Thanks for the photo Dale
While this has not been a banner year for speckled perch fishing locally, persistent crappie specialists have managed scattered successes.
Don Thomas, president of Gainesville’s oldest fishing club, the Eastside Garden Club, reports that the group held its annual Speckled Perch Tournament on Saturday. Prizes were given in two categories: largest single speck and largest aggregate weight of seven specks. Members could choose to fish any water, so long as they were back at Powers Park in time for weigh-in. Eighteen of them paid to take their chances at prize money and bragging rights.
Sidney Hazen brought in the single-best fish, a 1-pound, 9-ouncer he fooled with a jighead/minnow combination in Lake Santa Fe. The fish was in water 23-feet deep. Mike Hill Sr. likewise had a winning plan. He drove all the way to Astor, south of Lake George, and then took a boat ride farther up the St. John’s River to Lake Dexter. There, Hill slow-trolled with crappie jigs in the John Deere Green color to haul in a number of good-sized fish. The best seven weighed 8-pounds, 12-ounces — sufficient to claim the club’s bragging rights for the year. After weigh-in, club members enjoyed a fish fry featuring speckled perch, cheese grits, hush puppies, salad and dessert.
Timing is everything in fishing, and that’s especially true this time of year, with bass and speckled perch poised to make brief appearances in the spawning shallows. One prime fishing time arrived Sunday morning on Lake Santa Fe. A devoted fan of the Melrose lake, Don House, experienced his “best morning of bass fishing on Santa Fe ever.” And that’s saying a lot, considering his many trips there through the decades. Casting Bass Assassin worms in junebug/blue tail, the Gainesville angler caught and released two 8-pounders, another between 6 and 7 pounds, and five more between 3 and 5 pounds in the two hours starting at first light.
Bass were not the only good target last weekend on Santa Fe. Speckled perch, too, were looking to spawn in the clear lake that is the headwater of the Santa Fe River. Young anglers, Manny Gutierrez (5) and Donald Sellers (11) fished Sunday with Darrell Nipper. The Windsor trio cast attention-getting multiple-spinner rigs called “Boo Rigs.” They added little jigs to the rigs with white curly-tail grubs. Several large, roe-filled specks fell for the flashy rigs, but one was the slab of a lifetime. Donald’s giant crappie weighed 3.015 pounds.
Mark and Cole Temes decided to give Lochloosa a try late Sunday afternoon.They arrived a bit after 4 and ran down to Burnt Island (the lake’s south end shoreline).The father-and-son team cast Rat L Trap lures and Zoom Super Flukes to catch and release 18 chunky bass. One of the Lochloosa beauties was especially memorable — young Cole’s best largemouth ever at 7 pounds. There have long been special protective bass slot limits on both Orange and Lochloosa. Only three largemouth bass can be kept, they must be less than 15 or longer than 24 inches, and only one of the three can be over 24. Cole Temes’ big bass would have been legal to harvest, but like most bass lovers these days, he and his dad happily released it back into the lake.
Thanks for the photo Tanner!
A visitor spending a few days in Gainesville stopped in early this week inquiring about the best nearby angling options during his stay.
In considering the most helpful response, I quickly realized that there’s really only one top-notch freshwater fishing bet right now.
Next week, the speckled perch that have been dubiously scarce for months could show up en masse to spawn in the Newnans and Lochloosa shallows.
When club president Steven Thames secured permission for the Bassmasters of Gator Country to fish their year-end classic tournament on Kingsley Lake, members recognized it as a great opportunity. After all, stats compiled in the first two years of FWC’s TrophyCatch program suggest that the deep and round-as-a-penny lake near Starke might just hold more giant largemouth bass per acre than any other.
The fairness factor was a positive on this restricted-access lake, too, as not one member had tried his luck there in decades.
Time of year-wise, the two-day contest that spanned February’s last day and the first of March should have been right on the money for huge bass to be looking to spawn in Kingsley’s crystal-clear shallows. However, as might have been expected, Saturday dawned up grey, chilly and rainy — poor conditions for sight fishing. To boot, the water temperature was still on the low side for strong spawning activity. At the end of the first day, very few fish had been caught and some chilled and discouraged club members had had enough, vowing not to return for Day 2.