Specks emerge during new, full moons

Published: Friday, February 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2008 at 12:21 a.m.

A North Florida panfish enthusiast wanting to schedule his fishing vacation at the peak of speckled perch season would be well-advised to put in for the days surrounding either the new or the full moon in February.

Some years, the crappies’ annual move into the spawning shallows happens a bit earlier than this. It can occur later too, if February conditions are particularly harsh … but either of these weeks would be a good call.

Although everybody enjoys drifting for specks that are roaming the open water during the fall and early winter seasons, any angler that has really located the big spawning slabs in shoreline cover such as grass, pads, and fallen timber will attest to the supremacy of the sport during this phase.

Unfortunately, compared to the spawns of other favorites like bass and bluegill, it is a short window of opportunity — often coming and going before the angler can find a free day to hit the lake.

Just a week or so back, speck catches suddenly increased in some area lakes following a slow spell. John Jones and Glen Phillips of Screven, Georgia filled a double 50-speck limit while slow-trolling minnows in Lochloosa Thursday.

Frank Atkinson and friends, also of Georgia, had good luck in deeper water the same day, icing 25 nice fish.

Jones and Phillips returned to the same area Friday and boated 32 more keepers.

Good Lochloosa speck catches continued Saturday, a day that also saw the first really good bass reported here this year. The 9-pound, 1-ounce beauty was weighed on the Lochloosa Harbor Fish Camp scale and released.

Sunday, James Walker of Adel, Ga. docked with a whopping 2-pound, 2-ounce slab speck that he took with a minnow at the junction of Big and Little Lochloosa.

Tuesday, an anonymous pair showed off a cooler full of very impressive slabs at the Lochloosa camp before hurrying home with the catch.

Even though the best results to date have come from deeper water, speckers checking out the near-shore shallows have offered the most revealing reports.

Mainly during evening hours, some have already pulled a few big specks from maidencane, lily pads, and open hydrilla pockets. These would be the first of the spawn-minded slabs checking out potential spots to procreate.

Reports of shallow specks have already come from several other area lakes, as well. Among these are Wauburg, Alto, and Newnan’s.

Curtis McQuay picked up a dozen minnows at The Tackle Box Wednesday morning with a little nearby bank fishing in mind. When the Gainesville fisherman returned for two dozen more just before noon, we knew something was up.

McQuay explained that, in the misting rain, he had made efficient use of his earlier purchase. Fishing his twelve minnows in the Windsor boat ramp canal on Newnan’s, he had pulled in twelve specks.

Referring to February fishing on the gulf coast, one captain said, “It’s a good month to have your equipment checked out serviced.”

Aside from speckled trout season closing for the month, redfish don’t tend to be particularly active. To boot, the cold flats are almost devoid of the small baitfish that will attract larger predators in a couple of months.

Only sheepshead action is typically on the rise in the gulf during February — and both Homosassa and Crystal River marinas did mention increasing numbers of the banded battlers being pulled from rocky holes in each river.

So far, however, scouting trips out to the hard-bottomed humps a short run from shore have turned up no fish looking to spawn.

Out deep, grouper fishing remains good when days suitable for offshore trips come along. Last Wednesday, Charlie Blackwell, Skip Christie, Bill Cushman, Paul Daugherty, and Randy Hicks fished with Capt. Steve Hart of Legal Limit Charters out of Steinhatchee.

Capt. Hart made several stops on key spots from 12- to 38-miles offshore to put the five fishermen on a fine 21-grouper catch that included a 15-pound gag and a 15-pound red.

East Coast anglers have managed to stay with the black drum that have given them at least one dependable target in the inland waterway.

Last week, Captains Jimmy Blount and Keith Waldron each put their parties on big numbers of drum that ran from three to five-pounds.

A couple of nice-sized flounder around 20-inches long were welcomed bonuses. Live shrimp fished in deep Matanzas River bends did the trick.

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