Weather a fright? Fishing can still be a delight

Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 12:57 a.m.

Cold and windy weather last weekend kept most would-be anglers home. As is often the case, the hardy few who did brave the numbing chill made the rest of us wish we had, too.

Some of the greatest fishing memories seem to be made when the weather is awful. James Sowell of High Springs and Rick Morrison of Starke must have had this thought in mind when they decided to set out across the Horseshoe Beach flats early Sunday morning.

When they backed the G3 tunnel hull down the loading ramp, the air temperature was 28 degrees. The boat's surface temperature gauge would soon show the water as a frigid 43 degrees. To make matters worse, a stiff northeast wind was pushing out the already skinny water.

Even with these obstacles, the anglers set out for a nearby creek. After arriving at its mouth, they began casting slow-sinking Mirrolures. The fish were present in a big way. At noon, Morrison and Sowell headed back across uncomfortably shallow water to the boat ramp.

The 10-fish limit of trout to 25.5 inches that filled their ice chest was impressive, and the 26.5-inch redfish was a nice bonus. But the most amazing part of the chilly trip were the 20 trout - each longer than 20 inches - the men had released.

"We may never have that kind of trout fishing again," Sowell said. "And all morning, we never saw another boat."

On Monday, Bill Danforth tried trolling water 20-to-25 feet deep off Steinhatchee for grouper. He finally happened to troll across a good rock and picked up a keeper gag. After boating the grouper, he circled around, again located the structure, and anchored over it. With cut bait, Danforth then made an unusual and outstanding catch - a whopping 27-inch, 8-pound flounder.

Such true "doormats" are rare on the Gulf side of the state.

Weekend and early week results were understandably slim out of most gulf ports. The Crystal and Homosassa Rivers always rank high during the coldest and nastiest winter conditions, and they came through during the latest cold snap as well. In both rivers, mangrove snapper are biting shrimp and pilchard minnows fished near the springs.

Crystal's warmer, spring-fed depths produced lots of speckled trout for fishers casting jigs, Mirrolures, shrimp and pilchards. Most of the Crystal River trout are too small to keep, but a good number of bites can be had. The Crystal River Power Plant's hot water discharge canal is again yielding a variety of fish just a couple weeks after suffering a big fish kill that was blamed on red tide.

In fresh water, good bass catches have come from Rodman Reservoir and Lake Santa Fe. Joey Ference fished Lake Santa Fe in miserable conditions last Friday. Slow-rolling a spinnerbait, he connected first with a nice 3-pound fish in Santa Fe Pass. When no more bites came, Ference switched to a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard. This technique produced a pair of smaller but chunky largemouths.

Out in open lake on the Big Santa Fe side of the pass, the angler noticed birds diving to the water. He headed out to the activity and found fish feeding on minnows. Ference tied on a small-profiled lure that would cast easily in the wind, a Little George spinner, and took four more fish - all fat sunshine bass from 3 to 4 pounds.

  • A series of "Gulf Awareness" seminars sponsored jointly by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida's Cooperative Extension Service will explore the importance and regional impact of the Gulf of Mexico's marine resources. These seminars will take place in February, March and April at the FWCC Marine Field Station in Cedar Key. Smart anglers can gather important information from these classes, where topics include "The Suwannee Regional Artificial Reef System: What We've Learned and Where It's Leading" and "Return of the Bay Scallops: Status and Future Prospects." Speakers will include Dr. Bill Arnold, Dr. Bill Lindberg, Ken Litzenberger, Doug Nemeth and Leslie Sturmer. For details, call George Shipp or Leslie Sturmer at (352) 543-9200.

  • It's time again for The Tackle Box's free series of instructional fishing workshops. The series begins Saturday, Jan. 17, and will feature our own Dick Hale revealing speckled perch catching secrets. The best time of year for big specks is almost here, so be sure to pick up these tips just in time. The workshop will begin at 10 a.m. and last about an hour.

    Cedar Key

    Day 1st high 2nd high 1st low 2nd low
    Today 9:09 a.m. 8:12 p.m. 2:34 a.m. 2:11 p.m.
    Sat. 10:52 a.m. 9:15 p.m. 3:54 a.m. 3:28 p.m.
    Sun. 12:15 p.m. 10:19 p.m. 5:08 a.m. 4:44 p.m.
    Mon. 1:15 p.m. 11:21 p.m. 6:10 a.m. 5:50 p.m.
    Tues. 2:02 p.m. - 7:04 a.m. 6:45 p.m.
    Weds. 12:18 a.m. 2:41 p.m. 7:52 a.m. 7:35 p.m.
    Thurs. 1:11 a.m. 3:16 p.m. 8:36 a.m. 8:22 p.m.

    St. Augustine

    Day 1st high 2nd high 1st low 2nd low
    Today 2:45 a.m. 3:04 p.m. 9:25 a.m. 9:33 p.m.
    Sat. 3:55 a.m. 4:13 p.m. 10:30 a.m. 10:35 p.m.
    Sun. 5:04 a.m. 5:19 p.m. 11:33 a.m. 11:36 p.m.
    Mon. 6:08 a.m. 6:21 p.m. 12:34 p.m. -
    Tues. 7:06 a.m. 7:18 p.m. 12:36 a.m. 1:30 p.m.
    Weds. 8:01 a.m. 8:13 p.m. 1:33 a.m. 2:23 p.m.
    Thurs. 8:53 a.m. 9:06 p.m. 2:27 a.m. 3:12 p.m.


    Day Minor Major Minor Major
    Today 12:10 6:15 12:25 6:40
    Sat. 12:55 7:05 1:15 7:30
    Sun. 1:45 7:55 2:05 8:25
    Mon. 2:40 8:55 3:05 9:25
    Tues. 3:45 9:55 4:05 10:25
    Weds. 4:40 10:55 5:05 11:25
    Thurs. 5:40 - 6:10 12:00
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