Area fishing lures President Carter


Published: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 6:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 6:29 p.m.

Gainesville Capt. Tommy Thompson fished last Monday with very special guests. Through a thick morning fog, the well-known angler/outdoor writer idled out of the Steinhatchee River with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, his daughter Amy, and grandson, Hugo Wentzel aboard.

The plan was to fish the shallows north of the river…but with the challenging combination of a negative .6 tide and visibility near zero, Thompson settled for a near-shore flat barely out of the river. “Normally, I would have cancelled the trip,” Thompson said. For a United States president, though, you do your best.

It was young Hugo that saved the day. Casting a Swim N’ Image lure, the nine-year-old hooked and wrestled in a big 4 ½-pound speckled trout. The presidential party was pleased that Capt. Tommy was, despite tough conditions, able to guide them to such a beautiful fish.

Scattered in the warming shallows, trout can now be found on near-shore flats, around shell bars, and in creeks and rivers. Redfish seem to be in all the same areas you’d expect to find them during the warmer months.

Doug Stringfellow, Tom Burke, and I took our annual New Year’s Day fishing trip Sunday a few days late. With Richard and Hart Stringfellow following in their Sea Ark, we cleared the Waccasassa River mouth a little after dawn. The weather was perfect and the tide high when Doug piloted his Shearwater into Turtle Bay. We all cast different lures, and everything produced redfish. Tom’s Saltwater Chatterbait attracted a couple of fish, as did my copper Johnson Sprite. Doug fooled a few fish with his Dardevle spoon, including a hard-fighting 29 ¼-inch beauty. And young Hart, enjoying his 16th birthday, boated a fine 27 ¼-inch red while casting a gold Flats Intruder spoon. As the tide fell, we left the shell bars and drifted a nearby grass flat where Mirrolure Catch 2000, YoZuri LX Minnow, and Cajun Spin baits all produced fair-sized trout.

Capt. John Leibach guided Cpl. Noah Smiley, just returned home from combat in Afghanistan. Also along were Noah’s dad, Richard, his granddad, Ed Oehmig, and cousin, Wesley Oehmig. All five men filled fine speckled trout limits out of Horseshoe Beach. A couple of days after the good fishing trip, Capt. John treated Noah and his dad to an Orange Lake duck hunt that yielded limits of ringnecks. “He’s a really great shot, and has incredible eyesight,” Leibach said of Noah.

Even though some locals had considered the speckled perch bite to be “off,” the Crappie USA tournament Saturday produced impressive winning catches. A serious crappie-catching husband-and-wife team from Clarksville, Ohio fishing in the amateur division had the top overall catch. Ron and Barbara Hollingsworth concentrated their efforts in Orange Lake’s deepest water. Fishing Crappie Stop Jigs in various colors, they bagged scores of specks. The largest seven of these weighed 10.46-pounds and included a 2.21-pound slab — plenty to pick up the win. And the Ohio couple’s catch was almost even more impressive. Ron said, “We lost two more two-pound fish at the net.”

In the semi-pro division, George Parker of West Palm Beach and Daryl Cole of Leesburg chose to try Lochloosa on tournament day, fishing “right in the middle” with Ron’s Zip Jigs. Their seven-speck catch weighed 8.84 — good enough to top every team in their division…but just barely. The second-place semi-pro team had 8.76, while third-place finished with 8.71. Although the day’s best catch came from Orange, the top three catches in the semi-pro class were pulled from Lochloosa.

The folks at Lochloosa Harbor have also noted lots of nice speck catches lately.

On New Year’s Day, James Henderson, of Rome, Georgia, fished minnows and crappie jigs in Lochloosa’s deepest water to take 20 specks. The next day, Charles Register likewise fished the mid-lake depths to pull in 20 specks up to 1-pound, 11-ounces. The Williston fisherman trolled slowly with small jigs. On Saturday the 3rd, Tracy and Thomas Waters, of Alma, Ga., tallied 25 keepers while fishing minnows and chartreuse jigs on the lake’s northwest side. But Clyde Mills and Ed Dorsey of Jacksonville docked with the best non-tournament catch of the weekend. The Jacksonville anglers filled a double, 50-fish limit of specks up to 1-½ pounds Saturday while trolling jigs in open water.

When it comes to speckled perch, the proverbial “fishing light switch” seems to have flipped back to the “on” position.

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

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