Be mindful of dealing with heat while fishing

Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.

It happened Sunday not far from the Georgia/Florida border on a pretty, bright day deep in a rainy summer.

On this day, no rain even threatened. The threat came from a hot weather foe known to the older generation of Florida residents as “the bear.”

Old friend Larry Lucas had driven to Gainesville at my invitation to fish a day … the first time we’d had a chance to fish together in years. We were eager to get after the stout fish that live in the Bienville Plantation’s private pits near White Springs. A lifelong angler who grew up catching bass in the Gainesville area, Larry has, over recent years, concentrated on the salty inshore waters near Daytona Beach. He relished the prospect of battling largemouths again.

We arrived at the Lake 14 boat ramp later than would have been ideal, making our first casts a couple of hours after sunrise. As usual, the Bienville fishing was good. We cast, cranked and flipped out around 20 largemouths; and Larry was really digging it.

Early in the afternoon, he mentioned that his voice sounded strange to him … like he was “in a barrel.”

It was really hot and still, but the bites kept coming and we kept casting. An hour later, he said he was having a little trouble breathing. And that’s when I got it, this could be serious. I immediately idled back to the boat ramp and we walked to the truck. That’s when I first felt lightheaded myself. In front of wide-open vents blowing cold air, I glanced up at the rear view mirror that showed an outside temperature of 98 degrees.

In the vernacular of the old Florida Cracker, my buddy “came a whisker of being bear caught.” And, looking back, I think the beast was right on my heels, too.

We had gone through several bottled waters, but still, the heat had almost had its way with a couple of old fishermen.

I have flirted with the early stages of severe overheating a few times before. Each time I’ve somehow managed to keep it from disabling me altogether. In fact, I guess many of us have tales to tell of heat stroke or narrow escapes from it. Our fishing trip turned out to be a great one, but things might have easily gone the other way. I hope this cautionary tale will keep us all mindful of the bear that lurks in the summer swelter.

In spite of the heat, our freshly refilled lakes beckon. But with the moon right between its new and full phases, few congregations of bedding bream were found this week. Of course, that’s not to say that no one enjoyed panfishing success.

Last Sunday, Mike and Alicia Bass fished out of Twin Lakes Fish Camp at the Lochloosa end of Cross Creek. Around the Little Lochloosa lily pads, the Cross Creek couple cast live grass shrimp with light tackle to bag 48 big bluegills and shellcrackers. They also hauled in a couple of nice speckled perch and bass. Not bad at all, but a more favorable moon phase this weekend promises to offer better congregations of panfish.

Twin Lakes is again able to rent boats to go to Lochloosa, and their long-dry boat ramp can again be utilized. Camp owners, Jeff and Michelle Septer, report that airboaters have been traversing Cross Creek and also accessing Orange Lake from the Marjorie K. Rawlings Park. These are the first vessels opening trails in the tall vegetation that, hopefully, will later be usable by boats with outboards. It will be really nice to get out onto Orange again.

Saltwater fishing often toughens considerably in August, but this has been a fine year for speckled trout action, and the trout fishing is still pretty good. Nice catches remain standard fare on the deep grass flats from Crystal River to Cedar Key, and even the considerably darker flats north of Cedar Key also continue to produce.

Capt. Brad Riddle’s Saturday party enjoyed a good number of trout bites on the grass flats near Steinhatchee. Alex, Olivia, and Savannah Harris and their dad, Greg bounced jigs with Gulp! shrimp over the bottom to nail around 40 trout. They took the nine best fish back home to Jacksonville.

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

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