Fishing possibilities growing

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 12:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 12:26 p.m.

With far less available fishing water than usual, this has not been a banner year for area freshwater anglers. Still, as the holiday season arrives, we do seem to have a growing list of good possibilities.

Unusually late in starting, the fall speckled perch bite is finally showing signs of life.

Brian Roe launched at Lake Santa Fe's Melrose boat ramp two Sundays ago. He set out Beetle Spins on light outfits and slow-trolled in water 20-to-21 feet deep. Before long, the Gainesville angler filled a 25-fish limit of specks, including a few slabs topped by a 2-pound, 2-ounce beauty. But the specks weren't the only fish biting that day. Several small bass, including a scrappy 19-incher, also fell for the little spinners. When he returned two days later, Roe employed the same technique to ice 14 more nice specks.

Kris Akridge drifted minnows on Lake Alto last Sunday. The windy conditions were far from ideal for speck-drifting and bites were scarce. But every bite was a big one. In fact, the Hampton angler caught his biggest-ever slab. Akridge didn't weigh the whopper, but figures it must have been between 2.5 and 3 pounds.

Down the state, bass fishing has been as hot as a pistol. Here in the north-central sector, most bassers are content just to find a place to launch. The difference? There's plenty of water in the big lakes to our south.

In this area, Lake Santa Fe remains a possibility with the help of trim-and-tilt and the St. John's River seldom runs terribly low. A high level is usually maintained at Rodman Reservoir — although it's presently on the way down for a scheduled dewatering.

Three weeks ago, the pool was plenty high and a big regional bass championship held Nov. 11-12 out of Kenwood Landing proved to locals that bigmouths can still be caught hereabouts. Nearly a hundred teams from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida competed in the Fishers of Men Southeast Region Championship. The Central Florida team of John Kremer and Daniel Lanier topped the field with a 10-bass, two-day catch that totaled 41.61 pounds. Their total surpassed the second-place team's weight by more than five pounds. Lanier and Kremer locked out of the reservoir and into the St. Johns where they fished worms on sand and shell bars to make the catch that netted them a 2012 Skeeter bass boat with a matching Yamaha engine.

Still, for now, inshore coastal waters offer the most dependable fishing in north Florida.

To find the bigger fish, most trout and redfish specialists are heading for rocky creeks (or the shell bars near their mouths) and slowly working minnow-imitating lures or jigs with grub tails. But lots of fish remain out in the wide open gulf.

Last Monday, Terry Nelson of Gainesville and Ralph Sheffield of Alachua located a big cluster of hungry sand trout out of Suwannee. The fishing friends have been catching redfish for weeks running, but with a fish fry coming up, they decided to try instead for the sand trout governed by neither size nor bag limit. At a deep spot just off Alligator Pass, Sheffield and Nelson anchored along with a dozen other boats and cast live shrimp, letting them settle onto a sandy dropoff. The fish were ganged up on the slope in water about 12 feet deep, and in just a couple of hours the men had 74 of the unspotted trout in their ice chest, enough to feed a hungry crowd.

Fishing out of Cedar Key last Sunday, Ryan Sullivan, Megan Ouellette and Kyle Good found speckled trout on a clear grass flat near Snake Key. They cast Gulp! shrimp set under popping corks to boat around 30 fish up to 18 inches, proving that a good many post-Thanksgiving trout yet linger on the shallower flats.

MacRae's Marina of Homosassa reports that trout and redfish action is excellent in many of the numerous creeks above and below the Homosassa River. And Saturday, an unnamed MacRae's customer drew a crowd when he docked with several nice flounder and six pompano. The Waccasassa report also remains positive, with trout scattered all around and anglers in airboats having no trouble finding reds in Waccasassa Bay creeks.

The folks at Sea Hag Marina seem to have the feeling that this chillier week will lower water temperatures sufficiently to push the speckled trout into the Steinhatchee River for the first time this season. Next Friday we'll let you know if they were right.

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

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