Saltwater fishing holding strong thanks to weather

Published: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Not even a thin sheet of ice has appeared in the dog's water dish in my back yard this season.

With winter holding back its usual frigid package, the saltwater fishing story has changed little over the last few weeks. Inshore anglers are still enjoying fine speckled trout action along the Gulf Coast, with folks finding fish in scattered locations ranging from deep to very shallow. It is very likely that trout fishing will remain strong all the way 'til the annual February closure in North Florida.

Saturday morning Capt. Dave Perry and Bob Bush launched in the Steinhatchee River with trout in mind. As they idled past boats on their way out of the river, they noticed quite a few bent rods. Not bent double, but bent.

"The people in the river were catching trout," said Bush, "but they were small."

The Gainesville men eased past them all and headed south out of the river to the shallows near Rocky Creek. Action was slow at first. Then, around noon when the water temperature topped the 60-degree mark, the big trout turned on. Casting surface chuggers and Gulp! Shrimp, Perry and Bush boated outstanding limits of trout, the largest measuring 25-inches and weighing 6-pounds on a Boga Grip. They encountered no small trout — even among the 10 fish they released.

"Our smallest was 18-inches," Bush said. Then they cast gold spoons to top off the day with three legal redfish.

Trout action is good all the way to the southern extreme of this report's coverage area. Captain Jimmy Long guided sisters from Georgia to the clear shallows near the Homosassa River's mouth Monday. Their combined limit catch included trout measuring 22 and 23-inches.

Good fishing reports from the East Coast have been much scarcer, but Tommye Lee Hogan sure had a fine outing Monday with husband, Dale. Fishing in the surf near Marineland with a light spinning outfit and small frozen shrimp, Tommye hooked a hard-fighting fish. A few minutes later, Dale netted her perfect redfish — exactly 27-inches long with tail pinched and broad across the shoulders. A little while later, she wrestled in another red — this one 24-inches long.

Freshwater anglers with boats able to negotiate the thin water at many area public boat ramps continue to haul in plenty of speckled perch. Sunday, Sonja Bragg had a speck-catching day to crow about. Fishing with her husband and daughter in Lochloosa's deepest water, she hauled in a whopping 2-pound, 9-ounce crappie — the largest of 25 fish that she and her family took home to Jacksonville.

While the Bragg family was having success in deep water, another Jacksonville angler fishing out of Lochloosa Harbor was snatching a load of specks — and a matching slab — from the lake's shallow lily pads. Don Harris' biggest speck Sunday also weighed 2-09 on the fish camp's tested scales. Jim Thompson of Middleburg enticed his 2-pound, 6-ounce speck while fishing a minnow along the outside edge of a Lochloosa grassline Friday.

Saturday, Jeremy Rentz and Jonathan Varnadore of Baxley, Ga., pulled 48 Lochloosa specks from south end pads while fishing pink jigs with minnows added.

Bass have also been active in the unseasonable warmth. Thomas Jones carefully hoisted a whopping bigmouth from his bass boat's live well Saturday afternoon and toted it to The Tackle Box's certified scales. Jones had fooled the big fish (9-pounds, 7-ounces) with a Gambler worm that morning on Orange Lake. The well-traveled Gainesville bass angler is on a big-fish roll, having boated jaw-droppers for two trips running.

"The best fish I caught last weekend was a good bit bigger," he said.

Sunday, Mark Ruble was fishing the ultra-clear water of Rodman Reservoir when he spotted a huge largemouth apparently spawning. He pitched a black-and-blue Wooly Hawgtail to the massive female, and she took it.

Following a grand battle, the Gainesville angler weighed and released the 10-pound lunker — his biggest ever.

Fish camp life is demanding and risky — especially on shallow lakes whose accessibility can go from 'normal' to 'difficult' with a mere three-foot drop in water level. Following well over a year of successful business, the 2006 rainfall deficit took its toll on the Family Tradition Fish Camp on Cross Creek. The camp is now out of business and its boat ramp is closed as well. The motels and campground will remain open for business through reservation only. The Posey family did an outstanding job of resurrecting the old camp while the water remained high enough to allow boat traffic through the creek.

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

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