At the end of May, most of our natural lakes were in poor shape, level-wise. Then out of the blue, it started raining in June….and now it’s looking like this could end up ranking as the wettest summer here on record. On a trip to Newnan’s Lake last week, I was very impressed at how high its water had risen. Back at Power’s Park on Tuesday, my jaw dropped to see that the lake had come up another foot or so in just six days. Once known as ‘Wayside Park’, Power’s Park offers one of the two nice public boat ramps onto Newnan’s. The lake has spilled into the parking lot only a few times since it’s groundbreaking in the 1960’s. It’s there again.
Although high water certainly beats low water for fishing productivity in our natural lakes, the present situation on Newnan’s isn’t necessarily the greatest for catching. Bass, for instance, seem hard to find now. It’s very likely that the fish have followed the ‘new water’ hundreds of feet back into the cypresses that ring the lake. Few vessels can wiggle back through the tangle of trees and limbs, under the tight verdant canopy. For now, the largemouths seem safe.
For bassers, the top-producing area lake must be Rodman Reservoir, where catches have improved steadily for a couple of weeks. Saturday, Joe Yarborough and Paul Akridge fished the famed Rodman ‘stump flats’ to catch and release more than 50 bass up to 5-pounds.
Clear water is increasingly hard to find in the gulf shallows, but inshore fishers continue to locate redfish, tripletail, and out a bit deeper, trout. And catches of species once considered scarce in our waters continues as well. Bill Grogan and Ryan Kerwin fished out of Waccasassa last weekend, heading south out of the river mouth. Although their primary target was redfish, it was the surprising catches that made the trip memorable. Casting a Rat-L-Trap over a shell bar flooded by high tide, Grogan was shocked to bag a pair of nice-sized tripletail. Not to be outdone by his buddy, Kerwin cast a white spinnerbait to fool a 28-inch snook. Then a 3-pound sheepshead grabbed the skirted spinnerbait. Each of the catches that day by the Gainesville anglers would have once been called highly unusual due to the combination of site, lure, and species.
Gainesville’s David Teiss was visited through last week by a number of family members at his Cedar Key house. He enjoyed taking them out to the nearby backwaters around high tide to fish, primarily, for redfish. Teiss said that while everybody caught fish, he was especially impressed with the angling prowess of his granddaughter, Rebecca Frangie. During her turns on the water, the Gainesville 15-year old hauled in 6 legal and 10 undersize reds, plus a nice flounder.
While mid-season Steinhatchee-area scallopers are still generally able to locate water clear enough to spot nice numbers of bivalves, some have complained that the rain-darkened flats have made things more difficult in their favorite areas.
But local shellfish fans could sure have it worse. Just ask our neighbors to the north. This week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that the Gulf County scallop season would be postponed due to a naturally-occurring algae bloom in St. Joseph Bay. The season that was supposed to begin on July 25 is expected to be put back a minimum of two weeks.
FWC assures, though, that “This algae bloom should not impact other recreational activities on St. Joseph Bay”.
This is the time of year we expect to hear the first reports of saltwater shrimp arriving for their annual trek up the St. John’s River, so I phoned Jimmy at Messer’s Westside Bait in Palatka to see if local shrimpers had found any yet. And word is, the shrimp have, indeed, shown up in the big river at Palatka. “Nobody’s catching big shrimp or limits yet”, Jimmy said, “but you can find plenty for bait, and that’s about what we usually see in July”. Lots of St. John’s shrimpers consider the second week in August to be a good time to make their first cast-netting trip to the river. And so, the much-anticipated St. John’s shrimp run would seem to be pretty much on schedule.