Icy Water Action Improving

Toward the end of a cold winter, there is often a rather sudden turnaround that takes the fishing from slow to great. Nicer weather last weekend promised to yield better action.  While it did that, the very low water temps that persist did not allow the fish-catching to really explode as some thought it might.

Fully aware of the water temperature, some hopeful local fishers visited reefs off Cedar Key, Suwannee, and Steinhatchee that always produce big numbers of sheepshead when their annual spawn cranks up.  Even armed with fresh shrimp and fiddlers, they have all returned saying “not yet”.

Redfish anglers say that their favorite fish, even as strong and thick-skinned as they are, have been inactive in the cold Big Bend shallows.  The best time to catch reds now, they say, is in the evening after the sun has warmed the shallows.  

The on-again, off-again run by trout into the Steinhatchee and Suwannee Rivers was closer to the “off-again” end last weekend to the surprise of many locals.  The river visits by cold-sensitive trout looking for water a degree of two warmer seem unpredictable this year.  Considering that water on the surrounding flats was under 50 degrees, one would think the trout would have little choice but to remain in the deeper river. 

Now, some trout were pulled from the Steinhatchee River…but catches were generally unimpressive, as most folks say their fish were on the small side.  In creeks and at creek mouths, most found the trout to be skittish and tentative.

But not everyone found the weekend speckled trout fishing to be tough.  Saturday, Capt. Brad Riddle proved that there are sizable and hungry Steinhatchee-area trout to be found.  Along with Steinhatchee’s Bob Jureit, Capt. Brad found lots of nice fish concentrated in one near-shore area north of the river.  In the apparently-warmer water there, the men filled limits of both trout and reds in two hours.  Two of the trout they took home were fine fish better than 20-inches long, and they released two more of that size.  Soft plastics produced best, topped by Saltwater Assassin Salty Snacks in the Pink Ghost color.

Four Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club members went out of Cedar Key last Friday, with amberjack their primary target.  Ken Knopf, Ross McElroy, Dale Reed, and Mike Saincome left that morning aboard Knopf’s 29 Everglades and tried first, unsuccessfully, to catch baitfish in spots that always produce in warmer weather.  So, armed with only artificial lures, they made a chilly run out to a spot in water 70 feet deep.  Once there, they dropped heavy vertical jigs to the bottom and quickly determined that hungry fish were present.  The four fishermen wrestled in around twenty amberjacks from 32 to 38 inches long.  As a bonus, Dale caught a 19-pound gag grouper and Mike followed with an 11-pounder.  The out-of-season fish, though, were dutifully released.

Most freshwater anglers have been similarly perplexed over generally-slow January fishing.  River bassers count the water color—still dark from the late-summer hurricane—as a major negative.  The culprit on many of our lakes is likely nothing more than the low water temperature.  The only positive area bass fishing reports we heard this week came from Rodman Reservoir.  And more good news from the reservoir holds that Rodman’s hydrilla problem seems to have been remedied for now by nature.  The cold winter, fishermen say, has killed the invasive water weed off quite effectively.

Panfishers on Lochloosa have reported unexpected success this week.  Fair numbers of speckled perch are being pulled from lily pads and from open water near them.   It’s no surprise that the cold-loving and roe-laden crappies should be eyeing the shallower cover… but panfishers dropping live worms or crickets down among the pad stems are also pulling out nice numbers of warmth-loving bream—bluegills and shellcrackers.  The best Lochloosa panfish catches have consisted of near-equal mixes of specks and bream taken with tiny jigs, minnows, and worms.

After clean up and repairs following September’s Hurricane Irma, Power’s Park at the south end of Newnan’s Lake re-opened last Thursday.  The park’s much-used boat ramp is in good shape…just in time for the soon-to-come speckled perch spawn amongst the lake’s flooded cypresses. 

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