Go to fresh waters for good catches
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 9:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 9:03 a.m.
I missed compiling last week's fishing report for The Sun because I was on Lake Okeechobee competing in the season opener of the EverStart Southeast Series.
Figured that after several years away from higher-level bass tournament competition I'd give it another try. I'd find out, at least, if I still had any game up against a field of really good anglers. I finished 91st out of 169 and hope the poor result isn't my final answer.
Largely on the strength of an incredible Day Two five-bass limit weighing 35 pounds, 7 ounces (anchored by a 10 ½ pound whopper), Brandon Medlock of Lake Placid claimed the win and better than $35 grand in prize money.
Among local fishermen, Keith Fels of Ocala claimed the third-place paycheck, while Jeff Fitts of Keystone Heights also helped to uphold the collective reputation of North Florida anglers with a 10th-place finish. Another Keystone Heights angler, Vince Parker, scored a fine fourth-place finish on the co-angler side.
Back to local fishing.
This is the season when most North Florida fishers usually focus on fresh waters. Bass and speckled perch have an eye on spawning in the shallows, and fishing for those two favorites can be exceptional in late January and all of February. This year, though, the question is, “where”? A long run of too-dry weather has the usual productive zones high and dry. Some of our favorite lakes are altogether out of play.
Even in these conditions, the fish will find places to spawn, but it seems that this will be a good season to have a smaller, more maneuverable vessel capable of accessing shallow water and tougher-to-negotiate boat ramps.
Lakes Santa Fe and Sampson still offer access via at least one ramp. And the Harris Chain of Lakes near Leesburg, several sites along the St. Johns River, and a drawn-down Rodman Reservoir remain good possibilities for the area crappie or bass fisher.
In a driving rain two Wednesdays ago, Art Pina got off track while running the lowered reservoir and ran aground between Kenwood and Orange Springs. The Gainesville angler didn't stray from the channel just a little, he ran no less than 200 feet into water far too shallow before his bass boat came to an abrupt stop. After stepping out into the mud and sand, Pina found he could not budge the Ranger. His friends, Charlie Hagler and Jason Howe were fishing nearby, but even the combined lengths of rope they had aboard would not reach the embarrassed basser. Fortunately about that time Shaw Grigsby, who happened to be enjoying the Rodman fishing that day, arrived at the scene. The added length of Shaw's rope finally reached Art's boat, and Shaw's powerful Mercury soon pulled the stuck vessel back into navigable water.
As a nice post script to the story, Art Pina returned to Rodman last Sunday and had a great bass-catching day. Casting Texas-rigged plastic worms, he boated and released 15 nice largemouths, including a pair of 5-pounders.
Most inshore anglers have reported scant redfish and trout action along the Gulf Coast. Joey and Joseph Yarborough of Orange Heights and Josh Mitchell of Gainesville found similar fare last Friday at Suwannee for much of the day. That afternoon, however, the three men located fish in a big way. Anchored over a hole in near the river mouth and fishing shrimp on the bottom, they hauled in 40 good reds up to 27-inches, a few black drum and a couple of big sheepshead. They kept their three reds, and if they can find another such spot after Feb. 1, they'll be able to harvest six of legal length.
Another good fish-catching opportunity is not too far off the Gulf Coast. Several fishers came in early this week saying they caught lots of big black sea bass in water 25-to-35 feet deep. Sounds like good catches of the tasty and always-hungry sea bass in the one-to-two pound range can be made without much trouble. In the gulf, only black sea bass at least 10-inches long can be kept.
The red grouper whose daily limit in the gulf was just increased from 2 to 4 fish at least 20-inches long are still biting well farther offshore. Good weekend grouper catches were made out of most gulf ports in water 35 to 65 feet deep by anglers happy to take advantage of the outstanding weather.
John Stork, Jane Inouye, Adam Means and Shorty the dog ran off Suwannee on Monday to small areas with hard bottom in water 65 feet deep. They anchored and dropped frozen baits to the structure. In just an hour and a half, they filled a triple limit — a dozen chunky red grouper.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Trim.
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