Bass anglers are fully on point these days, knowing that the pinnacle time to hook a trophy-size fish is at hand. The thing is, however, it’s not really happening yet. Lake George, the most famous of our early-season big-bass producers, is high, dark, and subpar. And smaller lakes closer to Gainesville have yielded little in the way of big fish.
Our promising big bass lakes will come around. But to date, bassers are struggling a bit. Well, all but Jeff Kyle. The Hawthorne angler got his roll started while fishing an unnamed lake in Putnam County on Christmas Eve with his buddy, Sam Drake of Gainesville. Casting a Texas rigged Senko-type soft plastic in clear water, Kyle hooked a big fish that would end up weighing 8.34. But that was only the start. He followed that fish up with giants that weighed 9.14 and 9.28 on his hand-held digital scale before their release.
After such a successful Christmas Eve, you know where Jeff Kyle was on Christmas Day. And Christmas Day didn’t disappoint. Kyle hooked another big bass. Not until they watched the lunker slide into the landing net did Kyle and his fishing partner for the day, Hawthorne’s Johnny Simpkins, realize how large it was. The mass and girth put this one clearly in a class above the previous day’s catches. In fact, at 12.30-pounds, it was this area’s largest bass of 2018.
After releasing four heavy-bodied, pre-spawn TrophyCatch entries over two Christmastime days, Jeff Kyle could only wonder how good his secret spot might be when the spawn does begin in the coming weeks. “Maybe we’ll find bigger ones”, he mused.
For more than a week now, we have heard sporadic confirmation that a sizable snook kill occurred during at least three consecutive freezing nights along the Big Bend Coast. Not surprisingly, anglers who returned to the water on the heels of the freeze also saw scattered floating mullet.
Quotes describing the extent of the cold-wrought damage ran from “a few fish” to “lost count at around 100” to “saw at least 300 dead snook”. The dead primarily came from tidal creeks above and below Suwannee, from the Waccasassa and Withlacoochee Rivers, and even from shallows as far south as Ozello. This snook kill, however, seems to have taken far fewer fish than did the infamous freeze of 2010.
Curiously, nobody could say that they encountered cold-killed fish in either pass of the Suwannee River. Perhaps because there’s more deep water…and maybe because it’s less saline…the Suwannee water apparently remained a touch warmer.
Not only did the Suwannee fish survive, they continued to feed. Trout driven by the cold into the West Pass of the Suwannee have fallen daily to jigs and sinking Mirrolures worked slowly over the bottom. And, while snook perished in many other Big Bend areas, Suwannee anglers caught numerous linesiders still in a feeding mood.
Marcia Ellett used last-day heroics on New Year’s Eve to become the ninth member of the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club (GOFC) to earn the club’s coveted “Ten Slam” Award for 2017. Fishing with husband, Ed and guests, Bob and Merry Mac Watson, Marcia whipped a whopping 4-pound 3-ounce bluefish—the tenth and final required species to earn the award.
Each year, GOFC members try to catch at least one each amberjack, bluefish, cobia, flounder, grouper, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, redfish, sheepshead, and trout in a calendar year. As the year was running out, Marcia needed just the blue. A trip to Keaton Beach on December 30 produced nothing. But her last chance to Steinhatchee on the 31st produced the right strike. A few minutes after catching a trout and a small flounder, Marcia hooked a larger, harder-fighting fish that, indeed, turned out to be the gulf bluefish that she needed. To boot, it was the second-largest blue of the year among members.
Impressively, the “Ten Slam” feat was also accomplished by Marcia’s fellow GOFC members, Virgil Cooper, Tim Pederson, Travis Creamer, Carlos Morales, Dale Reed, Justin Magnifico, Ed Ellett, and Debby Knopf.
And, speaking of the GOFC, the venerable fishing club has lined up an interesting speaker for its January 23 meeting at the UF Vet School. The club will welcome Dave Farrell of the Chevy Florida Insider Fishing Report. The meeting runs from 7:00-9:00 and, as always, the public is invited. Go to GOFC.us for details or phone Dale Reed 352-215-5295.
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