Area Fishing Report: Season generates improved angling conditions

Gary Simpson
Outdoors Columnist

As daylight shortens and nights cool a bit, several elements of area fishing are strengthening.   

Among the opportunities that have apparently ramped up through the last couple of weeks are: speckled perch on Orange, Lochloosa and Newnans Lakes, bass on Orange, saltwater shrimp on the St. Johns River, Spanish mackerel on deeper gulf flats and reefs from Crystal River to Suwannee, and general action on the gulf flats. 

Saturday, Dale Reed took a friend and his two young sons to Yankeetown. They ran south to fish the flats near St. Martin’s Keys. Once there, they saw around a hundred boats already in the area. These seemed primarily to be scallopers getting in one more shellfish-collecting trip on the final weekend of scallop season there.   

Reed and his guests fished cut bait and squid on spots with hard bottom, catching a mix of species that was particularly pleasing to the boys. They kept count, and at day’s end, were proud to have amassed 13 different kinds of fish. These included grunts, mangrove snapper, redfish, whiting and a short grouper.

At one point, they hooked something heavy and followed it for about 20 minutes — hoping to see just what was on the line. The mystery combatant turned out to be a loggerhead turtle of more than 200 pounds. Upon seeing its identity, the anglers cut the line. The weather was even more ideal in the afternoon, and the boys joined the throng of St. Martin’s snorkelers to gather two gallons of scallops. 

The Lochloosa Division of the Xtreme Bass Tournament Series went out of Marjorie Rawlings Park last Saturday. Catches were outstanding — particularly those made by the top-finishing teams. Jody and Russell Davis docked with a solid 20.35-pound total. This was the day’s third-place catch … but is was good enough to secure for them the highest points total for the season. The Davis team earned 778 total points, edging Tom Morgan and Dale Kendrick’s 777.   

Joe Yarborough and Dewayne Moore filled a five-bass tournament limit Saturday that included two Orange Lake whoppers of 9.44 and 8.50 pounds. But their five-bass total of 26.62 was only good for second place.  

Accomplished bassing brothers, Johnny and Joey Key put a whopping 28.01-pound catch on the weigh scales. The winning bag of bass was made even more epic due to its giant anchor fish — an 11.60 pound Orange Lake beast that ranks as the heaviest Xtreme Series bass of the 2021 year.  

Perhaps even more talk centered around something that happened later the same day. About an hour after the Xtreme Tournament weigh-in, a waterspout formed on Orange Lake in McIntosh Bay. There are several good photographs and videos showing an amazingly large spout that lingered near (and atop) Redbird Island. When things settled down, a sizable chunk of floating vegetation that had long rested against Redbird had been relocated to Sampson Point. 

The Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club (GOFC) will start up its in-person meetings again Tuesday at Lecture Hall A of UF’s Vet School. On hand to speak will be Capt. Rick Ryals, host of Florida Sportsman Radio, co-host of Florida Sportsman’s Best Boat TV, and one of Northeast Florida’s most respected anglers. Capt. Rick has also authored and co-authored several books pertaining to fishing. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7:30. The public is invited and welcome.  For more, visit or phone Dale Reed (352) 215-5295. 

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