Chill in air makes for good fishing
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 3:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 3:26 p.m.
The initial chill of autumn always changes the fishing picture — and usually, for the better.
Certain angler favorites seem to relish the cooler conditions following months of enduring a sauna-hot Florida environment. In freshwater, the speckled perch (or crappie) comes immediately to mind. Their feeding always ramps up noticeably when things start to cool down.
At the same time, speckled trout numbers are growing fast in many tidal creeks along the Gulf Coast. Trout fishing always fires up following a plunge in temperature, when the cold-sensitive beauties usually move en masse into tidal creeks and rivers. The biggest group of trout arrives within the creek and river banks when their preferred grass flats become too cold for their liking.
Mackerel are chasing the season’s last southward migrations of baitfish schools. Mullet are “roeing up.”
Redfish gather to feed in coastal creeks and creek mouths, and around the shell bars near them. At one time, most anglers in this area didn’t think much about going after Waccasassa, Cedar Key or Suwannee reds until after the first fall frost.
Of course, things aren’t always inviting weather-wise when the cold fronts start rolling through the Sunshine State … and last weekend was a tough one to be on the water thanks to a late-season named storm.
Aside from the apparent angling challenges that strong winds bring, the weekend northeaster also pushed much of the water out of the Waccasassa River. Waccasassa can be a challenging place to navigate … even when the water is not unusually low. Late last week, before the effects of the passing storm were felt, the first good creek trout of the season were being seen here. C. W. Cates, for one, located a bunch of good specks while trying for redfish. The Citra angler took a five-trout limit of top-of-the-slot fish (near 20 inches) while casting shrimp in a Waccasassa Bay creek mouth.
Jeff and Jeffrey Schleede of Cedar Key fished with Jeff Ferrence of Gainesville last Saturday morning. In an attempt to escape the stiff wind, the three headed for a creek near Cedar Key. Once tucked into a reasonably protected spot, they cast jigs to haul in 15 or more redfish. In the big fish department, young Jeffrey, 6, outfished his dad and his “Uncle” Jeff, whipping four big slot reds.
Before the rough several-day spell kept fishers off the Steinhatchee flats, very good results were being reported almost daily at the Sea Hag Marina. Last Thursday, Ron Parsons of Delta, Ala., and Dan Willis of Carrollton, Ga., cast Gulp! baits in the pearl white color just a short distance out of the Steinhatchee River channel to bag a fine mix of speckled and sand trout and mackerel.
On the same day, Auburndale angler, Vance Eickard caught a 31-inch redfish in 5 feet of water just south of Steinhatchee. The oversize beauty took a strip of cut pinfish.
Friday, Wayne Mattox, Larry Bruce and Joe Bruce of Keystone Heights docked with an impressive catch that included several nice trout and mackerel and a few hefty reds. Joe claimed the top catch of the day with his 5-pound trout that nailed a Rapala Skitter Walk on a clear grass flat just a foot and a half deep.
Angling Steinhatchee locals feel that good fishing will resume quickly when the winds die a bit and the floating grass that often follows a spell of rough weather clears out.
Some freshwater fishers also managed to enjoy success in Saturday’s wind. University of Florida Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences professor Dr. Mike Allen and friends enjoyed a great day of fishing on the Santa Fe River. Allen, UF Fisheries faculty, Rob and Andrea Ahrens, and Olaf Jensen, visiting UF from Rutgers University, cast Texas-rigged soft plastic crawfish. Right away, Olaf and Andrea hooked Suwannee bass at the same time. Olaf’s was an especially large specimen, weighing all of 2¼ -pounds. Through the day, the four boated and released around 25 Suwannees — a great day of fishing for the seldom-seem bass species. Olaf undoubtedly headed back to New Jersey thinking the North Central Florida fishing is pretty good.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.