Area angler lands whale of a catch at Steinhatchee


Published: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Cooter Reed of Steinhatchee recently created a buzz in the Gulf Coast community when he made a most unusual catch.
Casting a jig for trout just south of the river mouth a few weeks back, Reed hooked the bottom - or so he thought. He eased his boat over to the spot that held his bait in an attempt to retrieve it. Looking down into the clear shallows, the fisherman saw that he had hooked, of all things, a backbone.
And this was not the backbone of a normal creature - it stretched along the sandy bottom for about 18-feet. Reed was able to reach down with his landing net, separate a couple of vertebrae, and pull them (along with his jig) into the boat.
Later, he showed the bones - about 4-inches in diameter - to friends, and also allowed FWC personnel to take them for analysis. It turns out Reed's rare catch had once belonged to a pilot whale.
Since speckled trout season closes for the month of February in North Florida waters, lots of saltwater anglers are seriously eyeing the coming weekend. With good reason, many are planning trips to Steinhatchee.
The good trout action there is most unusual - and not only for it's excellence during a time frame that seldom produces such great action. The strangest thing about the ongoing Steinhatchee trout bite is that these fish are, mostly, outside the river on shallow and chilly flats.
In past years, speckled trout have avoided frigid shallows like the plague. This month they have fed heartily in water as cold as 48-degrees.
Saturday, the aforementioned Cooter Reed and his wife, Faith, boxed a Steinhatchee trout limit that included two nearly identical 5-plus-pound fish. They took the big fish while casting Mirrolures on a flat just outside the river mouth.
Gulf anglers in larger vessels also made impressive catches last weekend. In water 65-feet deep, Bill and Lance Avera and Tommy Waters trolled Mann's Stretch 30 lures Saturday to take an eye-popping boxful of fish. Their first catch of the morning, a 26-pound kingfish, rightly surprised the trio.
After all, few fishers would expect to hook a big king off Suwannee in January. Following that pleasant shocker, things slowed drastically as they tried to locate grouper. Finally at noon, one wild, 20-minute flurry produced three grouper - each a huge, 20-pound fish. And another outsize gag escaped by breaking a split ring on a red-and-white Stretch 30.
Off Homosassa, Butch Huey and friends took 15 sizable gags in water only 20-feet deep Sunday while fishing herring. And Homosassa residents, Tom Turvaville and Michael Birdsong pulled 10 thick sheepshead from a near-shore spawning spot Monday.
Weekend bass fishing was tough on Orange and Lochloosa, but crappie fishers again hauled in lots of good catches.
James Dampier took 20 specks to Lochloosa Harbor last Saturday - every fish over a pound. Sunday, Richard Lee came in with another big 20-speck catch. Ralph Porter docked at A Family Tradition Fish Camp on Cross Creek last Saturday with a whopping 2-pound, 6-ounce speck. If that catch sounds familiar, it's because Porter boated a 2-06 last Saturday, as well. Being stuck on 2-06 is not a bad thing at all if you're a speck fisherman.
John Courtney, captor of a huge 3-05 speck in December, proved that he still has a line on the slabs when he showed off 15 big specks Wednesday. The largest of the bunch weighed in at 2-07.
Willie Wims stopped by The Tackle Box on Tuesday afternoon with a fine batch of crappie he had just pulled from Rodman Reservoir. Wims fished grass shrimp in lily pads near Kenwood Landing to fool several big specks. The largest weighed 2-pounds, 1-ounce; and the biggest four fish weighed 6-pounds, 13-ounces.
Over the last few days, two of our fishing friends passed on to the big pond in the sky; and I'd like to close this week's report with a fond farewell to Mr. Stanley Hales of the Old Carraway Landing on Lochloosa and to Mr. Ed Ogle.
Mr. Stanley passed while sitting outside at his beloved fish camp on a beautiful Lochloosa evening a week ago. The accident that took Ed's life occurred at Steinhatchee, where he was undoubtedly enjoying the fine trout fishing. I'm one of the many that will miss them both.
Gary Simpson is a veteran tournament angler who works at The Tackle Box.

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