Like offering a full canteen to a dried-out angler crawling through the desert, the rains finally came and we might just have some summertime freshwater fishing after all. Very nice early-June rains brought up significantly our lakes that had been low and falling for long months.
The stout rainfall over the last couple of weeks has provided a great start to putting several of our favorite bass and bluegill producers back on the anglers’ table. These include Alto, Lochloosa, Orange, and Newnans. Still, however, the water levels remain well below ideal. I phoned Jeff Septer Wednesday to see how things were looking at his Twin Lakes Fish Camp, at the Lochloosa end of Cross Creek. Septer said that, while the water has come up a bit, it hasn’t risen nearly enough. “Our rental boats are still sitting mostly on sand…but at least now there’s a trickle of water in the slips.” Septer added that a local angler had launched onto Lochloosa over at the Highway 301 boat ramp on Tuesday. Trolling crappie jigs, he pulled in 26 nice speckled perch.
While the Reeling for Kids Saltwater Challenge was going on two weekends ago out of Steinhatchee, the 30th Annual Fightin’ Gator Touchdown Club’s fishing tournament went out of Crystal River. Some tourneys count their entrants in numbers of teams. The Touchdown Club takes entries as individuals. And this year, 271 anglers fished in the FGTC tourney.
Two very impressive specimens topped the redfish division. Rick Lewis took the heaviest red—8.10-pounds— to the weigh scales, while Kurt Diehlman presented the Number Two red at 7.15.
Clint Tyrell and Marc Dossey caught the best two speckled trout, fish of 3.55 and 3.50-pounds. The prize for the best five-fish catch of trout went to Eric Pelletier for his limit weighing 12.90.
The FGTC Kingfish champ for 2017 is Phillip Stafford. His 27.65-pound fish easily bested Matthew Bentley’s 9.40-pound entry. Mike Wetherell bagged the best Spanish mackerel—a nice 4.65 pound specimen.
Grouper winners were James Morris (14.25) and Tim Hardman (12.45). A couple of keeper lings topped the cobia category—Eric Collop’s 19.85 and Robert Peralta’s 17.05 pounders. And Eric Collop also claimed the mangrove snapper crown with a 5.70-pound fish.
Marshall Gilley bested the other competitors opting to stay in the freshwater with his 2.40-pound largemouth bass. And Turner Dowling topped the important Mullet division with a 2.15-pound grass eater.
Kid Winners were Emma Kuhn and Matthew Wetherell.
The 8th Annual Nauti Girls Fishing Tournament went out of Steinhatchee Saturday. An event-record 219 ladies registered to search for prize and cash-winning fish.
The Speckled Trout division was hotly contested, and Anna Vasquez came out on top with a 4.37-pound ‘speck’. Close behind with a 4.25-pound beauty was Keystone Heights angler, Courtney Carroll. Sue-Ellen Weaver of Perry won the Redfish category with her fine 6.61-pound fish. The second and third-place reds were nearly twins. Julie Hause of Alachua took second with a 6.29 red, while Shelly Richardson’s 6.28-pounder took third. Danielle Norwood’s redfish sporting 10 spots won the “Most Spots” prize. Robin Phillips weighed the best flounder at 1.87, Sara Taylor and Melissa Willits each docked with a winning 9.35-pound grouper, and Renee Fields of Steinhatchee won a special piece of jewelry for catching the heaviest ladyfish of the day.
And finally, big new came through on Wednesday when the U.S Department of Commerce announced the expansion of federal red snapper season in the gulf. Beginning this Friday, June 16, we will have 39 additional days of recreational red snapper season in federal waters. The added days come on three-day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) open weekends.
“Recreational red snapper fishing is highly important to Florida’s gulf coast communities,” said FWC Executive Director, Nick Wiley. “We are thankful for the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Department of Commerce Director Wilbur Ross and Florida’s Congressional delegation as well as the partnership across all five Gulf states in providing more sustainable fishing opportunities and sound fisheries management”.
In negotiating for the lengthened federal season, FWC had to give up some days of open season in state waters. Here on the Big Bend, the concession is a complete win for offshore anglers. FWC Vice Chairman, Liesa Priddy said, “This is great news, especially for anglers on the central and southwest gulf coast, where red snapper are not commonly found in state waters”.