New Water, New Opportunities

fishing report-snook

Zach and Foster

An angler returning to his home waters from a two-month trip abroad would have a hard time believing his eyes. Record-setting rainfall through June and July has altered our lakes quickly and dramatically.

All this new water has certainly changed the fishing.

Although the bass there are harder now to nail down, local fishers are happy about the off-season speckled perch bite at Newnan’s Lake. Fish are being pulled from both mid lake depths and from around pads and brush nearer the cypress treeline. In the earlier weeks of its recent rise, Newnan’s bass could be found fairly easily as they made for their favorite habitat that had been high and dry. When water finally flowed again around the bases of the cypress, the bass were there. Now, bassers are finding the fishing to be more like the proverbial “needle in a haystack”. The same number of needles (bass) are now scattered in a very hard-to-access and much larger haystack.

While the water is also much higher on Orange and Lochloosa, these lakes haven’t reached the incredibly-high level of the lake (Newnan’s) above them in the watershed. Bream are biting well on Lochloosa, and decent speckled perch catches have come frequently from Orange. Interestingly, bass anglers say their favorite fish are very hard to find here….possibly due to that ‘bigger haystack’ theory. Access onto Orange from Cross Creek and Marjorie Rawlings Park, though, has been ‘iffy’ at best. Depending on the wind direction, weeds have often plugged these access points shut. Heagy-Burry Park on the Marion County side is probably the safest spot to put a boat into Orange.
For bass, the bite might be best now near Rodman Dam, where some locals have scored eye-popping catches of both largemouth and hybrid Sunshine bass while casting small jigs with Bass Assassin Crappie Dapper tails in the swollen turbulence below the dam.

Around a month ago, some concerned anglers reported seeing dead crayfish and baitfish in Rodman Reservoir, proper. This isn’t very surprising, as low dissolved oxygen is not uncommon here following periods of heavy rainfall. But now, things have apparently come around quickly and bass action has ramped up dramatically. In Saturday’s Northeast Division Florida BASS Nation qualifier held out of Kenwood Landing, Jay Daily of Melrose drew out to fish with Jacksonville’s Jerry Shawver. While in the store Wednesday, Daily said they caught an estimated 80 bass through the day. At one point, Daily caught two fish on one cast with his ‘Alabama’ umbrella Rig. Then, on the next cast, his 5-lure rig produced 3 bass—all two-pounders. And that is a rare feat, indeed.

According to our cast net-throwing St. John’s River sources, numbers of saltwater shrimp on their annual trek up the river continue to slowly improve. The discriminating Palatka locals, though, say the crustaceans are still too small to harvest for food. Most of the shrimping experts seem to stick with the “middle of August” as their best guess as to when the shrimp might be sufficiently large and abundant to warrant an all-out effort.

Saturday, Shaun Abolverdi fished with son, Foster and grandson, Zach Jr. at his secret hotspot out of Cedar Key. Near the evening high tide, the fish started feeding and the Abolverdis bagged three legal redfish. Then they made a lifelong memory when young Zach’s finger mullet drew a big bite. Following a spirited battle, the 8-year old had his fish whipped. With help from his uncle and granddad, Zach measured his big snook at 32-inches before a quick photo and release.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it has been hearing concerns regarding the spotted seatrout population, and so they set up a series of workshops throughout the state to hear comments from the public. The speckled trout is the most avidly-sought gulf inshore species, and FWC will be gathering comment from trout fishers to determine whether further management restrictions are warranted. Several workshops around the state have been scheduled in August to discuss and receive public comment regarding spotted seatrout. Just-completed meetings were held at Cedar Key and Crystal River, and another will be held on August 16 at the Steinhatchee Community Center.

Also in progress is a series of workshops addressing the management of Goliath grouper. This discussion will likely center around a proposed limited harvest of the long-protected giants in Florida state waters. For us, the nearest of the Goliath meetings will be held at Crystal River on August 8. The FWC meetings run from 6 to 8 p.m. local time.

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