Younger anglers applying new fishing cliches

Published: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 12:24 a.m.

Fishing is often regarded as a sport that does not necessarily favor younger participants. Still, it seems that lately, very young anglers are catching a considerably larger share of the fish. Some successful tournament anglers don't look to be old enough to drive.

Youth has always claimed keener senses and greater stamina — but we grizzled casters have experience on our side. Unfortunately for us, some long-held fishing truths aren't necessarily so these days. The old patterns and rules of thumb seem less relevant every year.

For instance, savvy locals always counted on speckled perch to move into shallow spawning cover just ahead of the full moon in February. Sure, weather conditions could alter the timing of the speck spawn a couple of weeks ahead or behind the moon — but seldom by more than that.

This season, considerable numbers of specks were in Newnans Lake spawning territory by Christmas.

Saltwater fishers expected a mass exodus of speckled trout from too-cold flats sometime during December. Some of the trout, we figured, went to slightly warmer farther offshore, while many slid into deeper gulf creeks and rivers.

By February, the trout remaining in these tidal backwaters had been pretty thinned out by anglers ... and a new crop of fish was unlikely to arrive until mid-March or so. Many experienced inshore Big Bend fishers ranked February dead last for speckled trout action. And that's why, when the ‘spotted seatrout' were put off limits in local gulf waters during February several years back, nobody minded too much. This year anglers are pleased that there is no February closure since this happens to be a way-above-average late winter season. Through back-to-back mild winters, the trout were never really forced to leave the flats for more than a few days.

Anglers in shallow-draft boats continue to find both redfish and speckled trout in and near gulf creeks. Carl Cataudella and Louis Wynn fished creeks in Waccasassa Bay Sunday, casting jigs with white Gulp! shrimp. The Gainesville men didn't have a lot of bites, but the fish they did entice were impressive. The best redfish they boated, photographed, and released was a well-over-slot 10-pounder and a whopping 28-inch trout also fell for the scented shrimp lures.

Near-shore flats with darker bottoms are still producing big trout out of Horseshoe Beach and Steinhatchee.

Stan Mitchell docked at the Sea Hag Marina Tuesday with a good-looking catch of trout and redfish on ice. The visitor from the Atlanta area fooled his fish in the Steinhatchee shallows with Mirrolure Catch 2000 lures.

Sheepshead fans from Suwannee to Steinhatchee are checking offshore artificial reefs as often as conditions allow for the big spawners that could arrive any day. To date, few have found any fish at all, but this can change quickly.

Black sea bass and pinkmouth grunts are sure in place and hungry a short distance from port. Tuesday, Monty and Cole McWilliams and Sonny McFarland Made a ten-mile run out of the Steinhatchee River to water 35-feet deep. The squid and cut bait the Knoxville anglers dropped to the bottom produced a cooler full of fish fry stock.

The windy cold front that made fishing tough for B.A.S.S. Southern Pro anglers on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes late last week also limited local catches. Only anglers working the most productive bass fishery in this area scored impressively. Most of the teams competing in the Xtreme Bass Series tourney on Rodman Reservoir reported excellent fishing days. Some said they caught more than fifty fish. Tommy Studstill and Vince Edmonds had the best bass-catching day of them all. The Gainesville team's five-bass tournament limit weighed in at just over 23 pounds, and was anchored by a 9.6-pound beauty. And only one heavier 5-bass limit was seen through three days of high-level competition on the Kissimmee Chain.

Last Friday, Bruce Smith and Claude Sealy fished Newnans Lake through midday, casting minnows and chartreuse crappie jigs set under small floats around shallow cover. Just as they have for a few weeks running, the Gainesville fishermen found nice-sized specks, putting 42 slabs on ice. Even though such good catches are yet being seen, specks in the grass, pads, and brush of some local lakes do seem to be thinning out a bit. A longtime observer might predict that, with mid-February at hand, the shallow speck bite will only improve. And it could, indeed ... but I wouldn't count on it this year. “Cause the times they are a' changin”.

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

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