Saltwater Still Best Post-Irma

Two local construction companies have a number of avid fishers among their ranks.  After holding monthly fishing tournaments through the spring and summer seasons, Complete Network Solutions gears up for one big tournament at the end—and they invite their friends from Vintage Electric.  The Complete Network Solutions / Vintage Electric Annual Fishing Challenge went out of Steinhatchee on Saturday.

The big bragging rights tourney drew 80 participants that enjoyed varied and generally-good catches.  Jamie Gardner of Vintage Electric (VEI) caught the best redfish of the day at just a hair under six pounds.  Close behind with the second and third-best reds were Chris Capella (CNS) and Debbie Macallister (CNS).

Peter Skelly of CNS bagged the best trout at 2-07.  The top Spanish mackerel, taken by Jason Evans of CNS was a real eye-popper at 4-14.

The “Coolest Edible Fish” winner was Courtney Perry for his nice 2-11 flounder.

Of the competing kids, Cole Miller had a 3-07 jack crevalle, Jordan Schutte boated a 1-11 trout, and Dawson Perkins hauled in a 1-09 flounder.

The Florida Redfish Pro Series’ Big Bend Division also held its fourth qualifier out of Steinhatchee on Saturday.

That afternoon, Doug Stringfellow and I had just weighed in our two-fish limit of embarrassingly-small reds…our only two keeper redfish bites all day.  Walking down the Sea Hag Marina dock on our way back to the boat, we met the Macallisters, participating in the Complete Network / Vintage Electric event.  They were carrying up a large bucket filled with ice.  Three redfish tails were sticking out.  And, unlike ourselves, they were fired up.

James and Debbie Macallister and Josh Edwards were, all at once, telling about the school of redfish they had encountered.  The Starke and Newberry family had been drifting in about 6 feet of water north of the river off Rock Point when Josh spotted “flashes” in the slightly-murky water.  “They were reds…all around the boat”, James related.  James was casting a swimbait, Debbie, a Gulp bait set under a float, and Josh, with live shrimp.  In short order, all three anglers were simultaneously hooked up.  “There were so many”, James continued, “they were striking Debbie’s popping cork while she was fighting her fish”. 

Now, I was happy for the Macallister/Edwards family and sure appreciated their enthusiasm.  But, keep in mind that this had happened on a day when 18 of 38 teams competing at a fairly high level in the Florida Redfish Pro tourney had failed to weigh even one slot red.  There were some funny sideways glances as the family walked their fish up the dock, past high-powered anglers who had struggled on this day.

Actually, the best catches in the Redfish Pro Series were impressive for the teams that made the long run from Steinhatchee to the Cedar Key area.  Chase Norwood and Brett Molzen won with a nice 13.29-pound brace of fish.  Danny and Nick Allen nailed down second place with 12.87, and one of their two reds was the day’s largest at 7.30.  Finishing the year as Big Bend point champions were consistent high-finishers, Matt Cowart and John Lannon.

Cedar Key, it seems, has been the hottest gulf zone for reds since the storm. 

Last Thursday, Bob Hudson of Cedar Key took his friend Ray Zilke, visiting from Colorado, for redfish.  Zilke had never caught a red…or been in an airboat, so they took Bob’s airboat to the Cedar Key backwaters.  That plan, however, didn’t work out, as there were no fish to be found in Hudson’s favorite creeks.  Undaunted, the Cedar Key angler took his buddy out to the islands.  And there, they found the redfish.  With cut bait, the men boated a dozen legal reds and came in with two fine upper-slot fish.

Local saltwater fans were excited last year when Ed Ellett won a nice boat in the Coastal Conservation Association’s Florida Star Tournament.  The Gainesville fish-catching sage’s fine prize came via drawing from the cobia entries.  Amazingly, this year it was Marcia Ellett’s turn, and Ed’s wife won in nearly identical fashion.

Marcia’s winning entry came on September 3rd, the day before the tournament ended.  While fishing Cedar Key waters from the 33rd Strike Group catamaran they won last year, she hooked the nice ling near a channel marker.  When Ed gaffed the fish after a well-fought battle, Marcia had her CCA Star cobia entry and eventual winner.

A couple of weeks later, CCA Florida Tournament Director, Leiza Fitzgerald called the Elletts to let them know that, just as Ed had a year earlier, Marcia had won first place in the random draw among cobia entries.  In late October, she will receive her 19-foot Bossman Karma Micro Skiff, powered by a 25HP Yamaha outboard.


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