Rodman Reservoir has it going on this weekend

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.

The recent window of nicer weather allowed anglers their best shot at fish in a while and produced some of the best catches of the new year.

Even so, freshwater fishing remains generally subpar on local lakes. Limited and difficult boat launching is part of the problem, as fishers with larger vessels have to hunt around to find suitable access points.

Rodman Reservoir is one of the few lakes that offers easy launching, and the fishing there is pretty good, to boot. Scattered speckled perch catches have come from the deeper Barge Canal cut and from deeper clumps of matted vegetation anchored in lily pad beds. Bass anglers have scored very well by running wild shiners under hyacinth and cabbage mats and some cane pole fishers have pulled nice catches of shellcrackers from under the same rafts of Rodman weeds.

And Rodman isn’t the only area lake that’s putting out early spawning shellcrackers.

Saturday, Charlie Thomas and Bobby Robertson pulled off the tricky feat of locating a shellcracker bed out in the wide open spaces of Lochloosa. The Gainesville men anchored near the bed and cast red worms into it to take 55 of the thick-bodied bream.

This is not easy fish-catching. First, the men say they have to push-pole out quite a ways from the public boat ramp off Highway 301 before they can lower their outboard, start it and run to the secret shellcracker spot out in open water.

Speckled perch really should be the top target of panfishers in late January, and the specks, too, are showing signs that their pre-spawn feed might be increasing. Fishing on Tuesday morning out of Twin Lakes Fish Camp, Jim and Lil Harrington slow-trolled green, white and orange crappie jigs out in Lochloosa’s mid-lake depths. Before noon, the Georgia visitors bagged 12 sizable slabs.

With the February-long North Florida speckled trout closure approaching fast, lots of inshore anglers are working rivers along the Gulf Coast in earnest. After a pretty dependable month-long bite, the Steinhatchee River was a bit less productive last weekend, although it was hit plenty hard by scores of trout-seeking boats. At least one group found fishing success despite having just one trout in their ice chest at day’s end Sunday. Fishing frozen shrimp on the bottom, the three fishermen augmented their meager trout take by hauling in ten thick sheepshead. The Suwannee, Waccasassa and Crystal Rivers might not offer trout seekers a lot of fish, either, as they all have put out considerably more redfish through recent days.

The Homosassa River actually yielded the most impressive gulf report from last weekend. Capt. William Toney’s party cast DOA lures and live shrimp in the river Sunday and each of the four Pennsylvania fishermen hauled in a snook/redfish/trout slam. That’s an outstanding fishing feat.

While offshore gulf results have been very slim, it should be noted that more than one Steinhatchee angler, fishing frozen sardines and herring on the bottom, has found and filled limits of legal gag grouper within state waters, less than nine miles offshore.

Many of us have childhood memories of fishing with cane poles in ponds and creeks to catch little yellow-bellied catfish we referred to as “buttercats.” Well, the king of Florida buttercats has been captured. A yellow bullhead catfish caught in Crystal River on Dec. 17 is the state record for that species. Tom Flynn of Homosassa was fishing with minnows for mangrove snapper at a boat ramp on the river when he hooked the catfish. Verified by FWC biologists, it weighed 5-pounds, .75 ounces and was 20-inches long.

Instead of the little snappers he was after, Flynn caught seven catfish that day and took them home. His wife went online to check them out and learned that the Florida record was 2.91-pounds.

“I knew”, Flynn said, “that I had fish bigger than that.” And, in fact, the Homosassa fisherman did have two fish that day weighing more than the standing record. The previous record 2.91-pound yellow bullhead was caught in March of 2007 by Michael Pace in the Withlacoochee River.

Flynn still has a ways to go in order to top the biggest of all yellow bullheads on record. The world record for the species is a 6-pound, 6-ounce fish caught in May of 2006 by John Irvin in Bates County, Missouri.

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

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