Among freshwater anglers, speckled perch and bass lovers alike perk up around the holidays, when catches of both often improve.
Up ‘til now, though, this season has been a little different, as temperatures stubbornly remain a bit too high to trigger the seasonal feeding spree.
Although this is considered a banner season for speckled perch, the crappie bite has been unusually slow to start up in earnest locally.
Specks in some smaller lakes — and in a handful of major water bodies (such as Orange, Lochloosa, and Rodman) have produced off-and-on successes but action has been less than dependable.
Speckled perch and bass sages alike feel that the legit cold snap at hand will spark up the holiday season bite.
The chilly nights will surely bring a sparkle to the eyes of inshore gulf fishers who specialize in finding big wads of trout and redfish in hard-to-reach holes in tidal creeks. Until now, the salty
favorites have been found best in their hot weather haunts.
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, Gainesville’s Al Clements fished out of Steinhatchee with Charlie Ray of Old Town. They started in a tidal creek — generally a good call in December — but then were surprised to see that the unseasonably warm spell had raised the water temperature all the way up to 71 degrees.
Theorizing that the trout had slipped back out onto the warm-again grass flats, the anglers moved out into open water, stopping on a clear flat about four feet deep. Quickly, they saw that their reasoning had been correct as they hooked trout at a good pace while casting artificial lures (primarily Savage Gear Twitchin’ Reapers).
The men caught almost nothing besides trout, but several of these were exceptional in size. Clements said that “around 15” of the trout were big ones. The largest was a
whopping 26-inch specimen.
The current chilly spell, of course, is likely to send many of these trout back off the flats and into the rivers, creeks, and backwaters.
Last Friday, Dec. 9, Capt. Sean Campbell and Eric Pace were running between spots off Cedar Key when Capt. Sean noticed a seagull flying above his skiff with a sizable shrimp in its beak. Scanning the horizon, he saw several birds diving — presumably on baitfish — on an open flat in the distance. He steered over to the commotion and set the skiff down.
Sure enough, an area a couple hundred feet across was working with bait — but not baitfish. The primary target of the gulls was a large wad of huddled shrimp.
The anglers cast jigs with grub tails into the frenzy and both hooked up right away. They would go on to catch both speckled and sand trout on almost every cast. These were mostly small, but they had no trouble filling limits of legal trout from the hundred or more they caught.
Saturday, the Eggnog Open, a CCA tournament, was held out of Sea Hag Marina on the Steinhatchee River. Two young Gainesville anglers teamed up to take a shot at the considerable cash prize.
The morning dawned nice and Capt. Hunter Brasington and Carson Kamien ran south from the takeoff. They didn’t stop until they arrived on their spot between Suwannee and Cedar Key. There, casting E Z Swimmer swimbaits, mainly in the Melon Shad color, they searched the shallows for heavy redfish almost 27 inches long. And eventually, they succeeded in bagging a nice pair of 26’ers.
The two-red limit would later weigh 13.26-pounds — a heavy-enough brace of battlers to top
the 48-team field. As a welcome $500 bonus, the largest of the two fish tipped the weigh scales to 7.01 pounds and that turned out to be the heaviest single red of the tournament.
It was a fine win for the young men who had recently been Gary’s Tackle Box co-workers.