Speckled perch, also known as crappie, are an immensely popular target of fishers. For most of the year, they are found best in our lakes’ wide open, mid-lake depths. But crappie lovers know that the very best speck fishing of the year happens during a short window of time when the biggest fish push into shallow cover to spawn.
For years, I’ve preached a decades-long observation regarding the timing of that speck spawn. It’s a simple thing to remember. And most years, on most area lakes, it proves correct. While weather does alter the timing now and then, it is most often the full moon of February that sees the primary speck spawn. I’ve had customers through the years…very savvy speckers…who would ignore ‘most any important life event to be ready in their favorite shallows—cane pole and minnows in hand—at just the right time.
That celestial mark occurred last Friday, and Kris Akridge, being one of those savvy speckers, launched onto Lake Alto that day after work. Fishing minnows near the lily pads from dusk until 9 p.m., Kris and his dad, Allen hauled in 19 jumbo specks up to 2 ½-pounds. As good as his result was, Akridge does not feel that he hit the timing perfectly. “I think I just missed it”, he said. “The fish were still just outside the pads”.
Ren Gallon and Andy Hadsock cover a lot of water while visiting various nearby salt and freshwater spots. Somehow they always seem to know where to find fish, and Sunday, their fish radar took them to Lochloosa. Using telescoping fiberglass poles, they dipped minnows set under little floats around lily pads to ice a great catch of speckled perch. When they came back to the boat ramp, the fishing buddies had 27 specks aboard—mostly fat females—and had released only three they deemed too small to keep.
Jeff Septer of Twin Lakes Fish Camp reports that several of his speck-seeking customers docked this week with 25-fish limit catches. Like Gallon and Hadsock, most pulled their fish from Lochloosa’s pads while using minnows or grass shrimp for bait.
In Saturday’s Xtreme Rodman #2 bass tournament, 60 teams worked the clear waters of the reservoir on a relatively nice day. As expected, the pool yielded some really nice catches. A week after pulling an 11-plus-pounder from Lake Santa Fe, Clint Sheppard repeated his big bass mastery, boating a 10.33-pound Rodman whopper. The double-digit giant anchored a winning 5-bass tourney limit that totaled 27.10-pounds.
Timing is of utmost importance in every sport, and fishing is no exception. Success is always near… but that ‘magical window’ might have opened before the wind kicked up, or while it was still cloudy. Maybe they’ll turn on when the tide has risen just a bit higher. Having a bait in the water at just the right time is never more critical than during these the short, sometimes uninviting winter days.
Once there was a place in the Deep South—an old-timey fish camp—whose wise and folky proprietor was a key figure in the evolution of bass tournaments. Jack Wingate passed away a few years ago, and sadly, his Lunker Lodge has faltered since his passing. As well as anybody, Jack understood this timing thing and the chagrin it caused countless anglers. A couple hundred feet before reaching the old camp and boat ramp, the hopeful visitor drove past a sign on the side of the road. It read, “Kuz, they bit yesterday”. Upon driving away after his day of fishing, the visitor could read the other side of the same sign: “They’ll Tare it up Tomorrow”.
Lance Smith and five of his friends had long planned a four-day fishing and camping trip to Horseshoe Beach to begin late last Wednesday, knowing fully that planning a trip in January is an iffy thing at best. Arriving from points between Atlanta and Gainesville, the six fishing buddies would get a couple of hours on the water late on Wednesday. Weather-wise, that partial-day outing would be as nice as they would see. “When we arrived on Wednesday”, Lance related, “the water temp was 65 degrees. When we left early Sunday, it was 55”. Through windy, chilly days that culminated in a windy and plumb cold one, they fished hard, casting a variety of lures from Horseshoe to Pepperfish Keys. And despite the tough conditions, the six casters in three boats managed to catch trout and reds each day… nice numbers of reds to 25-inches and trout also up to 25-inches. “They seemed to like jigs best, and the gold was the best color”.
Photo: Sam Aversa
Lots of anglers and boaters hoped the nasty winter front that roared through last Sunday would deliver rains to match the high winds. When all had passed, though, our low and falling lakes showed little or no improvement in water level. After missing another good possibility for significant rainfall, anglers face the stark possibility of a spring fishing season with area lakes as low as we have seen them in years.
Aside from pesky low winter tides, saltwater fans don’t have to worry much about water levels.
Two Saturdays back, the Santa Fe Raider Slam went out of Suwannee Marina. The Santa Fe Baseball benefit was well attended, with about 100 anglers participating. A very low tide early in the day limited the options of those competing in saltwater categories and altered more than a few game plans. Still, at the end of the day, it was the saltwater catches that impressed.