Only the brave or lucky will venture out today
Published: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 1:43 a.m.
January is one of the very best months of the year to look for a trophy largemouth bass in Florida. The biggest fish normally spawn first - and now they are heavy-bodied and looking to feed up in front of that task. It is also among the most challenging of months weather-wise to dedicate much time on the water. Anybody trying his fishing luck today, for instance, certainly deserves every nibble he gets.
Only a couple of really big bass pulled from local waters have been reported to us so far this year - a Lake Alto 10-pounder and a 12-pound beauty taken late last week on little Redwater Lake, near Hawthorne. We should hear any day now that a double-digit fish has been boated in Rodman Pool, this area's top producer of large bass.
Good catches, of course, have been scarce through the recent windy and frigid conditions. Even in the lakes that had been most reliable, few fishers have tried, and fewer scratched out decent results.
Following a cold front-challenged national tournament on the Harris Chain of Lakes near Leesburg two weeks ago, B.A.S.S. professionals traveled south to Okeechobee - the best hope in the country for acceptable weather and good fishing in January. Sure enough, for two days catches were most impressive. Then another of the nasty cold fronts broke into the South Florida venue, changing things drastically for the dozen anglers left standing after the elimination rounds.
Among those surviving fishers were bass anglers well known in these parts - veteran Bernie Schultz of Gainesville and B.A.S.S. rookie Terry Scroggins of Palatka. One day later, with the field reduced all the way to the top six competitors, Scroggins was in the lead and Schultz held down a strong second. Scroggins, consistent throughout the tourney, held on for the win, finishing with 62 pounds, 2 ounces. Though his last-day catch was his smallest of the contest, it was easily the best of the final day at 12-pounds, 11-ounces, taking him to an impressive tour victory and it's $100,000.00 paycheck. Roger Boler, of Slidell, La., slipped into second with 52-11, and Schultz finished third with 52-05.
Some expected that the scheduling of two Florida events to kick off the 2003 Bassmasters season would give Florida anglers a real leg up on out-of-state competitors. Sure enough, three local pros find themselves in excellent shape early in the Angler of the Year standings. Jim Bitter of Fruitland Park is in the lead with 327 points, the young gun Scroggins is in second with 311 and Schultz lurks a little ways back in 14th with 279.
Steinhatchee anglers have all but given up hope that a wave of big winter trout will invade that river as they have so often in past years. Only one week remains before the February trout closure in the North Florida region. February is not a great trout month, anyway, and it can be difficult to release these fragile fish unharmed, so most fishers leave them alone through the closure.
Tidal creeks near Suwannee remain the best trout bets along the Gulf Coast for the final open weekend. Scattered limits of sizable fish are still coming from favorite creeks such as Bumblebee, Salt and Barnett. Monday, two unnamed Suwannee fishers boated a large double trout limit. They fished water only 3-to-4 feet deep in Bumblebee with grubtail jigs.
Redfish are generally tough to find, even in the spots anglers consider their favorite winter hangouts. Fishing for the "first time in months," Skip and Katie Markwich of Morriston worked shell bars near Waccasassa last Saturday, using shrimp set under floats. Katie was the undisputed angler of the day, first wrestling in an outsize, 38-inch red. She followed that catch up with a 27-inch beauty that was barely small enough to keep.
Offshore gulf anglers are becoming increasingly exasperated with the seemingly endless string of windy cold fronts that keep them from hungry grouper and sheepshead. This is one area where fishing has remained dependable -- when the fishers can get there. Grouper are in good supply out in water more than 40 feet deep, and sheepshead have gathered in their spawning spots on natural and artificial reefs, mostly in water around 20 feet deep.
Gary Simpson is a veteran tournament angler who works at the Tackle Box.
Day 1st high 2nd high 1st low 2nd low
Today 5:40 a.m. 5:45 p.m. 11:26 a.m.
Sat. 7:10 a.m. 6:30 p.m. 12:51 a.m. 12:14 p.m.
Sun. 9:02 a.m. 7:31 p.m. 2:14 a.m. 1:17 p.m.
Mon. 10:40 a.m. 8:50 p.m. 3:36 a.m. 2:40 p.m.
Tues. 11:46 a.m. 10:09 p.m. 4:47 a.m. 4:08 p.m.
Weds. 12:35 p.m. 11:15 p.m. 5:45 a.m. 5:18 p.m.
Thurs. 1:14 p.m. 6:35 a.m. 6:12 p.m.
Day 1st high 2nd high 1st low 2nd low
Today 12:46 a.m. 1:02 p.m. 7:09 a.m. 7:28 p.m.
Sat. 1:43 a.m. 1:58 p.m. 8:13 a.m. 8:26 p.m.
Sun. 2:47 a.m. 3:00 p.m. 9:19 a.m. 9:26 p.m.
Mon. 3:55 a.m. 4:06 p.m. 10:23 a.m. 10:27 p.m.
Tues. 5:01 a.m. 5:11 p.m. 11:24 a.m. 11:26 p.m.
Weds. 6:03 a.m. 6:11 p.m. 12:23 p.m.
Thurs. 6:58 a.m. 7:06 p.m. 12:24 a.m. 1:17 p.m.
Day Minor Major Minor Major
Today 10:35 4:25 11:15 4:55
Sat. 11:30 5:20 0 5:45
Sun. 12:00 6:10 12:20 6:35
Mon. 12:50 7:00 1:10 7:25
Tues. 1:40 7:50 2:00 8:20
Weds. 2:30 8:45 2:55 9:15
Thurs. 3:30 9:40 3:50 10:10
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