Fishing report: The second bookend 

Gary Simpson with a bass.
Gary Simpson with a recent catch. (Photo by Gary Simpson)
Photo by Gary Simpson

Inshore action is good again along the gulf coast following the Christmas freeze that shook things up for a little while. 

Redfish and trout are generally said to be in good supply throughout our part of the Big Bend. It does seem, however, that the snook suffered a significant blow over part of our coast, and not many good snook-catching stories have been told.

Greg Brown and George DeLoach have had good trout-fishing luck recently out of Steinhatchee.  Two Mondays ago, the Gainesville fishing buddies launched at the public ramp late morning and ran north out of the river in a dense fog. 

On their first fishing trip of 2023, the men made it to a GPS-pinned area on a shallow grass flat. The spot that had produced on past trips was again full of fish —speckled trout averaging on the high end of the legal ‘keeper’ range. 

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Almost every cast, each angler would get a strike at minimum. The fish were biting so well they started a competition and, when they decided to call it a day a couple hours later, they each had released exactly 37 trout.

DeLoach and Brown returned to the trout-catching hotspot about a week later on Tuesday the Jan. 10.  Strangely, the water was a couple degrees cooler than it had been during the earlier trip, now topping out at 67 degrees.  And this trip they found the trout hanging out in a deeper
trough where water was 4-to-5 feet deep. 

Gary Simpson catches a bass.
Photo by Gary Simpson Gary Simpson recently caught this bass.

The surrounding grass flat was only two or so feet deep.  Again, casting swimbaits and twitchbaits, the anglers combined to bag only 11 trout.  However, on this day some larger trout were in the mix, topped by the whopping 26.5 incher George caught and released.

In freshwater, some savvy speckled perch fishers seem flummoxed that, here in the heart of crappie season, catches remain inconsistent.

Now, some good hauls of semi-slabs have been pulled from our top speck lakes (Newnans, Lochloosa, Rodman, and Orange) but we’ve still not seen the regular 25-fish personal limits that we expect to be standard January fare. 

If there is to be a passable crappie bite at all this season, it needs to crank up soon.  I’ve always counted the full moon of February as the pinnacle of our speck bite — and that’s not far away.

Bass anglers are all keyed up, as January is prime time to hook the heaviest fish of the year.  Well over half of my catches over 10-pounds have come during this month, starting with the 11-pound, 3-ounce Lochloosa beauty I took on my 17th birthday. That was 50 years ago.

Last week I found myself back on a favorite local lake on a warm January day.  Like that day so long ago, I was alone — casting a plastic worm while paddling my plywood boat through the lily pads.

And, just like that warm winter day in 1973, I had a big bite.

Time marches on and the only thing constant is change.  Still, if we live long enough, some of life’s best moments can come back around.  I knew this fish was a heavyweight when I set the hook. Through all these decades, I’ve been blessed to feel that blast of excitement many

The fish fought well, pulling drag, wrapping around pad stalks, and dogging underneath the little boat. Finally, I was able to grab the thick lower jaw and hoisted the bass aboard. Immediately, I told myself, “This is an eleven-pounder.”

And that’s when it hit me like a brick. In that moment I went back all those years to Lochloosa.  As soon as I lip-landed the 11-03, my first double-digit bass, 17-year-old me said aloud, “This is an eleven-pounder.”

If I’m never able to break the 10-pound bass mark again, that’s okay. I’ve caught a few, all in a 50-year span between unforgettable bookends.

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Eric Lessard

Great report, great story


Thanks for the effort to product this fishing report. It was my favorite part of The Gainesville Sun and so glad to have it here again. Congrats on that big bass for your 67th. Keep your tip up and Happy Birthday

Mike Mapes

Enjoy reading your articles.
I often think back to the times you schooled me on Orange and Lochloosa!
Hoping all is well!