Photo by Geeklikepi
Offshore anglers taking advantage of perfect weather have shown that fishing off our gulf coast has steadily improved following a damaging outbreak of Red Tide two years ago. Over the last month or so, we’ve heard some of the best grouper tales of the year. A prized but often-prohibited favorite, though, is even more abundant.
Last Friday, Ritch and Tammy DeVoe ran out of Steinhatchee to a rocky-bottomed spot in water 50 feet deep. They both had bites immediately…and caught fish after fish. Still, after only a few minutes they decided to leave. The fast-biting residents of their favorite spot, Ritch explained, were red snapper. Releasing the bright, out-of-season beauties one after another was more than the Gainesville couple could take. In another area nearby, the DeVoes tried trolling Stretch 30 lures, and this tactic accounted for a couple of bonito and a nice kingfish. Then back closer to port in 35 feet of water, they dropped natural baits to the bottom again to take a nice mess of small grouper and black sea bass.
Good inshore gulf reports have been fairly common, but nobody has been wrecking more big redfish and trout than Gainesville’s English brothers. When Bradley English stopped by to replace a few lures this week, he showed us numerous pictures of big reds and trout. The latest shots, he said, were from near Horseshoe Beach on Saturday. With topwater lures and Saltwater X Raps, Bradley, his brother Collin, and Pete Dispenza released 25 reds of legal length and several big trout topped by 25 and 26 ½-inch specimens.
Not surprisingly, the best and most dependable fishing at the start of the holiday season can be found along the gulf coast.
Two Mondays ago, Daniel Schultz and Kellen Osmond headed out from the Steinhatchee River mouth in a breezy, damp early morning chill. When they arrived at Dallas Creek, the tide had just started to rise and, along with the wind, was bringing in pesky rafts of floating sea grass…very tough to fish effectively. Daniel, son of Bassmaster Elite angler, Bernie Schultz, tied on fluke-style baits and ‘The Slick’—a lure designed to slip freely through the flotsam. Working these near the mouth of the creek, the young couple caught around 50 trout up to 21-inches. As the bite fired up, the weather conditions also improved and Kellen was happy that she had persevered through the uncomfortable early boat ride.
Last Friday, Sean Campbell and Rick Pena ran out of Steinhatchee at low tide. The anglers headed for a slightly deeper trough near the river…looking to take advantage of the clear, low water to visually follow the ancient runout and create a GPS trail. Idling along the cut, the men suddenly spotted several big trout spooking away. When they shut down and cast Z Man Jerk Shadz and Sebile Stikk Shads, they found that the area was alive with more than trout. Along with thirty or so trout, they hauled in 10 redfish and an amazing 20 flounder. To boot, three small grouper, several black sea bass, and innumerable lizard fish were also feeding in the fertile zone.
For twenty-odd years I’ve updated in this spot the ‘whats’, ‘wheres’, and ‘hows’ of fishing in our area. To accomplish this with solid information, I rely a lot on the tales told by our fishing customers. This week, though, was odd. Old friends and customers, it seemed, were way less interested in talking fishing than in discussing how Gainesville’s new mega outdoors chain store might affect small local businesses. We’re blessed to have many friends and there seems to be considerable concern for us and some others.
And so, instead of the usual fishing stories, the column today will address the issue at hand and attempt to explain our position here at Gary’s Tackle Box.
The Tackle Box was established in 1953 and I’ve been a part of it since 1976. I learned what anglers needed and appreciated early on, and those things have not changed much at all. But the instant-gratification world surely has. Any retailer that moves too slowly or takes anything for granted is likely to be trampled quickly these days. But, remember, we’re talking about fishing…and something about the sport still harkens a bit to ‘old school’. That old school stuff…service…still holds great value. Simply put, we work at offering the things the giant chains and the internet entities cannot. We’ve kept our freshwater/saltwater stock ratio near fifty-fifty. We offer reel repair and rod repair (over the long decades, we have accumulated a stock of parts one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere). We re-spool customers’ reels and re-tip their rods while they shop. We try to remember our customers’ names (although I’m not so good at that any more) and we honestly want to help everybody catch fish.
November is a notoriously good month for fishing near the mouth of the Suwannee River. With that truth in mind, the Gainesville Bassmasters have for decades scheduled their November bass tournament at Suwannee early in the month. Most members spend multiple days ahead of the contest at Suwannee town, targeting not only bass, but also redfish and trout. I’ve always enjoyed the fish tales they tell following this traditional get-away. Among the best this year: For six straight days, Don House fished with various club members on Suwannee Reef and Lone Cabbage Reef. Casting Gulp baits and Saltwater Assassin Sea Shads in the Electric Chicken color, House and his friends averaged 70 trout a day. Most were a bit small to keep, but they did manage daily limits of nice ‘keepers’. Around the reefs, lots of sturgeon leapt and tarpon rolled. Casting gold spoons in creek mouths, members also bagged daily limits of reds. On the freshwater side, the Gainesville club found plenty of bass and took scores of fish with soft plastics, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits. Just trying to set a personal mark, Wally Grant caught 9 bass with one Bass Assassin worm. That would be a pretty hard mark to beat.
November also typically starts the cool-weather speckled perch bite on our lakes. When the bite really cranks up, a veritable army of anglers falls out for it. So far, though, our specks have sputtered in and out of the mood to feed wholeheartedly. This week, speck-catching stories came from Orange, Newnans, and Alto. Nobody has mentioned great catches, but all three lakes have produced solid takes of 8-to-15 fish. On Orange, crappie jigs and minnows fished out in mid-lake depths might well produce bigger numbers than this, but speckers say that many of the fish there are of ‘throwback’ size.
Again last weekend, the most inspiring fishing stories came from the gulf shallows.