Local ultralight tackle and cane pole specialists will agree that the normal year of panfish-catching begins with speckled perch feeding up out in chilly mid-lake depths and then, in late January or February, moving into shallow cover to spawn.
By April, with the specks finished with their spawning duties, shellcrackers — and later yet, bluegills — take their turns at procreation.
Maybe several years of stagnant, low water in the recent past rendered Newnans Lake sufficiently abnormal to buck this expected behavior.
Bream have replaced speckled perch in the shallower cover of most area lakes. Panfishers dropping grass shrimp into lily pads on Lochloosa, for example, are suddenly hooking plate-size bream big and strong enough to straighten wire hooks.
Ren Gallon and Andy Hadsock are crappie-catching experts now focusing on the specks’ warm-weather successors. The Gainesville fishermen searched Lochloosa on Friday and Saturday, locating big bream in lily pads on the lake’s east side. They employed a minimalist method popular among the best bream fishers, known as “tight-lining”. This is done with a cane or telescoping fiberglass pole. Simply tie from its tip two or three feet of monofilament and a little Aberdeen hook. No float or sinker. Grass shrimp is a favorite bait among tight-liners. Friday’s breezy conditions made tight-lining difficult, and they caught just 17. Saturday offered better conditions, and the men bagged a 35-fish mix of roe-filled bluegill and shellcracker. Explaining just how large the bream were, Ren said, “Some of ‘em are so big, they look funny”.
The crappie bite isn’t finished, the fish have simply moved out deeper. Last Friday, Newberry angler, Chad Bankston took advantage of a Teacher Workday school holiday to fish with his 9-year-old daughter, Paige. They spent the morning on Newnans Lake, slow-trolling blue and chartreuse crappie jigs to take 34 nice speckled perch, and two bluegill.
The 4th Military Support Group Bass Tournament was held out of Rodman Reservoir Saturday … a day that saw periods of exceptionally nasty weather.
Several of the 36 teams locked out of the tannin-darkened pool and some stayed put, but every one spent parts of their day casting amid thunder, lightning, and cold, sideways rain. Despite the poor weather, overall catches were pretty impressive. Seventeen teams filled five-bass limits, and 16 catches weighed in double digits.
Jerry and Jason Gutierrez had the both the best limit and the top single bass. Their 15.28-pound limit was anchored by an 8.25-pound beauty. Close behind were Steven Thames and Thomas Rutkowski with 15.11 pounds; and Bobby Johnson and Judith Foxx-Johnson claimed third with a 14.64-pound limit that included a 6.07 Rodman chunk.
A rainy late-winter season and the resulting tannin-darkened water has rendered one of this area’s top bass-producing lakes less productive than usual.
Area bassers have been certain that the full-of-bass lake would come around at any time, but results in Saturday’s Millers Boating Center/Fish Tales tournament on Rodman would suggest that the Ocklawaha River backwater is still not quite up to March par. In ideal weather, the top five-bass catch of the 33 competing teams weighed in at a bit under 17 pounds.
Sunday, however, Hunt Whaley’s catch gave Rodman fans good reason to hope. The Gainesville angler fished the reservoir alone with no great luck in windy conditions until late in the day, when he located a hot spot with nice-sized fish actively feeding.