Rain helps produce good fishing
Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 12:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 12:35 p.m.
On the heels of a productive spring season in local freshwaters, hot weather has arrived to thin the crowds at boat ramps.
The one key element that keeps the bite going through the hot months is healthy rainfall. Last year was mercifully rainy. The first half of 2013 has also been reasonably wet, and the summer solstice arrives with freshwater anglers still able to find great fish-catching success through the long days.
Bluegill are bedding in Lochloosa and Newnans Lakes, and folks working the bonnet and grass beds with grass shrimp are pulling in lots of the scrappy copperheads. Another bream variety, the redbelly, is doing the same in the shallows on cool, clear rivers like the Suwannee, Santa Fe and Ocklawaha. They’re nabbing little diving lures, spinners and popping bugs best. A handful of speckled perch devotees still seem able to locate nice-sized fish by drifting or slow-trolling minnows or crappie jigs in Lochloosa’s deeper water. And, to their surprise, anglers are still finding a few bass on beds on the St. Johns River system — mostly on George and Crescent Lakes.
As promising as this all might sound, it is the Gulf Coast that continues to account for the best fish stories.
This has been a banner year for trout fishing, and big specimens can still be found on the shallower grass flats. Last Friday, Chase Norwood and Elliott McDavid cast Gulp! shrimp on the grass flats north of the Steinhatchee River. On one fortuitous drift they caught, photographed, and released speckled trout of 28 and 27 inches. The young anglers have also been consistently catching upper-slot redfish.
Jim DuBois fished last Thursday with friends visiting from Green Bay — Paul, Nolan and Keaton. DuBois took the displaced Packers to Cedar Key and Seahorse Reef. On the shallow spot best known for producing mackerel, the four found big numbers of speckled trout instead and filled a combined 20-fish limit, plus several spotless sand trout.
The Bobby Bounds crew from Gainesville has competed well in sizable tournaments out of Crystal River the last two weekends, coming up barely short of victory in each event.
The 29th Cobia Big Fish Tournament held on Memorial Day weekend filled its 200-boat maximum field for the umpteenth year running. Waldon Baillie had competed in the tourney for the previous 14 years without placing in the money. His 15th try was the trick. The Chiefland angler hooked, battled and boated a giant 72-pound, 7-ounce ling to win the popular event and its $7,000 first-place purse.
Bounds, his wife Sara, son Brian and Ed and Sherry Austin fished in the event’s grouper division. Catches were slim on the storm-scrambled gulf, but the Bounds team managed to haul in 11 legal red grouper and release several large gags. The largest of the ‘reds’, a 9.9-pound chunk, took second place. Then last weekend, Bobby and Brian fished with Daniel Webb and Dean Zetrouer in the ninety-boat Florida Law Enforcement Tournament, again out of Crystal River. On another rough day offshore, the Bounds team hauled in 10 red grouper. In this contest, teams weigh in their best four fish rather than the single-largest. Their top four weighed in at 32-pounds, good enough, again, for the second-place money.
Fans of various on-the-water sports are gearing up for a few upcoming seasonal opportunities. Red snapper season ends in the gulf after June 28, but gag grouper season starts on July 1st. Offshore anglers through recent weeks have commonly reported catching and releasing big numbers of big gags.
Gulf scallop season will likewise crank up July 1, and the Steinhatchee preseason reports sound good. Late last week, a group in a Sea Hag Marina rental boat took masks and snorkels to the clear grass flats north of the Steinhatchee River. They returned declaring the “scallops were everywhere.”
While nobody has delivered an early St. Johns River shrimp report, the first whispers that migrating shrimp have started their long swim toward Lake George usually start in early July.
The Fighting Gator Touchdown Club’s annual fishing tournament goes off Saturday out of Suwannee Cove. The popular tourney features cash and merchandise prizes in numerous categories (fresh and saltwater), entertainment at weigh-in, and a big fish fry (free for contestants). Sounds like plenty-good reason for a road trip to Suwannee Town.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.