By Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons
A trip this week to Powers Park at the south end of Newnans Lake confirmed my suspicion that the water level of Gainesville’s closest major lake remains low.
Although it seems that rainy conditions have been the rule here through the summer, the rainfall has apparently been offset by long, hot days of evaporation.
Orange and Lochloosa’s levels have fallen as well, but these lakes were fuller at the start of the year and they remain easily accessible. Anglers dropping grass shrimp in and around grass and pad beds are hauling in nice numbers of bream, and a handful of crappie fishers are pulling speckled perch from Lochloosa’s deepest water. Since the Heagy-Burry boat ramp opened up a few weeks back, whispered tales of deep-water specks have come from Orange Lake, as well.
Photo: Christopher Sessums
Doug Stringfellow and I were fishing the Cedar Key shallows last Sunday when one of the juicy thunderstorms that blossomed over the weekend ran us off the water at 1 p.m. The nasty, highly electric storm shortened our trip, but we weren’t exactly lighting the fish up anyway.
Casting topwaters and gold spoons in the vicinity of Shell Mound, we had managed just a couple of strikes and boated one redfish. Darren Cheman and Jeff McRae related a Cedar Key fishing story to me early this week that really made me wish Doug and I could have had a little more time on the water. The Evinston men said they arrived at Cedar Key late Monday morning and initially found the fishing slow. That changed, though, after noon, when the tide started out.
Around 2 p.m., action picked up for Cheman and McRae. Casting topwaters and live shrimp at Corrigan’s Reef, they quickly caught seven fine reds, three too big to keep and four slot keepers.
Credit: SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC.
David and Beth Jamerson spent their vacation last week at Cedar Key.
During their stay, the Bronson couple battled lots of large redfish. They took several nice reds in the 18- to 27-inch keeper slot, but far more were longer than the 27-inch maximum. Thursday, they boated nine reds too large to keep. Saturday, the number of oversized fish rose to 10. Then on Sunday, five more whopping reds fell for the Jamersons’ baits before a nasty storm chased the anglers back to the boat ramp. The release-only reds were mostly in the 30- to 36-inch range, and David said they went for Gulp! lures and live mud minnows best.
Open season for gag grouper in the gulf seems, so far, to have produced fewer fish than usual. A commonly heard statement these days among grouper specialists proclaims that, out of Suwannee and Cedar Key, a huge area from 50-feet to around a 100-feet deep holds few fish. Most speculate that the extended outbreak of red tide here late last summer is, at least in part, to blame. But some Cedar Key grouper fishers have found success on the nearer-shore bottom structure.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
They can’t be found on just any grassy gulf coast flat, but lots of opening-weekend scallop seekers out of Crystal River and Steinhatchee enjoyed great shellfishing success. Steinhatchee scallopers who ran a few miles north to the clear, grassy flats near Grassy Island were able to bounce around until they located clusters of the prized bivalves. Folks who opted to try the usually dependable shellfishing waters south of the river generally found fewer.
Bob Sturm and crew ran around five miles north after clearing the Steinhatchee River’s mouth on opening morning. They first stopped in water just two-feet deep with little luck. Moving out to five feet of water produced only a few more shellfish. Then, in the optimum visibility after noon, the Sturm group found the mother lode in water four-feet deep. In just a few minutes, they each filled two-gallon limits. Sturm and his friends were far from alone. “At 2:30,” he said, “I looked around and counted more than 200 boats.”
Another customer said he and his friends found so many shellfish, they could be selective. “We only picked up the larger ones … the most I picked up on one breath was nine.”