Cold should wake up specks

Published: Friday, January 4, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 4, 2008 at 12:12 a.m.

A serious plunge in temperature the likes of which we saw this week is sure to change the fishing landscape.

In fresh waters, the effects on speckled perch — the most popular winter angling target — will likely be positive. Specks seem to gather and feed more vigorously in chillier water.

In near-shore salt waters, the seasonal favorite is the speckled trout. The suddenly icy coastal waters will not be to the liking of the thin-skinned trout, but the chill should benefit anglers, nonetheless. Following such a severe drop in water temperature, trout will do anything to gain just a half-degree of warmth.

They usually find that warmth at the bottom of deeper holes or troughs … and most of these are in creeks or rivers. Experienced trout fishers will work a slow-moving lure or jig along the bottom in the deep spots, waiting and feeling intently for a "tap."

Before the big chill arrived, trout could still be found on the grass flats — an unusual happening at Christmas time.

The Friday between Christmas and New Year’s Day found Jeff Kanipe and Jim Joiner trying their luck in the Cedar Key shallows. Kanipe hoped to put Joiner, his brother-in-law visiting from Tuscaloosa, on a good winter saltwater bite.

Their first stop — Corrigan’s Reef — yielded just two small legal trout, but the Gainesville angler had more spots to try.

In a shallow area near Snake Key, a long and narrow band of sea grass produced two quick jig bites, so Joiner tied on a big Super Spook surface lure. With that, the fishing puzzle was solved for a while. Joiner cast his large top-water bait while Kanipe chunked a smaller version, and the big trout found each irresistible for nearly an hour at low tide.

Dozens of fish busted the surface interlopers, and about thirty good-sized trout made it to the boat. The anglers filled the remainder of their ten-trout double limit with fish between 17- and 20-inches long, releasing several fish bigger than some already chosen for the ice chest. Suddenly, the bigger trout quit biting. Still, the gulf coast holiday trip was a success.

“It was an amazing 45 minutes,” Jeff smiled. “We caught a lot more after that flurry, but they were all small.”

At Waccasassa Fishing Club Tuesday, Ruth McKinney of Oxford reminded Spek Hayward that she had only caught one redfish … ever. So at 4 p.m. on the first day of the year, the two headed to one of Spek’s favorite creeks. Only one hour later, Spek and Ruth made the chilly run back to the camp. Casting cut bait, each had enticed a nice-sized "keeper" red.

At Lochloosa, the water color is milky and most fishers are finding the speckled perch bite to be a bit tougher of late. But, while the quantity may be temporarily off, there’s no arguing with the quality. Limits are scarce, but the average Lochloosa speck is a pleasing keeper. Several slabs hitting the two-pound mark were weighed at Lochloosa Harbor Fish Camp during the week between Christmas and New Years Day.

Terry Wilson of Williston pulled in 14 specks up to 2-pounds the day after Christmas; and Eureka’s Gary Damon showed off 11 fish topped by another speck that pushed the weigh scales to exactly 2-pounds. The next day, John Nicholson of Alachua took 14 good specks up to 2-01.

Jack Suggs of Jacksonville caught his 2-pound, 3-ounce slab last Thursday — and won the Lochloosa Harbor monthly speck contest in the process. Walt Whitmore had docked with a 2-04 beauty the day before, but the Citra fisherman had not entered the contest for December.

It seems that just one angler has found the secret to consistently come in with limit catches of Lochloosa crappie. John Courtney of Hawthorne docked amid a bunch of envious anglers Saturday afternoon with his daily 25-fish limit of speckled perch. And again, his fish (taken in the lake’s south end with jig/minnow combinations) were uniformly large.

Jealous fishers should not assume that Courtney’s fish-catching prowess is limited to the waters of Lochloosa. Friday, his speck limit from Rodman was just as hefty.

A group called the “Redneck Yacht Club” fished the Homosassa River last weekend in a catch-and-release bass tournament. Their results were good enough to cause surprise among the Homosassa residents.

Jason English of McRae’s Marina said, “I didn’t know there were so many bass in this river.”

Even the impressive catches of the Yacht Clubbers, though, were put in the shade by Jason’s son, Logan English. Out of school for Christmas break, Logan walked down to a Homosassa canal and pitched a live pinfish under a bridge Monday. The 14-year-old hoped to tempt the big snook he had spotted there. Instead, Logan hooked and landed a whopping nine-pound bass to finish his fishing year with a bang.

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