Redfish at Big Bend making comeback

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 9:20 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 9:24 a.m.

Lots of folks take fishing vacations to the Florida Keys, but the holiday Glenn Acomb and his wife, Kristin enjoyed recently at Islamorada has to rank mighty high on the success scale.

When the UF professors hired Capt. Honson Lau for just a half-day trip, they told him they were most interested in catching bonefish and permit, having never caught either species.

That morning, the guide located a pack of bonefish, set up in position, and Glenn cast a small blue crab out in front. The largest fish in the group took the offering, and the drag-screaming battle was on. Even with Capt. Honson poling his skiff as fast as he could, the big bone nearly dumped all the line from the Shimano Stradic reel. After “six blistering runs,” the guide finally hoisted the huge pointy-nosed ghost aboard. Aside from being Glenn’s first-ever bonefish, it was also the largest the experienced guide had held — a world-class fish weighing an amazing 13 pounds.

Later that day, the Gainesville angler added his first permit, and, it too was a whopping example at 18 pounds.

If I ever get to go after bonefish and permit, I’ll be looking up Capt. Honson Lau.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Capt. John Leibach has been busy proving that the scarcity of Big Bend redfish through most of this year is turning around. Three weekends back, the Gainesville guide experienced an amazing redfish bite in an area north of Horseshoe Beach known to locals as “The Cedar Yard.” Leibach, along with Jim DeFord, Kyle Brasfield and Terry Stradomski, battled dozens of big reds — some “absolutely huge.”

Sunday, Leibach returned to the hot redfish area with Stradomski. Casting halved blue crabs and finger mullet set under Equalizer floats, the men soon knew the big reds were again present. Through the incoming tide, they caught and released 30 more fish. Ten were again very large specimens weighing up to17.5 pounds on the captain’s Boga grip.

Along with the big gulf reds, there is a pretty good spread of choices for a fish, scallop or shrimp-catching Labor Day Weekend.

Stories of big Spanish mackerel are increasing off Cedar Key and Suwannee. Anglers trolling spoons and Floreo Jigs on Seahorse Reef and Spotty Bottom are taking the first big ‘fall run’ macks. When John Matthews fished out of Cedar Key two Fridays ago with Zach Cronin, the Gainesville anglers found the reef alive with fish. They released a slew of ladyfish, jacks and blues, while 20 sand and speckled trout and eight Spanish up to 26 inches long made the trip back to the boat ramp.

Promising reports continue to come from fishers checking out their offshore spots ahead of the ‘special fall harvest’ season for gulf gag grouper that will start Sept. 16. Steinhatchee Capt. Gene Frazier and his party enjoyed fast action last Friday, despite choppy conditions. Fishing cut bait on the bottom in water just over 60 feet deep, they boated a nice kingfish, a bunch of pinkmouth grunts and triggerfish, and filled red grouper limits. The group also released a pair of nice gags.

“There are plenty of gags out there,” Capt. Gene said, “but they don’t bite as well when the water’s hot. We’re hoping the water temperatures will be a couple degrees cooler by the time the season gets going.”

Finally, a bit of freshwater fishing activity is stirring locally. Among the bass seekers, Scott Bryan had the week’s best tale. The Gainesville angler fished Lake Santa Fe last Sunday. After releasing a couple of small bass that took topwater plugs near shoreline cover, Bryan moved out to a deep-water brushpile. There, with Berkley and Zoom plastic worms rigged in the Carolina style, he caught four stout fish. The smallest weighed 5.16 pounds on his digital scale, and the largest went 5.98 before heading back into Santa Fe’s depths.

Then there are semi-fishing options to consider over the long weekend — scalloping out of Steinhatchee, Crystal River and Homosassa and shrimping almost anywhere north of Lake George on the St. Johns River. When Jay Wasdin, Matt Basinger, and Chris and Nathaniel Hermanson walked out on a Palatka boat dock last Friday evening, they knew before throwing a net that it would be a good night.

“The shrimp were jumping out of the water all around,” Wasdin said.

In just 40 minutes of cast-netting, the four Waldo shrimpers had filled two five-gallon buckets with good-sized crustaceans.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 years,” Wasdin said “and never seen it this good.”

Happy Labor Day.

Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary’s Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.

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