After two weeks of fishing reports consisting almost completely of saltwater successes, the area freshwater contingent is up in arms. Fortunately, bass and panfish anglers rallied a bit last weekend to help me placate the agitated readers.
Heavy rains north of us have kept the Suwannee River swollen, dark, and less productive than usual. The St. John’s River has certainly had its good days, but it seems to have produced less than stellar bassing overall. Bass catches have generally been so-so at best on Lochloosa and Newnans Lakes — and Orange Lake has not begun to recover from the two-years-ago low water spell that apparently took out a large part of its largemouth population.
With the sole exception of Rodman Reservoir, major area lakes have been just average this season in bass production. Now, a local bass club has found another hotspot to put on the short-list with Rodman — another nearby impoundment.
The Bassmasters of Gator Country held their monthly tournament Saturday,n the Withlacoochee River’s backwater, Lake Rousseau. It was evident from the first tales of pre-fishing trips that this would be a fun, fish-catching shootout.
Following the long day of casting, club members weighed their catches; and sure enough, they had lots of solid fish. The top several finishers all had stout five-bass limits. Daniel Roberson’s limit weighed 16.43 lbs., good for fourth place. Jack Johnson’s five came in at 17.72 — but, one of his fish did not survive. This cost him a half-pound penalty that left him in third. Don Bunting bagged a fine 17.64-lbs. catch, bested only by Bob Heron’s 17.74 lbs. Jack Cutright boated a 7.02-lbs. beauty that was the day’s biggest individual bass. Just like the old days … a lot of good catches and tight competition.
Next weekend, one of the best-attended annual bass tournaments in the eastern United States goes out of Palatka — and the St. John’s River, Crescent Lake, Lake George, and Rodman Reservoir will again have a chance to shine. The 24th Annual Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament once routinely attracted around 500 teams. Attendance has fallen short of that in recent years, but in terms of entries, this will still be Florida’s biggest team tourney of the year, by far.
Bluegills have begun their monthly bedding now on most lakes, and folks armed with light tackle, cane poles, and live crickets or grass shrimp have filled some fair-sized ice chests with them. But the best panfish catch we heard about this week was a good haul of mid-lake speckled perch on Lochloosa. Guide Mike Baker fished Sunday with Orlando father and son, Jeff and Pete Mackey. Pushed slowly by Baker’s trolling motor while tightlining Ron’s Zip Jigs tipped with small minnows, the three soon found willing specks in water six feet deep. The jig/minnow combinations set at mid-depths drew the most bites, and on this day, pink was the best jig color. They boated 50 good crappies ranging from 1/2 to 1 1/2 lbs., and young Pete was tickled to out-fish his dad.
Excellent gulf coast fishing continues, with impressive fish stories still coming from every port. John Dempsey and Stan Boyette of Starke launched at Cedar Key two Wednesdays ago and headed for Suwannee Reef. When they arrived, Dempsey said, the water was far from clear — but it was better than they expected and the speckled trout were present. Casting Gulp! baits through the last part of the rising tide, the men boated a double limit of fish 16-to-23 inches long. At high tide, they moved in near Deer Island to take 8 redfish — five ‘shorts’, two legal ‘slot’ fish, and one too big to keep.
Matt Cooper and his ten year old son, Tanner launched at Cedar Key the same day and also found redfish in a feeding mood. Fishing live shrimp around the outer islands, the Gainesville duo hauled in 20 reds. Two were longer than the 27-inch maximum length, and the best of the six slot fish they took home was Tanner’s 26.5-inch beauty.
Christopher Bell, his brother, Steven, father, Gene, and Nephew, David fished out of Horseshoe Beach Saturday. Through the rising tide, the Bell men cast 4-inch pearl white Gulp! shrimp to fool somewhere between 30 and 40 trout. They harvested 14 of the largest fish that included several over 18-inches and up to 22-inches.
Monday, Dale and Scott Perry went ‘old school’ on the clear Steinhatchee grass flats, casting TT 28 Mirrolures — trout-catching favorites a generation ago. For the Gainesville father and son, the vintage lures still worked fine. When they docked at the Sea Hag Marina that afternoon, their dated darters had produced a double limit of top-of-the-slot trout. The latest isn’t always the greatest!
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary’s Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.
By Gary Simpson
Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:22 p.m.
The Gainesville Sun