Feeding slab specks come out for between-peak season bite

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.

Squarely between the peak seasons for speckled perch and bluegill catching, panfish fans are relatively quiet these days. But last Thursday, when the Eastside Garden Club held its first Billy Evans Speck Tournament, some contestants proved that it’s not too late to find feeding slab specks.

The contest’s rules allowed members to fish on any lake they chose as long as they made it back to weigh-in on time. Prizes were to be given for the largest single speck and for the heaviest seven-speck aggregate. The anglers scattered throughout area waters, public and private.

Accomplished speck fisherman, Brian Roe picked Lake Alto, near Waldo. Slow-trolling Crappie Slider and Tail Gunner crappie jigs, he pulled in an eye-popping seven-fish limit. The smallest of the winning slabs weighed 1-pound, 10-ounces and the largest went 2-pounds 7-ounces.

The hybrid sunshine bass recently stocked into Santa Fe Lake are generating a good bit of excitement with fishing locals. The fish are busting shad schools at the surface around the lake … particularly during evening hours, and folks casting or trolling a variety of minnow-imitating lures are enjoying the newly-available action. The batch of fish they put in last year, the anglers say, weigh from a pound-and-a-half to two-and-a-half pounds. And, they occasionally encounter a hybrid striper remaining from stockings several years ago.

Slow-trolling Rapala Shad Raps last Thursday with Frank Homick, Harry Whitener hooked one of these older surviving hybrids. When the fast, powerful fish finally stopped taking drag, the veteran angler began working it back to the boat. Eventually the men boated a 12-pound 4-ounce sunshine — the largest taken in these parts in quite a few years.

Good weekend bass catches came from Santa Fe, Lochloosa, and Newnans Lakes; but Rodman Reservoir, featuring open bass tournaments each day, drew most bassing attention.

Saturday, the Gator Open attracted 27 teams; and the winner had an impressive five-bass limit weighing more than 25-pounds. Although Sunday’s tourney benefiting the Military Support Group of Alachua County dawned to ridiculous winds, 26 teams competed. Catches were lessened a bit in the bluster, and the winning limit weighed just over 18-pounds.

Gulf coast action is improving gradually, but chilly nights and persistent winds continue to slow the progress.

Fishing Friday in a creek between Suwannee and Shell Mound, Joseph Solenski cast his brand new spinning rod and reel, hoping it would draw a good first-ever bite. The Gainesville anglers’ wish was granted when his Gulp! shrimp was taken and his Cajun Thunder float disappeared. Following a tough tussle, Solenski’s fishing buddy, Conrad Chandler netted a well-oversize redfish. A quick photo later, the 30-inch beauty went back into the salt creek and the new rod and reel was christened.

Saturday offered gulf fishers breezy challenges; but Sunday was one of those March days that simply prohibits fishing anywhere that’s not wind-protected. Those able to fish the reefs hosting spawning sheepshead late last week, though, did considerable catching before the big blow came through.

Saturday, Troy and Elizabeth Gehrlich anchored on an artificial reef in water 27 feet deep off Cedar Key. The Gainesville couple dropped live shrimp to a cluster of hungry sheepshead … and they caught fish as fast as they could unhook them and get a bait back to the bottom. They boated around fifty fish, keeping a thirty-fish double limit that averaged 5-pounds. As if that wasn’t enough success, they stopped on Atsena Otie Key on the way back to the ramp to cast the shrimp left over from the sheepshead-catching melee. These accounted for two more keepers — both nice redfish.

Friday allowed Steinhatchee fishers at least one good Spring Break shot at fish. Fine sheepshead catches were common, and the Ed Salley Party from Atlanta cast Saltwater Assassin grubs to boat nine nice trout.

Chris Doering and Brandon Wood, also from Atlanta, drifted the clear grass flats while casting Gulp! shrimp in the New Penny color. Along with their good trout catch, they registered the year’s first reported Spanish mackerel in Steinhatchee waters. (We reported the first mack catches off Cedar Key in last week’s report).

And another seasonal ‘first’ was reported Friday by the Atlanta party of Brian Adams, Jason Carrington and Brian Perry. The trout and flounder catch they docked with was impressive…and it became more so when the trio told the Sea Hag Marina folks that the trout had busted Zara Spooks and Mirrolure She Dogs — the first reported topwater-caught trout of the year.

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

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