Saturday was an exceptional fishing day on the gulf’s Big Bend waters.
Folks who follow tournament trends have, through the years, come to expect the annual Steinhatchee Community Fishing Tournament to produce some of the largest gulf speckled trout of the year. Held Saturday, this year’s edition of the long-running contest reinforced that notion. Nice-sized redfish were also seen…but again, it was the trout entries presented at weigh-in by the 140 participants that impressed most. The accomplished Gainesville team of Mark McKinney, Greg Hause, and Rick Pena was proud early in the day to land a thick 26-inch trout that would weigh in at 5.32-pounds. But their spotted beauty was not among the paycheck-earning top three. Michael Aman of Perry had a 5.48-pounder, Lake Butler’s Richard Waters bagged a 5.49 for second place, and Georgia angler Brian Perry boated the winner at 5.63. While spotted seatrout over 5 pounds are not so uncommon along the east coast, they’re pretty scarce on the gulf side. It’s quite impressive to see several in one event.
Meanwhile, some miles to the south of Steinhatchee, K.J. and Damon Mascari fished out of Cedar Key. Aware that the tide would be a very low one, the Gainesville father-and-son used their Gheenoe to access their favorite creek in the direction of Waccasassa. Their primary target was redfish—and the cut frozen sardines they cast were doing the job just fine. Fished on the bottom, the sardines had attracted five reds when an unexpected bite came. As soon as the fish displayed its signature blazing, acrobatic initial run, Damon knew what he had—the first snook that he and his dad, once Sanibel Island residents, had encountered in a long time. Finally in the boat, the men measured the beauty at 31-inches.
Like the Mascaris, Lance Smith and Thomas Meisch launched early Saturday at Cedar Key. But unlike them, they headed offshore. Off Snake Key, the Gainesville duo fished various artificial lures to pull in several trout, and while on the grass flats they also caught a few pinfish. Smith and Meisch had a plan for the pins.
Their next stop was a piece of bottom structure farther offshore that had, last year, produced a number of good cobia for Lance. Using the pinfish, the men wanted to take an early–season shot at the powerful lings. But they approached their spot disappointed that a boat was already anchored there. So they moved on, and the long boatride paused next on the “Steel Tower”, at the far end of Seahorse Reef. Tight-lining shrimp on the bottom there, they added five thick sheepshead. The men could have easily bagged more, but Lance explained, “That was all we wanted to clean”. On the way back to port, they ran across the reef—and through a “5-acre school of baitfish” at the surface in 67-degree water. Spanish mackerel were clearly present, and so they made a few casts with jigs they had used for trout earlier. With these, the anglers quickly added a pair of three-pound mackerel to the bag of fish that included all of their targets of the day—except the biggest one.
On Saturday, April 8, UF’s Salty Gators Saltwater Fishing Club will hold its Spring Inshore Classic—a unique redfish/trout tournament featuring categories for boats with and without motors…and considerable prizes. This is a photo tournament. Fish must be photographed on an approved measuring device, and the pics must be received at tournament headquarters by 3:00 p.m. Participants will be allowed to fish anywhere along the Nature Coast (Taylor, Dixie, Levy, or Citrus Counties) with ‘lines in the water’ at 7:00 a.m., but must check in to the weigh-in at Swamphead Brewery in Gainesville between 5:00 and 5:30. Email UFSaltyGators@gmail.com to register and for more info.
Freshwater fishers are increasingly concerned about our low and falling local lakes.
While extra care is needed now when launching onto some nearby natural waters, the productive reservoirs whose levels are maintained have become ‘standbys’ for bass anglers. Good bassing tales have come regularly from both Rousseau and Rodman Pools.
Impressive catches in Saturday’s Marion County Open on Rodman included a winning five-bass limit weighing over 30-pounds. Tommy Studstill anchored his top-5 limit with a 10.11-pound Rodman giant that took a Zoom Trick Worm. His rare double digit whopper, though, was not the winner of the Big Bass prize. Tourney winner, C.K. Ryan claimed that honor—and cash— with a brutish 10.79 pounder.