As the holiday season approaches, North Florida anglers start thinking ‘specks’.
As the water cools, speckled trout move into salty tidal creeks and rivers, while still also available on the shallower grass flats. At the same time, freshwater fishers rig up for speckled perch (aka ‘crappie’) that notoriously go on an all-out feed as water temperatures drop.
This year, these expected seasonal bites seem a bit slow to really crank up; but the cold snap that will surely light a fire under the fresh and the salty specks has to be coming soon.
Lochloosa is one of the top area speckled perch lakes, and folks drifting little jigs and minnows in deeper, open water are often filling 25-fish limits. Years ago, Cross Creek was a well-traveled waterway between Lochloosa and Orange Lakes. With the creek open and plenty deep, boat traffic between the top-notch fishing lakes is again increasing. Speck fishing on Orange is very good, but free-floating mats of vegetation still rule the fishing logistics here. Folks looking to access Orange via the Cross Creek route—or from the boat ramp at Marjorie K. Rawlings Park—have learned to take keen notice of the wind direction. Winds from the northeast and east tend to open access on this side of Orange, while west winds push the traveling islands in to plug it up.
Last Saturday, the 37th Gator Open bass tournament arrived along with the start of Rodman Reservoir’s scheduled drawdown. Thirty-seven teams launched at Rodman’s Kenwood Landing to compete in the final Rodman tourney of the year. Finishing on top were Jason and Jerry Gutierrez — a remarkably consistent team on Rodman through the years.
The Interlachen team bagged five Rodman largemouths that totaled 19.20 pounds. Included in their nice limit was the contest’s largest single bass — a 5.76-pounder. Jonathan Nash and Richard Kingsbury finished second with a nice sack of fish weighing 18.56, Matt Fields and Tommy Manning took third with 17.26, and Jeff Davis and Wayne Moore claimed fourth with 16.91.
Typically done every three or four years to maintain the ecological health and productivity of the reservoir, Rodman will continue to fall until Nov. 15, when the reservoir, whose minimum normal level is 18 feet National Geodetic Vertical Datum, has fallen seven feet and arrived at 11 feet NGVD. At that time, temporary boat ramps are usually established along the Barge Canal cut at the Kenwood and Orange Springs access points. The drawdown will dewater abouty 50 percent of the lake. During the drawdown, Rodman’s black bass are protected. Effective 12:01 a.m. Nov. 1, “no person shall kill any black bass from Rodman Reservoir, Marion and Putnam Counties, or possess any black bass in or on such lake during the 2015-2016 Rodman Reservoir Drawdown Project.” The order continues, “This order shall expire 12:01 a.m. March 15, 2016 unless sooner repealed by subsequent order.”
On a windier-than-ideal weekend, we wondered whether the conditions — or the fishing that had been excellent — would win out. As it turned out, catches were diminished a bit but intrepid anglers prevailed.
In gulf waters, it was the Spanish mackerel fishing that showed the biggest dropoff over the windy weekend. But that was due to the rough conditions rather than any shortage of fish. Nearer the mainland, anglers used any available windbreak to catch redfish and trout.
Nick and Sue Reed of Gainesville found a hot redfishing spot between Cedar Key and Suwannee. The Gainesville couple fished surface plugs and shrimp on a rising tide to haul in 18 reds of legal length, and they harvested two top-of-slot specimens measuring 26 and 26.5-inches.
Photo by Ebyabe
I can’t remember when I’ve seen the overall fishing landscape of North Florida looking more positive and promising. It’s tough to say whether fresh or saltwater enthusiasts have it better, but the biggest buzz this week came from the salty contingent.
Last week we reported that the fall run of Spanish mackerel along the Gulf Coast was apparently underway. Many fishing stories this week certainly confirmed that.
Members of the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club have enjoyed excellent results through the last several days. Last Friday, Ken Knopf, Charlie Courtney and Allen Turner launched early at Cedar Key. They arrived on Seahorse Reef at around 9 a.m. to a nice sight — birds, baitfish and leaping mackerel. And right away, whether cast or trolled, their spoons drew steady strikes. “If it wasn’t a ladyfish,” said Courtney, “it was a Spanish.” The trio released more than 30 macks and kept 11 ranging in size from 2 ½ to 4 pounds. Before heading back to port, they rode out a bit deeper where a blue runner produced a nice kingfish pushing 20 pounds.