Anglers deal with challenge of low water levels

Published: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 12:28 a.m.

Reports from coastal creeks and rivers and from Rodman Reservoir continue to provide most of the angling highlights for this area … and a rainy spell held even these productive zones below par last weekend.

Diehards that braved wet Gulf Coast boat rides found yet another hindrance to overcome, as extra-low tides increased the usual winter toll on propellers and lower units.

During our weekly phone call to McRae’s Marina on the Homosassa River, Nancy Bushy’s comments underscored the typical skinny-water problems.

“The tides have been so low,” she said, “and the water hasn’t even been coming in much at high tide. Our boats are sitting in the mud right now.”

Bushy also mentioned that some fishers concentrating within the banks of the deeper Homosassa River are having fun with the multitudes of ladyfish there.

It is probably too soon to tell whether the recent cold-weather mullet kill along much of the Big Bend coast was significant enough to bring changes that will affect anglers.

There’s suddenly a buzz among anglers who frequent the inland East Coast waters. Some are searching the shallows and others are looking deep — and both methods are working well for redfish seekers in the Matanzas area.

Locals believe that a big influx of blue crabs in Matanzas River has the reds feeding like there’s no tomorrow. One redfishing group launched at Devil’s Elbow last Saturday. Weighting live shrimp to the bottom in a deeper channel, the three anglers took quick limits and released thirty more "slot-size" fish.

Then there’s Capt. Jimmy Blount, who located a big school of reds on a shallow flat and was able to keep his eye on it all week long, releasing scores of nice fish.

Folks looking to add to their cold-weather saltwater fishing knowledge should plan to attend the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club’s Jan. 22 meeting. Award-winning outdoor writer Capt. Tommy Thompson annually makes great catches in winter, and the renowned flats master will offer some key tips.

For the deep-water-minded, Capt. Wiley Horton will enlighten anglers regarding the cold weather capture of offshore targets such as grouper. President of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Gainesville Chapter, guide, and tournament angler, Horton has long been a serious threat to big fish.

Each speaker will share a wealth of fish-catching knowledge at Lecture Hall ‘A’ of UF’s Veterinary Academic Building on SW 16th Avenue. Doors will open at 7 p.m.

One fisherman calls the good fishing on Rodman Reservoir “like shootin’ ducks in a barrel.” The embattled backwater is in the midst of a scheduled weed control dewatering that will last until April.

During these earlier days of the drawdown, at least, the duck allegory seems accurate. Big numbers of fishers are visiting the temporary boat ramps at Kenwood and Orange Springs every day — and most are leaving with fine catches of speckled perch and bream.

Two Sundays ago, Johnell Young and Cory Johnson concentrated on deeper spots in the Barge Canal, allowing their little green and chartreuse crappie jigs to settle slowly through the depths.

“When we found a spot 14- to 17-feet deep, we would stop and cast,” Johnell said. The unhurried approach accounted for a hefty double-limit of specks, plus several chunky bass that the Gainesville fishermen promptly released. Young returned to the Orange Springs access point Monday with Earl Richardson, Jr.

The specks were a little smaller on this trip, but just as willing. The men kept a double-limit of fish that were “hand-size” or better, and released about that many again.

Several Rodman fishers hoping to get in on the good catch-and-release bass action have found themselves tangling other species instead. Brannen Johnson and his dad hit the reservoir Sunday morning ahead of the heaviest rain showers.

“The action was so fast,” said Brannen, “we ran out of bait within 90 minutes. Only one problem — the bites all came from mudfish and pickerel.”

Florida LAKEWATCH, one of the largest lake monitoring programs in the nation, provides a huge service to all who enjoy Florida’s waters. More than 2,000 trained volunteer citizens monitor 600 lakes and 50 coastal sites throughout the state.

Now, the program’s director, Dr. Dan Canfield, is trying to raise funds for a new LAKEWATCH building. To help with this, 2008 Florida LAKEWATCH calendars are now available, featuring beautiful photos taken by LAKEWATCH volunteers. They are available for donations. Please visit to download an order form.

With our help, plus matching funds from the State of Florida and property donated by the University of Florida, LAKEWATCH can finally have a home after more than twenty years of service.

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