Big Bend reefs produce nice catches

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.

Saturday offered anglers just what they’d been waiting for — a window of nice weekend weather. Fresh and saltwater anglers had been declaring they could surely work on the fish if they could just get to their spots and present baits effectively. And given that chance, a good many backed up their claims.

Among the happiest weekend fish catchers were the folks who visited natural and artificial reefs off the Big Bend coast where the sheepshead spawn has quickly gone from spotty to wide open.

Saturday out of Steinhatchee, Capt. Tommy Hines fished with fellow Newberry anglers, Trevor Bass, Zach Ashcroft and Robbie Pearce. The four headed out of Steinhatchee and ran offshore to a sunken vessel in water 30-feet deep. With live pinfish, they caught hard-fighting amberjacks of 42 and 28 pounds. Then, tightlining shrimp on the bottom, the anglers proceeded to boat 24 sheepshead topped by an 11-pound, 2-ounce whopper.

Along with son, Matthew, and grandson, Logan, Capt. Gary Shine likewise found plentiful sheepshead off Steinhatchee last Saturday. Also aboard Capt. Gary’s 32 Proline were Buddy Arendall and David McCullers. The five fishers headed out in a damp, early chill, but the seas were plenty manageable at less than two feet. On a reef 10 miles off the river mouth, the group “caught all the sheepshead they wanted to clean,” boxing 43 good fish from four to eigh to pounds. And six-year-old Logan more than held his own, hauling in about 15 of the stout battlers.

As the near-shore shallows warm over the next few weeks, trout and redfish catches should increase fast. Steinhatchee captains Don Campbell and Brad Riddle were having early morning coffee Saturday at Fiddler’s, and naturally talking fishing. Neither of the guides had a party that day, and Don said, “Let’s go.” A little while later they were slipping through the shallows in Don’s flats boat on the way to a creek not far from the river. Casting Saltwater Assassin jigs, the inshore pros enjoyed filling a double limit of speckled trout from 16 to 19 inches long.

Speckled perch action in local lakes might be on the wane, but the best crappie specialists do continue to find and catch good fish still in spawning territory. Ren Gallon and Andy Hadsock fished Newnan’s Lake last Saturday, casting little Road Runners and chartreuse-tailed grubs set a few inches beneath small floats. Using light spinning tackle, they cast these near weedy mats standing in a couple of feet of water. And as they have for two months, the Gainesville fishermen caught a big bunch of specks. Of 70 total fish, they released all but the 20 largest.

Rodman Reservoir remains the area’s No. 1 producer of great bass fishing. Gainesville bassers Robbie Baker and Stephen Jahn launched at Kenwood Landing early Saturday. Rodman might just be the best nearby water for catching bass with the relatively new Alabama Rig (aka umbrella rig) — and the young anglers quickly found further proof of that fact. Robbie’s first strike on his A-rig turned out to be a nice 4-pound, 8-ounce bass. The next fish weighed 4-02 before its release. The next two largemouths to nail the multi-lure rig went 3-08 and 5-12. And this all happened before 9 a.m.

Local fishing club, the Bassmasters of Gator Country, held its monthly tournament last Sunday on Lochloosa. Special bass regulations on the lake a few miles south of Hawthorne limited participants to a daily three-fish maximum — and the top five finishers all had their three bass at weigh-in. No huge fish were taken, but nice, solid limits were the rule. Chris Heron’s three weighed in at 7.65-pounds and second-place Steven Dose had three that went 6.78. Dennis Hart’s catch weighed 6.59, Bob Heron bagged three for a 6.20 total and Travis Blucher finished with 5.81. With combined weight of 12.59, Blucher and Dose won the “Boat Pot” money. Dose’s 4.17-pounder was the single largest fish of the tournament.

Remember to stop by Gary’s Tackle Box on Monday, between 4 and 7 p.m. to let Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff know your thoughts regarding the management of bass in Florida. This will be the local stop of the FWC’s opinion-gathering swing through the state, and your input could affect future bass laws.

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

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