Tournaments abound despite peculiar weather


Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 12:07 a.m.

Just as anglers were celebrating the arrival of finally stable late spring weather, last weekend delivered unsettled conditions that encompassed chilly, rainy, windy, bright, and hot.

And, of course, the peculiar spell of weather had to fall on the weekend of the Builders Association of North Central Florida’s 49th Annual Family Fun Fishing Tournament.

Held at Crystal River, this unique contest maintains a focus on family that sets it apart from other fishing events.

The Saturday weigh-in at the Plantation Inn saw lots of bright-eyed youngsters proudly lugging their catches to the weigh scales. Erica Rooney had a catfish, Briley Cauthen boated a ladyfish, and Evan Bolton snagged a sheepshead. The Crystal River Spanish mackerel were in good supply and the young fishers took full advantage. Trinity Bolton, Kaleb Payne, R.J. Rooney, and Cade Billings all entered macks. Trout were likewise willing. Ava Howard, Mathew Howard, Joseph Cauthen, Blake Crosier, and Kayla Clark all caught and entered trout. In fact, at 2.8 and 3.1 lbs. respectively, young Blake and Kayla each weighed in a trout larger than any the adult anglers were able to find. Not to be outdone too badly by the junior anglers, several of the adult winners also had impressive catches. The team of Mark Crews, Hazen Ogden, and Nicholas Wilson put together the only full, ten-fish tournament limit of speckled trout, winning rather easily with a 17.3-lbs. total. Jason Evans had the top single trout at 2.7 lbs.

Nicholas Wilson weighed the best redfish (6.1 lbs.), while Martin and Chris Krpan and Josh Creamer had the heaviest two-red tourney limit at 9.8 lbs.

Chris Short won in the Spanish mackerel category with a 4.3-lbs. fish, and Mark Hurm’s 7.4-lbs. catch topped the kingfish division. It must have been a rough day offshore, but the team of Josh Dixon, Wes Emmanuel, Chris Short, and Ken Waite bagged three red grouper that together weighed 23.7 lbs. to win in that category. Chris’ 9.8-lbs. chunk was the best single fish.

Wilson, Ogden, and Crews prevailed with the heaviest “Inshore Slam”. Their best single trout, redfish, and Spanish mackerel trifecta weighed in at 9.6 lbs.

The same day, Steinhatchee hosted the big annual Optimist Club of Perry Tournament. If the weather was equally challenging that far up the gulf coast, then the considerable contrast in results likely reflects something that most inshore gulf anglers already knew — the Steinhatchee area is offering the hottest Big Bend action.

The Optimist tournament’s largest speckled trout, taken by Michael Aman, weighed all of 6.65 lbs. And this whopper was not the winner by a very large margin…Kyle Blue had a 6-lbs. trout and Steve English weighed a big 5.7-lbs. catch. Winning redfish also were impressive. Candace Driggers of Palatka boated the best fish at 7.5; while Brittany Gonzalez took the second-place red at 7.11 lbs.

In the Under 18 category, Haley Jones had the top trout at 4.6 lbs., Chase Norwood’s 3.6 was next-best, and Thomas Hudson finished third with a 3.5-lbs. fish. The young Optimist anglers also had some good redfish, topped by Elliott McDavid’s 6.45-lbs. catch and Hunter Logue’s 6.38.

Curiously, not a single cobia was entered in either the Crystal River or the Steinhatchee tournament.

When I phoned the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee Wednesday, Richard McDavid’s first words were: “We’re seeing tons of trout”. And just a few minutes later, Robbie Baker came in the shop with his own trout tale. The young Gainesville angler took his friend, Cheyanne Dunnam of Trenton to Horseshoe Beach Tuesday. It was breezy and rainy early, but bright by midday. Casting Gulp! shrimp under Cajun Thunder floats, they caught a nice double-limit of trout that included a pair of stout fish over 20 inches and released better than 40 smaller trout along the way.

Former game warden Bob H. Lee will introduce his new book, “Backcountry Lawman: True Stories from a Florida Game Warden,” on May 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Chiappini’s Gulf Station (general store, gas station and bait shop) located at the intersection of Hwy. 21 & 26 in Melrose.

Lee, who shows a flair for marketing, will have on hand to sign with him Roger Gunter, whom he calls the “most notorious poacher in Putnam County” and a notable character in the book.

Published by the University Press of Florida, Backcountry Lawman is a select volume in the Florida History and Culture Series. To learn more visit the author’s website at bobhlee.com or call (386) 972-2690.

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

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