FWC projects leave anglers with bass fishing hot spots

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 6:34 p.m.

Area freshwater fishers and boaters will be pleased to learn that The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has completed work to create a sediment dump at one end of the canal connecting Rowell and Sampson Lakes, near Starke.

Intended to trap suspended runoff flowing from Rowell (and Alligator Creek above it), the dredging at the Sampson end of the canal resulted in the removal of 750 cubic yards of material from a shallow sand bar that had long given boaters a hard time.

Along with the sediment-trapping benefit, the FWC's work effectively turned a tough-to-navigate stretch into an open entrance onto Sampson Lake.

Anglers who have already visited the lakes since the reopening of the boat ramp say that the bass fishing is excellent in both; and that there is now four feet of water where their boats scrubbed bottom a few weeks back.

Now, another project is about to commence.

Seeking to restore its once-great reputation among anglers, the FWC is set to completely renovate Suwannee Lake. The 63-acre lake just east of Live Oak will be drained, de-mucked, and partially dredged.

To prevent the waste of good fish, the FWC announced Tuesday that all size and bag limits are temporarily eliminated on Suwannee Lake — and they even outlined the approved use of some dip nets for harvesting fish that will be trapped by the falling water.

They stress, however, that folks looking to take part in the rare unrestricted fish-gathering opportunity do still need to possess a valid Florida freshwater fishing license.

Suwannee Lake's dewatering has begun, and the lake level is already down more than a foot. The rainy weekend ruined a lot of fishing and scalloping plans, but it has been a great boon to local lakes and freshwater fishing.

Even before the heaviest rains fell, weekend bass tournaments on Rodman Reservoir and the Bienville Plantation saw some mighty impressive catches.

Daniel Robertson and Steven Keith fished in a 40-boat open tournament at Rodman on Saturday which was run by the Bay Area Bassmasters from Tampa. At 1 p.m., things weren't looking too good for the Gainesville anglers who had just one fish in their livewell.

But their fortune shifted quickly when the fish they targeted under matted vegetation became suddenly active. By weigh in time at 3 p.m., the duo had a five-fish limit weighing 22.18 lbs. Equally impressive was the contest's largest single bass — a 10.80-lbs. brute boated by the Ocala team of Chad and Isack Dorland.

The same day, Gainesville's Thomas Jones and his son, Taj, competed in another Rodman open.

They won with better than 19 lbs., but it was the biggest bass of the day that the Jones men will remember — a 10.99-pound Rodman giant that fell for Thomas' one-ounce Gambler jig.

And another open boat tournament held Saturday on a famous and exclusive fishing destination likewise yielded outstanding results.

In the Big Bass Blast Tournament Series at the Bienville Plantation near White Springs, each team's daily limit is just three bass, making sizable fish a must.

The Gainesville team of Keith Chapman and Don Bunting filled the needed trio of heavyweights. Bunting and Chapman docked with three seven-pound beauties totaling 21.28 lbs. “It's a good day”, Chapman quipped, “when you cull a five-and-a-half pounder.”

Indeed. Saturday's event was the first of six monthly Bienville qualifying tourneys. A lucrative January Classic awaits the top qualifiers.

Just-opened seasons for gag grouper and scallops make the Gulf of Mexico an obvious best bet for the outdoors-minded Independence Day Weekend crowd. But, at this writing, there have been precious few windows of good scalloping weather … and even fewer decent chances for grouper seekers to run offshore.

The relatively few who have gotten after the scallops so far seem to feel that the shellfish crop is better this year than last.

At Sea Hag Marina on the Steinhatchee River, Richard McDavid says that most customers have been able to fill limits in short order.

But the bivalves are not just everywhere. “The best areas seem to be near the first ‘birdrack' about nine miles north of the river,” he said, “or at least five miles to the south from Sink Creek to Pepperfish Keys.”

With the water less clear there, the shellfishing is not as good very near the Steinhatchee River mouth.

Folks leaving out of Pete's Pier Marina at Crystal River are also having little trouble finding scallops. On the clear Crystal River grass flats, plenty of shellfish can be found shallow or deep — but the bigger bivalves seem to be out in four-to-six feet of water.

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

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