Anglers get boost from warm holiday weather

Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Unseasonably warm weather through the Christmas-to-New Years Day week invited folks to the outdoors and resulted in plenty of fish-catching.

Some holiday crappie fans found their favorite targets on the move — having shifted from deep haunts to shallower cover around the shorelines.

Speck seekers on both Orange and Lochloosa lakes generally located fish best around grass and lily pads in water less than four feet deep.

Saturday, Ralph Porter stopped by the store with 16 crappies not a really outstanding catch until you consider size. Ten of the sixteen were impressive examples measuring over 12 inches in length. Porter returned Sunday to add another eleven big specks to his fish fry stock.

The Gainesville angler fished alone, trolling 1/32-ounce jigs with curly-tail grubs as slowly as possible among the hydrilla beds and stickups in Orange's south end. Porter also adds a live grass shrimp to the tiny jig — an unusual (but apparently effective) tactic.

Tim Johnson of Ocala and Bill Black of Gainesville were among the successful Orange Lake fishers on the year's first day. Johnson iced 24 specks, and Black's live well held twenty good-sized fish.

The very finest crappie catch of the week, though, might have been made by Troy and Charlene McDermitt — in deeper water. The Sparr couple fished black-and-yellow Beetle Spins in one of Orange's deepest areas off Sampson Point to fool thirty absolute slabs Saturday.

David Jamerson continued his Lake Santa Fe crappie-catching success Tuesday with Richard Nalli. Fishing minnows over a deep brush pile in Little Santa Fe, the pair boxed seven big specks, topped by a 2-pound, 3-ounce slab.

Bass anglers expect to fare best during early January in warmer, spring-fed area rivers or backwaters, and this rule is holding true.

The Withlacoochee River and Lake Rousseau, its backwater lake, are yielding the best action seen here since a serious fish kill following the 2004 hurricanes. And Rodman Pool, the backwater of the Ocklawaha River, is giving shiner fishers boatloads of bass bites. Salt Springs Run, feeding Lake George, is another top bass fishing bet.

Bass are beginning to spawn in these spots — several weeks before they will commence the ritual on other area waters.

When Wally Grant spotted a monster bass while fishing with his wife, Candice, on New Years Eve, he knew it just might be larger than his personal best bigmouth, a 12-pound, 2-ounce fish. And the experienced Gainesville basser knew that he wanted to find out if that was so. For the next three hours, Grant stealthily tempted the Salt Springs Run whopper. Finally, the huge fish took his offering — a junebug colored Bass Assassin worm.

Since Grant was using light, ten-pound-test mono, the battle was a tense one; but in the end Candice netted the trophy fish. Grant couldn't find his digital scale anywhere in his boat. So, with aerator running in his live well filled with cool and crystal-clear Salt Springs water, he and Candice took the fish to Chiappini's in Melrose to get an accurate weight. That weight was 12-pounds, 4-ounces.

The dedicated angler had, indeed, set a new personal-best mark for big bass. A few minutes later, the beauty was again swimming free now in Santa Fe, the Grants' home lake.

Trout and redfish remain the best targets for Gulf Coast anglers.

Doug Stringfellow and I took our annual New Years Day trip to Suwannee a couple of days early. Instead of ringing in the New Year, we rang out the old with a great trip. The weather was warm and the fish were biting as well as in any of these trips we started back in the eighties.

After casting for a while in the river and nearby creeks, we slipped out to a couple of favorite oyster bars. For three hours that spanned the last of the incoming tide and the first part of outgoing, bites came at an incredible pace.

Casting Saltwater Assassin jigs in several colors and minnow-imitating jerk baits, we released a couple of small reds, a flounder, five bluefish, and well over a hundred trout. Maybe closer to two hundred.

Only a dozen of the trout would have been of legal size, but we couldn't have asked for faster action — or a finer day to close out 2006.

The Homosassa River is another very productive spot for trout. The parties of Captains Charlie Harris and William Toney are boating good limits here almost daily while casting various lures around kelp beds at the river mouth.

Gary Simpson is a veteran tournament angler who works at The Tackle Box.

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