For some, the short span of time that sends spawning speckled perch into our lakes’ shallows is the pinnacle of the fishing year. These anglers know that time is now.
Lochloosa lily pads have produced bunches of thick specks for weeks…and now, some say bluegills and shellcrackers have joined the specks in the skinny cover. Jeff Septer of Twin Lakes Fish Camp saw as many bream in his customers’ coolers this week as he did specks. The key for those catching both specks and bream, he said, is the bait. Fishers using freshwater grass shrimp are pulling in the variety of panfish.
On the whole, though, it’s still the specks that have drawn so many cane pole and ultralight tackle fans to Lochloosa.
Some crappie seekers have found lately that there’s another great option here. A slow boatride from Lochloosa through Cross Creek has worked well for folks looking to check out new water.
I was talking with Allen “Cajun” Perry early this week. He has been smoking the speckled slabs on Orange Lake, and he was trying to get across to me just how good the fishing there has been. Finally, he came out and said it: “The speck fishing is as good as I’ve ever seen it”. Now, I know that statement carries considerable weight, as I can personally recall that Perry was already a good Orange Lake angler 35 years ago. Cajun went on to say that Orange’s north end, in particular, is seemingly swarming with specks.
Bass anglers might feel left out in all of this crappie hype…but their prime fishing time is also at hand.
An Xtreme Bass Series tournament held Saturday out of Lochloosa’s Highway 301 public launch gave us evidence of the steadily-improving bass bite. It is spawning time for bass the same as for specks, and competing anglers found good shallow action. The talented team of Joe Yarborough and Joe Mizerak took both First Place and Big Bass honors with a 20.97-pound limit and the 6.41 bass that anchored it. James Tomlinson and Bryan Smith followed with a 16.75-pound limit, and Devan Marinello and Dewayne Moore scooped up third place with 14.94.
This is probably the very best time of year to hook a giant bass in our many smaller area lakes and ponds…and we’ve heard of several big trophy-size largemouths taken in small waters deemed best unspecified. Major lakes seem to have come along a little more slowly. Along with Lochloosa, Rodman Reservoir has begun to turn out bass limits topping twenty pounds.
Gulf action remains sporadic…but sporadically good. Two weekends ago, impressive redfish catches were the rule. Last weekend, the trout fishers shined brightest.
Held last weekend, the Annual Fiddler Crab Festival at Steinhatchee features an inshore fishing tournament. This edition of the Fiddler Crab Tournament served up an odd challenge. A heavy sea fog limited visibility increasingly as the day went on. Chad Hause weighed the best redfish of the day at 6.75-pounds while young Brock Hall of Lake City won the Junior Angler Division with a 4.25 red. The tournament’s heaviest trout, a 3.9-pounder, was caught by Cameron Adams of Keystone Heights.
On that soupy day, Joey Landreneau and Elliott McDavid were practicing the same waters ahead of the upcoming Florida Pro Redfish Series opener. Although the target species was redfish, it was decidedly trout that the men found off Grassy Island. While they tried to seem disappointed that the reds had eluded them, the Gainesville anglers had to be mighty proud of the whopping trout they located, caught, and released. Casting The Slick lures on the clear, shallow flat, they hauled in 18 big fish that included giants of 27.5 and 26-inches. Amazingly, eight more of the trout they released measured at least 24 inches.
Late February should bring the start of another much-anticipated gulf bite … and sheepshead numbers are, indeed building on the offshore reefs where they spawn annually. The Bozeman party from Georgia docked early this week at Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marina with a dozen banded chunks.
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