A stretch of nice late-winter weather can bring a lot of great things for Florida anglers, and the spring-like spell that ran from last weekend through mid-week certainly did that. For a few days, pretty much every place and everything worked.
Tony Ivey stopped by last Friday morning with several big specks to show us. The Gainesville fisherman explained that he had been casting little crappie jigs from the Newnan’s Lake shore the previous evening when the big females slipped up tight to the cypresses. In short order, Ivey pulled in his impressive catch that included five true “slabs.”
By the way, this term, “slab” has come to hold a slightly different meaning among speckled perch fishers than it once did. Back in the heyday of crappie fishing on our local waters, people would describe the better specks they caught as “good-sized,” “big,” or “nice.” But they usually reserved the term “slab” for the scarce fish over two pounds. Through the years as we saw fewer specimens to qualify for that designation, the size requirement seemed to relax a bit and we started awarding slab status to pound-and-a-quarter fish.
There was a time when bad weather did not deter me from my sport. I hold plenty of memories of making good catches in hideous conditions from which I had to later recover. Heck, I’ve fished (or tried to) on the fringes of hurricanes.
I suppose time and age do change us.
When I poked my head outside the front door early Saturday morning, I had absolutely no desire to go fishing.
Accomplished high school-age anglers, Elliott McDavid and Chase Norwood, fished Saturday out of Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marina. They ran a short distance outside the river mouth and worked a shallow shoreline on a close, foggy day, casting Gulp! jerk shads rigged weedless. On the rare day with good fishing conditions, redfish were present in a big way. The young anglers enjoyed a memorable fish-filled day. Through the morning falling tide they hauled in more than 30 reds—twenty from 19 to 25-inches long, three too large to keep (over 27-inches), and several shorts. Through all the red-catching, Elliott also bagged a beautiful, heavy-bodied 24-inch trout. On their way back in to the marina, Chase and Elliott trolled TT series Mirrolures for a bit in the Steinhatchee River and caught two more trout—both solid ‘keepers’.
Redfish remain available in the Cedar Key area, as well…..but primarily, to fishers with vessels capable of traversing very shallow water. Saturday, Skip and Tammy Cooper ran north out of Cedar Key with Will Moore. The Gainesville fishers took a johnboat powered by a Mud Buddy engine. When they arrived, the tide was low and the vessel had to live up to its name, pushing over expanses of mud to get to the Cedar Key backwaters they wanted to target. But once in the deeper hole, they found it full of reds that never left, even when the tide rose later and gave the fish an easy escape route. The three hauled in around 100 reds while casting live shrimp, Gulps, and Paul Brown lures. Of these, seven fish were of legal, ‘slot’ length. Each angler is allowed two slot reds per day, and so six nice reds went back to Gainesville.
This can be an outstanding time of year for speckled perch and bass fishing in our nearby lakes. Much depends upon the weather, as most female specks and bass are full of roe and just waiting for acceptable moon phase and conditions to move into the spawning shallows.
We’ve heard plenty of fine speckled perch reports through recent weeks, but really good bass reports haven’t come nearly as often. This next paragraph should make up for that.
Bill DeCarlis and Gil Schaffnit took a bass fishing trip last week to lakes in the Ocala National Forest. It was Schaffnit’s first bass fishing foray. The first pond the men tried produced reasonably well, as their wild shiners accounted for four run-of-the-mill largemouths up to 3 pounds. The amazing part of the trip began when they decided, instead of calling it a day, to try another Forest lake. Timing is everything this time of year, and theirs was evidently perfect at the next stop. At the second lake, Gil’s first cast with a “large, gaudy” spinnerbait drew an epic strike near the boat. Following a wild battle, the roe-laden bass would measure 28-inches. Before releasing it, they weighed the giant at 14-05. With spinnerbaits and shiners, the anglers went on to release several more huge bass including three others over ten pounds. An stellar day, for sure.
Bernie and Daniel Schultz fished Rodman Monday, in chilly, windy, and hazy conditions just ahead of a strong cold front’s arrival. While testing a new, not-yet-introduced Rapala lure, Bernie caught ten nice chunks to about 3 pounds while Daniel had a few blowups with his buzzbait.