Photo by Ebyabe
I can’t remember when I’ve seen the overall fishing landscape of North Florida looking more positive and promising. It’s tough to say whether fresh or saltwater enthusiasts have it better, but the biggest buzz this week came from the salty contingent.
Last week we reported that the fall run of Spanish mackerel along the Gulf Coast was apparently underway. Many fishing stories this week certainly confirmed that.
Members of the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club have enjoyed excellent results through the last several days. Last Friday, Ken Knopf, Charlie Courtney and Allen Turner launched early at Cedar Key. They arrived on Seahorse Reef at around 9 a.m. to a nice sight — birds, baitfish and leaping mackerel. And right away, whether cast or trolled, their spoons drew steady strikes. “If it wasn’t a ladyfish,” said Courtney, “it was a Spanish.” The trio released more than 30 macks and kept 11 ranging in size from 2 ½ to 4 pounds. Before heading back to port, they rode out a bit deeper where a blue runner produced a nice kingfish pushing 20 pounds.
Photo: Terry Bone
The seasonal shift from summer to fall brings changes to the fishing world, and right on time, a couple of these anticipated changes are evident.
For instance, the fastest-biting panfish in nearby lakes will no longer be bream for a few months. With water temps slowly falling now, it’s speckled perch time. Most of the autumn crappies are found in open, deeper water, and that’s where folks drifting or slow-trolling minnows and crappie jigs are finding them. Good reports over the last few days have come from Lochloosa and Newnans Lakes.
But the cooling water seems to have spurred on the saltwater fish even more noticeably.
Photo by Cliff
In some ways, I like this season above all others for fishing. But that has little to do with how great the fish-catching is.
With so many other pastimes tugging at sportsmen and women, the late summer/early fall season draws fewer anglers to the water. You see, I grew up fishing in a time when it wasn’t unusual to be in the only boat on the lake, and I’ve never really gotten accustomed to fishing in a crowd. So, thanks to back-to-school, football season, and an approaching hunting season, fishing the lakes near Gainesville in September almost feels like old times. Through the ’60s and early ’70s, my dad and I loved fishing on Saturdays while listening to Otis Boggs call the Gator games … and I get plenty of kicks these days listening to Mick and Lee call ’em. So a September Saturday on the water with the old radio and not many other boats around is still a treat.
This week, the best freshwater reports have come from two nearby lakes. Early September doesn’t often produce exceptional bass fishing, but wet weather seems to have the bigmouths unusually active. A few local bass fishers have claimed impressive bass catches on Lake Santa Fe through the last week. Among them, Bassmasters of Gator Country members, Bill Rossi and Jeff Kyle both caught and released whoppers. Gainesville angler, Nick Vigil gave Santa Fe a try last Friday after work. Less than two weeks earlier, he had released an eight-pound Santa Fe beauty, and was looking to repeat that feat.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife
It’s obvious that pretty much all freshwater bodies in North Central Florida are high now. Lots of people I know say their yards are high now. But for anglers, all of this new, high water will bring benefits for months to come.
Smaller area lakes are producing best, but a couple of major waters have produced notably, as well.
Cross Creek is running high and hard, as Lochloosa feeds a recovering Orange Lake. At the Lochloosa end of the creek, the owners of Twin Lakes Fish Camp have seen a distinct rise in their customers’ catches.