AREA FISHING REPORT
Reeling for Kids avoids brunt of Andrea's force
Published: Friday, June 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 11:05 p.m.
It was a close call, but Doug Johnson's 10th Reeling for Kids Tournament dodged the initial volley of the 2013 storm season. For a while, it seemed that the Big Bend's biggest fishing bash might not go off at all.
Tournament Director Capt. Wiley Horton didn't make the call until the evening before its scheduled start. And when he did give the green light to anglers, it was with the newly placed rule that boats in competition could not leave port until 6 a.m. Friday. In previous years, competitors could leave port in Friday's wee hours to be on their fishing spots when the first cast could be taken at 6 that morning. The delay, Capt. Wiley reasoned, would put anxious anglers six more hours past the worst conditions.
The Steinhatchee-area waters that Tropical Storm Andrea had occupied less than a day earlier remained fairly rough through Friday. By Saturday, though, the weather had settled nicely — even allowing entrants in the Offshore division to easily run out deep. The inshore group dealt with large areas of churned-up water and floating sea grasses that seemed to be everywhere, both fish-catching detriments.
Still, capable contestants managed to take some fine catches to the weigh-in dock at The Estuary.
The open-fish category always produces some of the largest fish seen at weigh-in and this was again the case. Cephas Christian brought in a barracuda weighing 23.60-pounds and Matt Booker barely topped that weight with a 23.94 black drum. The category winner, though, was another 'cuda — a 31.95-pounder taken by the Michael Lodge team.
In the hotly contested trout division, Brett Brantley had a 4.30-pound fish, Mark Crews weighed a fine 5.10 and Ashley Mock took a 6.05 beauty that would send his team on its way to Friday's “Trout Stringer” and overall inshore victory. Redfish winners were Mark Crews with a 6.7-pound third-place fish, Shawn Simmons and his second-place 7.15-pounder and Mark Brady's stocky 7.90-pound heavyweight of legal length.
The third designated inshore species, the Spanish mackerel, was in short supply both days. Bo Dudley's 1.85 Spanish was good enough for third place, and Chuck Willis' 2.05-pounder was the second-best mack. Ritch DeVoe blew the mackerel field away with his respectable day two 4.30-pounder.
Cobia were neither considered an inshore nor an offshore species, but the two stout examples that were weighed still earned their captors nice paychecks.
Greg Fleming hauled in a 31.10 and Kyle Keene boated the best ling — a 37.20-pound fish.
Despite rough conditions through almost half of the tournament, offshore anglers actually scored quite well. The three winning kingfish were all impressive specimens. Ray Hedgecock's king weighed 36.90 and Michael Lodge bettered that with a 39.30. Mike English, though, took the top king money with his 42.25 “smoker.”
The Red Grouper category saw the tightest margins. Michael Lodge, Mike English and John Fridi took the winning fish weighing in at 14.20, 14.50 and 14.60, respectively.
The colorful red snappers are always crowd pleasers at weigh-in. Kyle Keene had the No. 3 snapper at 12.95, Ray Hedgecock's 14.05 was the second-best fish and John Fridi solidly won the division with an 18.60-pound beauty.
The biggest RFK prizes are the masters championships. To claim these bragging rights, the inshore teams would add the individual weights of their best trout, red and Spanish to arrive at their masters total.
The masters score for offshore entrants is the total of the team's heaviest red grouper, red snapper and kingfish.
With Spanish mackerel so scarce, any team able to catch all three inshore species was in the running. Team Jae Arnold's three-fish total of 8.8 pounds was sufficient for third place. Team Chuck Willis' trio weighed in at 9.65. And Team Ashley Mock's worthy 13.45-pound total (6.15 red, 6.05 trout, 1.25 Spanish) easily earned them the masters Inshore championship.
Close competition in the masters offshore was again the rule. Always competitive, Team Ray Hedgecock had a nice offshore trio that weighed in at 58.50. Team Michael Lodge scored an impressive 65.95. But it was Team Mike English that claimed the biggest Reeling for Kids prize with their 11.1 red snapper, 14.5 red grouper and 42.25 kingfish totaling 67.85.
Ninety-eight intrepid teams, great sponsorship and an experienced crew led by Laura Javidi helped to again to make the Reeling for Kids Tournament a huge success.
Even Mother Nature stepped aside for the top fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.