Thinking Fishing, Eyeing Irma

The approach of a terrible storm seems to have everyone’s mind scrambled. Understandable, considering the combination of Irma’s intensity and a path that suggests she is determined to visit us full of bad intent. If things go well, the most damaging winds will not come our way. But even if we are blessed in that regard, there’s sure to be lots of rain. Where it will all go? Following the wettest summer season on record, the ground must still be fairly saturated and our nearby lakes and rivers are brimming with water already. Having so recently witnessed the heart wrenching scenes of a flooded Houston does not ease the trepidation of folks in low-lying areas.

The ongoing run of saltwater shrimp up the St. John’s River has become a good one. Most shrimpers I’ve talked to say they have filled 5-gallon limits in a few hours of cast-netting in the Palatka area. The shrimp, for the most part, are plenty large to harvest—averaging on the big side of ‘medium’. I should mention, though, that in past years the annual run has ended rather abruptly following major weather events bringing heavy rainfall. Apparently, the sudden decrease in the river’s salinity can cause the much-loved crustaceans to head back out to the Atlantic Ocean as fast as their swimmerets can carry them.

For a couple of months now, Newnan’s is the area lake that has received most of the visits from speckled perch fans—and rightly so. After going from inaccessibly low to extremely high in just two months, Newnan’s has lived up to their expectations, producing fine catches of crappies regularly.

But Newnan’s isn’t the only area lake putting out good specks.

Last Thursday, Orian Davis and Brian Roe launched at Lochloosa and headed out to mid lake. The men put out several poles rigged with colorful crappie jigs and trolled them slowly.  The bites came fast, and they pulled 45 good fish from water 8-to-9 feet deep. Roe returned alone on Sunday, again trolling jigs out deep, to pull in 40 more specks.  Then on Tuesday, Roe hauled in 50 Lochloosa specks. He harvested only a few of the largest—all over a pound and up to 1 ¾ pounds.  The Gainesville speck specialist said the fish showed a distinct preference for Crappie Slider jigs in two colors: a bright green and yellow commonly referred to as ‘John Deere’, and junebug/chartreuse.

In the Lochloosa lily pads, cane-polers armed with crickets and worms are still pulling in nice numbers of bluegills; with occasional warmouth, shellcrackers, and catfish thrown in.  The bedding activities of bluegill are winding down, though, and finding congregations of bream will become less likely as summer turns to fall.  On the other hand, in the coming cooler weather, speckled perch action should only improve.

If you haven’t been on Orange Lake this year, you should plan a visit.  The lake looks great… and lake managers want to keep it that way.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold a public meeting to provide an update on the management activities carried out on Orange Lake under last year’s work plan and to discuss the plan for the upcoming year.  FWC will also provide a progress report on its Habitat Management Plan at the meeting scheduled from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12 at the Alachua County Public Library in downtown Gainesville.  The meeting going off as scheduled, of course, will depend upon the track of Hurricane Irma.  To confirm the meeting’s status, phone FWC’s Ryan Hamm 352-620-7341.



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