FISHING REPORT

Rainy season has ups, downs for anglers


Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 12:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 12:43 p.m.

In a state that has seen far more rainfall deficit than surplus over the last two decades, you have to see the ongoing early summer wet spell as a good thing.

But even such a needed blessing as a rainy season can come with downsides for fans of outdoor sports.

Scallopers, for instance, were chomping at the bit just ahead of the shellfishing season. Scouting trips revealed multitudes of mollusks sitting atop the shallow sea grasses in the clear shallows throughout the Steinhatchee area — just waiting to be harvested. Then a few soggy weeks has salinity and clarity reduced in some of those spots.

Folks eagerly anticipating the summertime run of saltwater shrimp up the St. Johns River are feeling concerned, knowing that big rains can delay, or even halt, the big crustacean migration.

For our freshwater lakes, at least, lots of rain is almost entirely a positive. The soggy summer in North Central Florida has lakes that live or die by runoff looking pretty high and healthy. By contrast, the water bodies that rise only when the underground waters beneath them do the same have shown far less upward movement.

Santa Fe Lake is one of the very-full area water bodies.

In last week’s Bald Eagle Bait and Tackle Wednesday night tournament on Santa Fe lake, Wayne Geiger and Zack Smith already had a good catch in their livewell when, with only 15 minutes to fish, the big bite of the night came. The hard-to-beat Keystone Heights team hooked the 8-pound, 1-ounce lunker with a topwater lure … and boated it barely in time to make the 9 p.m. weigh-in. Their total catch of 14-10 topped the 22-team field.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday offered anglers a generally stable and storm-free chance to run offshore for the first time since the season opened July 1 in most of the Gulf of Mexico for gag grouper. Some didn’t have to go far. One of the areas that often holds near-shore grouper is the last half-mile or so of the Cross Florida Barge Canal, near Crystal River and Yankeetown. A few anglers this week have mentioned finding keeper grouper just a hop and a skip offshore in the dredged cut. Gainesville’s Myles Lineberger and Dennis Cray of Dunnellon were in one of the boats trolling Mann’s Stretch lures in the canal Monday morning. Along with six unusually large black sea bass to 16 inches, they picked up a half dozen gags including three nice keepers up to 26 inches.

Scallop season is in full swing, and excellent reports have come from nearly everyone shell-searching on the clear Homosassa-to-Crystal River grass flats. The popular scalloping zone that runs north from Horseshoe Beach all the way to Keaton Beach also has plenty of shellfish. Thanks to the recent heavy rainfall, there are some areas near Steinhatchee where darkened water has made the search tougher. South of the river, the long stretch from Sink Creek to Pepperfish Keys has retained good clarity and is producing well. To the north from Steinhatchee, the area between the “Birdrack” and Grassy Island is holding great numbers of scallops and producing easy limits.

Visiting from Punta Gorda, young Trent Brown caused quite a buzz among Steinhatchee anglers. It happened Sunday, when the pinfish the 14-year-old cast from a boat moored at the Sea Hag Marina’s dock was taken by a ridiculously large fish that soon cleared the water with a gill-rattling leap. While line melted from the spool of his reel, a family member fired the engine and fell in behind the fast-running giant. After an epic, hour-and-a-half battle witnessed by many, the young angler has the fish at boatside — a huge tarpon that some estimated to be as heavy as 170 pounds.

The Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club’s July meeting will feature veteran Keaton Beach guide, Capt. Pat McGriff of One More Cast Charters. Capt. Pat will offer some summertime trout-catching tricks. The club meets at the UF Vet School, doors open at 7 p.m., and visitors are welcome. Go to http://gofc.us for more.

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

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