Members of the Gainesville Bassmasters have long spent a week in Suwannee ahead of their annual bass tournament there. Usually held in November, they wisely delayed the event up a couple of months this year. Following their cool-weather getaway, club members always return to Gainesville with good fishing tales.
As he has before, Don House returned with the best fish story again this year.
House and his buddies had enjoyed outstanding trout and redfish action in Barnett Creek on Saturday, a full week ahead of the actual tournament. But it was a single strike on Tuesday that the Gainesville fisherman will remember best. Working a stretch of lily pads lining the river bank, House’s Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue was crushed while at rest on the surface. The anglers’ light tackle was challenged, but finally he boated and released a 31 ¾-inch snook.
A very cold January did take a toll on the snook looking to expand their Big Bend territory to the north, but the linesiders that settled in around the Suwannee River’s mouth have apparently fared just fine.
When the Gainesville Bassmasters’ bass tournament did roll around, by the way, Wally Grant and Don Bunting bagged 5-bass limits weighing 8.04 and 6.57 pounds, respectively, to finish first and second.
Local lakes are finally awakening for bass fans. Gainesville angler, Josh McClendon found a wad of Lake Santa Fe fish in water 14 feet deep last Tuesday. Casting lipped crankbaits, Rat L Traps, and Carolina-rigged plastics, he released a dozen bass up to 4 pounds.
We’ve heard several stories this week that make us believe the speckled perch spawn on our lakes is at hand. Saturday, Russell and Mike Elliott, James Sullivan, and Dakota Robertson found the specks shallow on Lochloosa. Fishing little tinsel jigs in lily pads, the four bagged a 100-fish combined limit. As good as the bite was, the men still knew that their timing could have been better. Almost every fish was a male, and the peak of the relatively-brief crappie spawn occurs when the heavier females arrive in the cover.
Although some have filled limits, Jeff Septer of Twin Lakes Fish Camp says that his customers in the days since the weekend have averaged more like 8-to-10 fish a trip. He explained that several fishers have found specks in Lochloosa’s south end pads, but the windy week has made it very difficult to drop very small baits precisely among the pad stems.
The salty inshore shallows of the Big Bend coast, and the fishing along with them, are heating up.
Mason and Sarah Galloway located redfish last Thursday in a Cedar Key “back creek”. With their 18-month old son, Luke content in his playpen situated ahead of the boat’s console, the Ocala couple pulled in smaller redfish through the incoming tide. As the tide neared ‘full’, though, the bigger reds became active. With shrimp, they took several good-sized reds, plus a few sheepshead.
Ben Nelson brought a friend from college home for a visit last week. Students at Elon University in North Carolina, Ben and Sam Jenkins of Massachusetts decided to spend part of their break on the water. They slid Ben’s kayak into the Cedar Key backwaters and paddled to a creek, pausing to drop shrimp into the deeper spots. The reds were biting very well, and they caught and released dozens. At one point the young fishermen hauled in 5 reds on 5 casts. Later in the day, they found more reds feeding on a shallower flat, where they took the largest two fish of the great day—a pair of 27-inchers.
The good gulf reports continued into this week. The phone rang at Gary’s Tackle Box Wednesday morning … Ren Gallon calling from the water. Fishing alone out of Rocky Creek near Steinhatchee, the Gainesville angler had already filled trout and redfish limits. But, he said, he had experienced a little trouble with the trout. “I had to change baits”, he explained, “because I couldn’t catch anything under 20 inches with the Paul Brown Soft Dine”. After icing a 22-incher, Gallon had been forced by law to release five more trout over 20”. Finally, a small Sebile Stick Shadd did attract several fish measuring in the high teens and Gallon succeeded in finishing his legal limit on the chilly, breezy morning. Then he gave us the call, making us wish we were there with him.
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