Fine fishing despite weather conditions
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 12:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 12:17 p.m.
A long string of warm January days, the likes of which we have seen so far this month, doesn’t come around often.
Some miss the cold while others celebrate its absence. Most anglers seem to agree the extended run of warmth and calm during a season that should bring wind and cold has made for unusually fine fishing.
The Newnan’s Lake speckled perch bite remained strong through the first part of this week. The shallows of the 5,000-plus acre lake just east of town have been crowded with fishers every day. And, surprisingly, their success has held up remarkably well. The speck spawn doesn’t always last this long, but there have been no harsh cold spells to push the fish back out into deeper water. A sightseer at Newnan’s Windsor boat ramp Monday afternoon reported watching a fisherman on the canal bank pull in several good-sized specks.
Good speck-catching tales are coming, too, from Lochloosa’s shallow lily pad beds. And Lake Santa Fe, comparatively silent until now, is starting to make some noise among speck seekers. The fish here, though, seem to be nowhere near the shallows.
Two Tuesday afternoons back, Herb Smith of Melrose was fishing alone on Santa Fe, drifting minnows in water 18 feet deep. It had been a slow day for the longtime speck specialist. He had caught eight good specks and a catfish when he hooked what he thought was another cat. When he got it to the surface, though, he saw that it was a monster crappie. After netting the prize, Smith measured it at 16.5-inches in length and 17 in girth. Back-to-belly, the speck was 8-inches deep. On his hand-held scale, the fish weighed three pounds, a rare specimen in this area. The lifelong slab seeker acknowledged that this might have been his largest speckled perch.
Terry and Shannon Hannah and Jimmy Higginbotham drifted minnows in Santa Fe last Sunday in water 20-to-22 feet deep. In addition to the six nice specks up to 14 inches they caught, the three fishers saw several packs of recently stocked sunshine bass chasing shad schools at the surface. One of the hybrids even found a minnow intended for specks down deep.
Bass action is excellent at Rodman Reservoir. Dozens of solid fish from five to seven pounds have been reported lately, but the largest I’ve heard about this year is Cajun Perry’s 9-pound, 3-ounce whopper. While fishing the reservoir Tuesday with Jack Hoke of Micanopy, Perry floated a live shiner to catch and release the beauty.
Saltwater results last weekend were impressive, as well.
Saturday, Frank McMeekin, Wilbur Hutchins and Terry Beckham took advantage of stellar weather to run offshore from Cedar Key. When they arrived at their fishing spot in water 50-feet deep, the Hawthorne trio found the mid-winter water temperature in the high 60s. Lowering frozen bait to the bottom, they found the fish to be hungry. Of about 50 red grouper they hauled in, six fish were nice keepers. Four stout but out-of-season gag grouper were also returned to the depths. A slew of black sea bass and pinkmouth grunts also made the trip back to port.
Ron and Dillon Rhodes and Dickie Cameron found similar success the same day. A productive spot in 46 feet of water produced five legal red grouper and a dozen catch-and-release gags including a fine 13-pounder that young Dillon whipped. Interestingly, Ron and Dillon said the spots they tried out deeper were notably less productive. “The fishing was better,” Dillon insisted, “in water under 50 than in water over 50-feet deep.” Gag grouper remain off limits to recreational anglers through June, and red grouper season ends at the end of this month.
The 5th Santa Fe Raider Slam held last Saturday out of Suwannee Marina benefited from exceptional weather — and the salt and freshwater fish likewise cooperated. Parker Dykes weighed in the winning speckled trout, a whopping 5.55-pounder; and Mark McKinney had the heaviest five-trout aggregate at 14.12. Jason Robertson’s chunky 8.48-pound redfish won in that category; and weighmaster Dennis Hart noted that “an amazing number of big reds were brought to the scales.” Ronnie Register won the bass aggregate with 8.34, while Lake Hart’s 4.36-pound largemouth was the best single bass. Because of the 110 entries it was the most successful Raider Slam yet.
The Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club will welcome Capt. Zachary Hoffman to its Tuesday meeting. Capt. Hoffman will offer his insights and tips on “Fishing Homosassa.” The club meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the New Lecture Hall of UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Go to gofc.us for more.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.