In our closest gulf waters, snook are no longer rare catches. Out deeper, mahi mahi catches no longer raise eyebrows. Just a few years ago, finding red snapper required a run offshore to at least 65 feet of water. Now, the angler with decent GPS numbers for rocky spots in water more than 35 feet deep is likely to find swarms of snapper. And this year, local anglers have caught fish almost unheard-of in these waters…including African pompano, tuna, and sailfish.
The latest of our fishing friends to bring in a photo of a species nearly unseen in its place of capture was Sonny Tillman, who walked in Tuesday with a phone picture of a yellowtail snapper. Jason Rambo had pulled in the 4-pound ‘flag’ while fishing last Friday with Sonny in water 78 feet deep off Apalachicola. The yellowtail snapper is commonly seen in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and South Florida. Apparently, though, they’re rare visitors to panhandle waters. Sonny said, “It was the first yellowtail anybody out there had seen”.
Red snapper, on the other hand, are seemingly everywhere…and this will be the final weekend of open red snapper season in the gulf.
At the tail end of the lengthened 2017 open season, snapper numbers remain excellent. Last Friday, Richard McDavid and Blake Wright rode west about 40-miles from Steinhatchee to water 65 feet deep. Anchored there over live bottom, they dropped down live baitfish they had caught earlier with Sabiki rigs. In short order, the Lake City men had a four-fish combined limit of healthy red snappers. To boot, they wrestled from the bottom a pair of big gag grouper over 30-inches long.
Sporting the best redfishing waters in the world, Louisiana is the site of many of the most popular ‘big league’ redfish tournaments. Along with tournament partner Justin Collison of Slidell, La., Newberry angler Danny Sheldon had been looking for a breakthrough win in the IFA Redfish Tour for some time. Then as we reported earlier this month, the team finally did succeed in winning an IFA event in Houma, La. But, as happens often in this sport, their wave of success continued. Two weekends ago, Sheldon and Collison won the lucrative two-day Lucas Oil Redfish Open out of Empire, La., when their 4-fish total of 31.95 pounds narrowly topped the second place team’s 31.83-pounds. The cherry on top, though, came when it was determined that they had, too, won “Team of the Year” honors in that series.
When Jeff Septer returned a week ago from a vacation trip to Kodiak, Alaska, he was happy to see that the water at his Twin Lakes Fish Camp had risen 8 inches during his week away. Then this week, he said, the level at his Cross Creek camp eased up another few inches. While the higher water will surely pay off for fishers, reports from Orange and Lochloosa Lakes over recent days have been generally unimpressive. Newnan’s Lake remains the hottest area fishing lake, producing fine catches of both speckled perch and bream.
This has been a down year for freshwater fishing on the Suwannee River. Last weekend, 91 teams competed in the annual Casting for Autism bass tournament held on the Suwannee out of Sandy Point. If it had been a football game, analysts would have predicted a low scoring game. And, as expected, bites were scarce and weights were low. The team of William Barnett and David Courtemanche won by a large margin with a two-day total of 28.98. The second place team of David and Philip Delgado bagged a 21.89 total. Close behind were Bill and Jason Harry (21.60), Robin Shiver and Trevor Lamb (21.44), and Bryant and Dempsey Allen (20.22). This tournament always raises lots of money for its cause. This year’s event garnered a cool 20 grand.
Several boats filled with members of the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club participated in the club’s Shrimping Fellowship on Saturday. Armed with the required webbed cast nets, the shrimpers launched at Crystal Cove Marina in Palatka. While the Texas coast was being hammered, weather on the St. John’s River was fine….with a light wind and cloud cover. Throwing their nets in spots productive in past years, most boats hauled in from 2-to-4 gallons of river shrimp for their half-day efforts. The one carrying Tim and Linda Pederson and Virgil Cooper fared best, as they returned to Crystal Cove with a full five-gallon limit that included three gallons of shrimp they graded as ‘large’.