappie jigs.'
Brent Mays and I eased out into a thick Lochloosa fog Saturday morning to see firsthand about the alleged speck frenzy. We idled south out of the boat ramp and watched the depth finder until it showed five feet of water under us. Here, we shut the motor down and set out two light spincast outfits and a pair of cane poles with minnows four feet under small floats. With minnows in place, we started casting tiny Bass Assassin speck jigs with light spinning tackle. Even though the fog was close and the breeze nil, we soon drifted over a productive area and pulled in a couple of fair-sized specks. A meek breeze finally puffed up and the fog lifted enough to reveal a dozen other boats fishing in the same area. We had bites fairly steadily all morning long. Many of the crappie were on the small side, and we released those. Even keeping to a strict, self-imposed, slab-only size limit; we had twenty specks in the live well by noon.
None, of course, were as large as the slab brought in to the store Monday by Albert Woulard. When Woulard tightened up on the fish that had pulled his float under, he thought it felt too large to be another speck.
"I thought it was a bass," he said. At boatside, though, the fish turned out to be a thick, 2-pound, 2-ounce crappie - the largest we have seen since spring. The Lochloosa speckled perch bite is for real.
Although trout, redfish, and grouper stories have remained impressive, the biggest fishing news out of Cedar Key and Suwannee is a top-notch mackerel run. Anglers casting and trolling spoons, jigs, and dusters - or fishing shrimp, Fishbites Strips and cut bait - are finding plenty of big, fall run Spanish. A four-pound Spanish mackerel is a really big one, but some of these fish are twice that size. Seahorse Reef and Spotty Bottom are the best destinations. Suwannee Capt. Jon Farmer confirms the outlandish size of many of this year's Spanish, saying, "This is the Spanish mackerel capital of Florida. We're catching 'em as big as they grow."
The Gator Saltwater Fishing Club's "Big Bend Inshore Slam" Saturday out of Waccasassa attracted 55 anglers in 28 boats. The "Biggest Redfish" prize of $460 was awarded to Robin Smyth for his 6.8-pound fish. Francis Kealey and Tim Short had the largest trout, a 3-pound example that netted them $300. Tray Hiers took the prize for the heaviest trout-and-red combination, a beautiful "Billy Stik" custom rod donated by celebrated local rod builder, Billy McDaniel.
The ideal weather Saturday was likewise welcomed by the 47 participants of the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club's 34th Fall Tournament out of the Sea Hag Marina at Steinhatchee. Of the eight species targeted by the venerable club, seven were brought to weigh-in. Only sheepshead failed to make the party. Winners of Sea Hag gift certificates were: Juanita Biles, 14.01-pound grouper; Brian Kiel, 27.94 cobia; Austin McDavid (9), 20.87 kingfish; and Brian Holt, 6.6 redfish. Holt also won a "Billy Stik" rod for the best 'inshore combination' with a red/trout pair weighing 9.29.
Cedar Key
Day1st high2nd high1st low2nd low
Today 8:56 a.m. 11:48 p.m. 3:23 a.m. 4:56 p.m.
Sat. 10:38 a.m. - 4:48 a.m. 5:54 p.m.
Sun. 12:30 a.m. 11:50 a.m. 5:50 a.m. 6:41 p.m.
Mon. 1:06 a.m. 12:48 p.m. 6:41 a.m. 7:23 p.m.
Tues. 1:38 a.m. 1:41 p.m. 7:27 a.m. 8:02 p.m.
Weds. 2:07 a.m. 2:31 p.m. 8:12 a.m. 8:37 p.m.
Thurs. 2:35 a.m. 3:20 p.m. 8:56 a.m. 9:10 p.m.
St. Augustine
Day1st high2nd high1st low2nd low
Today 4:05 a.m. 4:43 p.m. 10:29 a.m. 11:22 p.m.
Sat. 5:13 a.m. 5:48 p.m. 11:33 a.m.
Sun. 6:16 a.m. 6:46 p.m. 12:18 a.m. 12:35 p.m.
Mon. 7:14 a.m. 7:40 p.m. 1:12 a.m. 1:33 p.m.
Tues. 8:09 a.m. 8:32 p.m. 2:02 a.m. 2:28 p.m.
Weds. 9:01 a.m. 9:22 p.m. 2:51 a.m. 3:21 p.m.
Thurs. 9:53 a.m. 10:12 p.m. 3:38 a.m. 4:12 p.m.
Solunar tables
Today 1:55 8:05 2:15 8:30
Sat. 2:45 8:50 3:00 9:15
Sun. 3:30 9:35 3:45 10:05
Mon. 4:20 10:25 4:35 10:55
ues. 5:10 11:25 5:35 11:55
Weds. 6:10 0 6:40 12:30
hurs. 7:15 1:05 7:50 1:35
Moon phases Nov. 4 Nov. 11 Nov. 19 Nov. 27 Gary Simpson is a veteran tournament angler who works at the Tackle Box.

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