As temperatures fall, good speckled perch catches are rising in area lakes. Jeff Septer headed out from his Twin Lakes Fish Camp Wednesday morning along with Sam Mooney. Instead of taking the short route into Lochloosa, Septer took a right and idled through Cross Creek into Orange Lake. When the anglers started slow-trolling crappie jigs and minnows, there were already a few other boats drifting and trolling Orange’s mid-lake depths. In water 7-to-9 feet deep the bites came quickly. Before long, they had pulled in more than 50 specks. At 10:00 a.m., the men headed back for Cross Creek with the 21 biggest slabs aboard.
While speck takes are improving, bass action seems to have generally toughened.
Saturday, the 38th Annual Gator Open bass tournament saw 31 teams converge on Kenwood Landing, with Rodman Reservoir and the rest of the reachable St. John’s River system in play for them to locate winning bass. The St. John’s, though, was still swollen and dark from Hurricane Matthew. In the week ahead of the contest, the Rodman bass bite had, too, slowed. As it all shook out, the top catches came from the reservoir…and near the take-off point. Johnny Key and Justin Bennett bagged five Rodman bass that totaled 14.26 pounds to win. Keith Chapman, fishing alone and without the benefit of a working outboard, hauled in a 5-bass limit weighing 12.20—-good for second place.
Fishing is a sport as directly affected by weather as any. Major weather events always force anglers to shift, adjust, and sometimes just wait for better days.
Considering the life-changing damage and devastation brought by Hurricane Matthew, it seems almost disrespectful to speak of the comparatively insignificant fishing concerns. But then, that’s what we do in this space.
Those looking to fish along Florida’s east coast from around Flagler Beach, northward, will probably see an unfamiliar landscape when they return to their fishing spots following the buzz-sawing the coast received from Hurricane Matthew.
Photo: Terry Bone
By this weekend, things could be very different in many ways….but, in the days ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, things had turned decidedly for the better for gulf anglers.
Although it had been unseasonably hot, last week we speculated that the collective internal clock of the Spanish mackerel should have them arriving in the spots off Cedar Key and Suwannee, where they linger on their spring and fall runs to ambush baitfish schools. A week ago, though, we had received no solid word that this had happened.
Gainesville angler, Steve Beeland phoned early this week to confirm that the macks had, indeed arrived—-and in a big way. A longtime mackerel angler, Beeland had visited Seahorse Reef two Wednesdays back along with friends, J. B. Thompson and Gerald Preston of Archer and fellow Gainesville angler, Quin King. When they arrived, the four fishermen found perfect conditions on the reef—-clear water, lots of baitfish, diving birds, and surface crashes. They trolled Wahoo Floreo-style jigs and hooked up steadily. The marauding mackerel were unusually large. Beeland said he and his friends kept a good mess of the mackerel they boated….25 Spanish “as big as any I’ve ever caught”. For perspective, Beeland added that the 25 fish “and a bit of ice” filled a 100-quart Igloo chest.
A month after Hurricane Hermine dumped crazy rain on the Big Bend coast, inshore shallows remain dark. For anglers, that should be a big negative. However, countering the effects of decreased salinity and visibility, incredible numbers of baitfish have packed into the now-cooler near shore waters. So, which trumps the other for anglers? Most say that bites were tough to come by for the first couple of weeks after the big rains. But over recent days, it would appear that the gigantic baitfish schools have won out in drawing feeding fish.
Friday, Billy Ward and Davis Sparks fished the gulf near the mouth of the Suwannee River. The tide was high and baitfish schools teemed at the surface when the Gainesville men arrived on a favorite shell bar. As soon as they started casting, they saw that redfish were abundant, too. While the tide fell over the next two hours, reds took their lures regularly. The anglers boated and released 25 fish of legal length, plus a half dozen ‘shorts’. To boot, a big cobia took a plug cast alongside the shell bar, showing itself clearly before its line-breaking departure.
The calendar says that it’s time for gulf mackerel. But unusually hot late-September weather seems to have delayed their full arrival. Cooler nights will likely change that quickly. Expect to see good stories from Cedar Key’s famous Seahorse Reef and Suwannee’s Spotty Bottom in the report very soon.