Post-Storm Angling Nearer Normal

fishing reportGulf anglers continue to confirm that, while Hurricane Irma wrecked some aspects of North Florida fish-catching, the storm did not hurt action in the salty shallows.  To boot, catches along the gulf coast are improving as the water slowly cools.

Speckled trout fishing seems to be best on the grass flats from Steinhatchee to Horseshoe Beach, while post-storm anglers have found the biggest numbers of big redfish in the long stretch from Suwannee, south to Crystal River. 

Saturday, Robert Bounds and Elliott McDavid fished north of Yankeetown.  The young anglers arrived before daylight and motored slowly up the coast near high tide.  When the sun broke over the treeline, they cast topwater lures, spoons, and swimbaits to a clear, shallow flat with hard bottom.  Redfish were present, and the strikes came fast.  In short order, the Gainesville men had released 25 reds ranging in length from 24 to 30 inches.  Impressively, they were back home in time to watch the Gator game’s noon kickoff.

Lots of folks are wondering about the possibilities of fishing our nearby lakes again.  However, not all of our frequently-used fishing spots can even be accessed due to flooding and obstructions left by the recently-passed storm.  Alachua County released a summary Monday regarding the post-Irma state of its parks and waterbodies.

Lake Santa Fe Park at Melrose was closed at the beginning of this week, as a good bit of debris still had to be removed.  The park was expected to open sometime this week.

The Lake Alto Park ramp is open.

All ramps on the Santa Fe River remain closed.

Accessing the Little Orange trio of lakes just southeast of Hawthorne is still ‘out’.  High water separated the Holden Pond boat dock from its shoreline mooring.  Its new position—plus uprooted vegetation—prohibits use of the boat ramp.

Public access points onto Lochloosa and Orange Lakes are open.  Launching onto Orange, however, can still be tricky, as those pesky rafts of floating vegetation have alternately plugged one Orange ramp and then another.  Early this week, the Marion County ramps were covered up, while the Marjorie Rawlings access was open.

On Newnan’s Lake, one of the two public boat ramps has reopened.  The Owens-Illinois Park (better known locally as the ‘Windsor Ramp’) is again usable.  Parking for tow vehicles with boat trailers here is a bit limited.  Powers Park, the larger ramp at the lake’s south end, remains shut off to vehicles and boats by a long chain link fence, as the playgrounds and pavilions remain flooded.  Also, large trees are down that cannot yet be accessed by cleanup crews.

Bobby Gaff was relieved when Newnan’s Lake’s Windsor Ramp reopened last Friday morning.  His wife, Doreene, had already filled her two tags to harvest Newnan’s alligators, having taken big reptiles of 8 and 11 feet on August 30 and September 1.  Bobby was feeling some pressure to fill his gator tags, too.  He and Carl Barnes arrived early … in fact, he figures his might have been the first boat to ease down the ramp since the storm.  And with Barnes’ help, the High Springs gator hunter did take alligators of 8 and 10 feet.

Fishing-wise on Newnan’s, a few anglers who have slid very small boats in alongside Lakeshore Drive at Palm Point have told of good fishing for bluegill and speckled perch.  Now that the Windsor ramp has reopened, widespread catches should resume.  Wednesday, Albert Pons came in the store for speck jigs.  He was looking especially for anything in orange.  The High Springs angler had taken 21 slab-size specks that morning.  “I only keep big ones”, he said.   Pons went on to let us know that his tally on this day had not even been quite up to his post-storm par.  Drifting crappie jigs just outside the Newnan’s cypresses, he had filled limits on Sunday and Monday.

Cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, the 5th Annual Santa Fe Lady Raider Inshore Slam has been rescheduled go out of Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marina on Saturday, October 14.  The popular tournament awards cash prizes for top catches in categories like “Heaviest Trout”, “Heaviest Bag Limit of Trout”, and “Heaviest Redfish”… and it also features a separate Paddleboard/Kayak Division.  There is a mandatory captain’s meeting at 5:30 on the morning of the 14th.  For more info, call 352-538-7575 or 386-882-4350.

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