April winds have finally calmed more often toward the end of the month, answering angler prayers. Predictably, all-around catches are suddenly very good.
Last Thursday, Bill Malphurs of Hawthorne and George and Mike Tanner of Sanford left out of Cedar Key early, headed for Seahorse Reef. It was slow going, with the wind whipping the sea sloppy. They almost turned back toward the rising sun, but were determined to visit their favorite mackerel spot.
That determination was rewarded later in the morning when the wind eased up. With the full moon tide rising, the three trolled spoons over the reef to take 9 nice mackerel up to 4-pounds. On their way back to Cedar Key, they stopped to cast the flats near North Key and added several trout to the day’s take. Then, before calling it a day, they ran down to Corrigan’s Reef, where two nice, keeper redfish joined the macks and trout on ice. A day that looked less than promising early on turned out quite productive.
When Steve Kelly of Melrose and Chris Prowant of Keystone Heights arrived last Thursday at the Horseshoe Beach boat ramp, conditions were less than ideal. Undaunted, the men headed out onto the dark and drizzly grass flats. When they arrived on a popular zone near the “Pretty Pole”, the tide was high and just starting to ease out. And the trout were biting. Casting Gulp! lures set under popping corks, the anglers each had limits of nice, high-slot fish in an hour and a half. Kelly said, “We kept catching and releasing fish until the tide hit ‘low’. After that, the bite was done.”
With often-high winds and gag grouper out of season, we haven’t heard much this year in the way of offshore results. Lately, though, a few scattered reports indicate the lack of fishing pressure might have done the grouper stocks some good. David and Greg Robinson happened to hit a nice weather day on a recent Cedar Key trip. The Gainesville father and son ran out to water 45 feet deep and decided to give trolling a try. To their pleasant surprise, the Mann’s Stretch 30 lures they put out drew strikes from big grouper. Lots of big grouper. The Robinsons returned home with an empty fish box, but they enjoyed catching and releasing a number of gags pushing 30-inches. Grouper fans will doubtless be fired up for the reopening of gag grouper season. And happily, the July 1 opening day is soon expected to be moved up to June 1.
The annual Reeling for Rescues fishing tournaments held Saturday out of Steinhatchee’s Good Times Motel and Marina arrived to the same high winds that had plagued every April weekend. Even though the challenging conditions must have limited catches, many of the 57 competing anglers found good fish. Local expert Debbie Evans came in with the heaviest trout at 4.13 pounds. The young but capable team of Chase Norwood and Mabry Stewart docked with the first and third-place redfish—each a bit under 7-pounds.
Two Thursdays ago, Steve English found himself up against an angling dilemma. Five cousins visiting from out of state wanted to go fishing, and naturally, they all wanted to catch. English mulled over the possibilities, and he settled on sheepshead. The versatile angler took the cousins out of Cedar Key, to a piece of bottom structure in water 24 feet deep. Anchored over the spot, they fished fiddler crabs to haul in 76 sheepshead—quite a haul considering that every fish was over 3-pounds.
Persistently-unfortunate weekend weather has limited saltwater fishing stories, but fishers able to head to the water any time nice conditions arrive say that very good speckled trout action continues on grass flats from 3 to 5 feet deep. And, tight to the shoreline, redfish numbers are building. Creeks and grassy points with shell bars are holding reds from Crystal River all the way up to Keaton Beach.
Anglers competing in the big Suwannee River Breast Cancer Awareness Tournament Saturday didn’t have the greatest weather to work with, and river conditions were equally challenging with the water on the rise. Still, 111 teams competed in the annual bass event held out of Ellie Ray’s Resort on the Santa Fe River. As could have been expected, big catches were hard to come by. The team of J.R. Dice and Michael Wiles managed a five bass tournament limit that totaled 15.72-pounds, and that was enough for the win. Tournament organizer, Donnie Feagle and his partner, Josh Lester finished second with 14.97. Despite the fishing challenges, the event was a huge success, raising a record-breaking $30,000 to benefit the Suwannee River Breast Cancer Awareness Association.
In ranking the months of the year for their North Florida fishing productivity, lots of things must be considered.
You award points for freshwater action, points for salt, and factor the number of anglers that fish each. Figure prime times for each favorite species, and try to arrive at the months with friendly fishing weather. Some of the top freshwater months are not so good on the coasts, and vice-versa. Only a few offer good choices almost everywhere.
Given the date, you can see where I’m going with this. Some may disagree, but April comes out Number One on my list.