Fish kills bring FWC action

Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 10:48 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 10:48 a.m.

The extraordinary two-week stretch of cold that came with the New Year brought big changes to the Florida fishing world.

As noted in last week’s report, large numbers of saltwater fish not very resistant to extreme cold died along both coasts. In response to the widespread fish kills, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission enacted measures equally out of the ordinary.

On Jan. 15, an FWC order temporarily suspended certain possession regulations to allow for the collection and disposal of fish killed by the cold weather. Also issued the same day was another executive order that temporarily extends the closed harvest season for snook statewide until September. Further, the order established a statewide closed season for bonefish and tarpon through March 31.

During these closures, FWC research scientists will evaluate the impacts of the prolonged cold-weather event on snook, bonefish and tarpon stocks. The Commission reminds anglers that catch-and-release fishing for these game fish is still allowed.

Things have thawed sufficiently to lure anglers back for Gulf Coast casting, and some have found decent post-freeze action.

The Steinhatchee River continues to offer possibly the most dependable speckled trout fishing along the Big Bend. Shrimp and sinking Mirrolures fished near the river mouth are still among best producers.

Waccasassa River anglers have started catching redfish with regularity. Monday, Roger Morris took family members visiting from Kentucky out from the Waccasassa Fishing Club. They fished shrimp and cut mullet in creeks between the river and Cedar Key to fill limits of nice-sized reds. The same day, Jacksonville angler, Jerry Fletcher also found the reds in a feeding mood. He caught and released several good fish.

Waccasassa fishers say there are mullet jumping again in the river; and they seem understandably relieved the harsh cold snap didn’t take out the entire herd.

In a cooperative effort between Homosassa Elementary School teacher, Mike Baize, and the Homosassa Fishing Guide Association, a bunch of youngsters recently had a day on the water to remember. Several guides donated last Tuesday to take 50 fifth-graders out on the river to fish and observe. And the kids proved to be capable fish-catchers, taking several trout, ladyfish and mangrove snapper. One of the trout, in fact, was a 24-inch specimen … impressive in anybody’s book. Now, each student will write a story describing the sights, sounds and feelings they experienced during their unique field trip. Pretty cool.

Offshore reports have been slim, but Russ Roy, Ross McElroy and Joe Shands did slip out from Suwannee late last week to the famed White City Bridge Reef. The Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club (GOFC) members primarily had amberjack in mind. Bites came at a good pace, and after three hours the men had released 25 of the hard-pulling AJ’s — but not one was of legal size. When their squid-tipped jigs made it all the way to the bottom, however, grouper were nearly as willing. And a half dozen of them were ‘keepers,’ providing some fresh fillets just ahead of the upcoming February and March grouper closure.

Speaking of fresh fillets, the GOFC monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday will feature Lee Deaderick of Northwest Seafood offering tips and techniques for preparing your catch for the table. Free and open to the public, the meeting will be held at Lecture Hall A of the UF Veterinary School Academic Building. Go to for more.

Freshwater catches are finally starting to pick back up, as well.

The speckled perch fishers with the best stories this week traveled to the Kenwood and Orange Springs access points on Rodman Reservoir. Here, minnows and small jigs fished deep in the flooded river channel or in the Barge Canal cut are accounting for nice numbers of large crappies. Beware at the Orange Springs boat ramp, however. Vehicles and boat trailers parked here have recently suffered some sad instances of vandalism.

Water in the boat basin at Twin Lakes Fish Camp on Cross Creek “stayed frozen for a week,” but since the freezing nights ceased, Jeff and Michelle Septer say they have seen an upswing in catches. Regular customer, Walt, braved a strong wind Sunday while fishing minnows in the Lochloosa pads. Despite the tough conditions, he filled a limit of specks.

Surprisingly, Mike and Alicia Bass have docked with nice catches of bluegill and shellcracker they’ve pulled from the Lochloosa lily pads while fishing with grass shrimp. During mid-winter, the little freshwater shrimp are the scarcest of live baits … and it’s nearly as hard to find bream congregated. But the hard-fishing couple has located a secret spot where they can net their own shrimp — and they also know a good spot to use them.

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

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