Fishing report: Deep snappers and Orange access

Tony Love posing with his personal best red snapper that he caught at Cedar Key on July 14.
Tony Love posing with his personal best red snapper that he caught at Cedar Key on July 14.
Courtesy of Gary Simpson

The dreaded Dog Days of summer are upon us, and this year, the heat seems particularly harsh. Almost everyone talking with us about recent fishing trips has spoken of the oppressive heat they’ve endured.

While not considered the best time of year for much besides scalloping, anglers have always managed to find good enough hot-weather action.

Over the past few weeks, several offshore anglers seeking red snapper and red grouper in the Gulf have scored exceptionally well. It has been a little tougher, though, than during recent red snapper seasons.

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Over the last few years, red snapper of legal size could be found relatively near shore in water only 40 to 50 feet deep. This year, though, the bright beauties seem to have retreated out to their old traditional haunts much farther offshore. 

A good many fishers owning smaller boats have become accustomed to bagging snapper limits out of Crystal River, Cedar Key, Suwannee and Steinhatchee, but this season most (wisely) don’t dare travel out to the depths required to find them.

One of this area’s best offshore anglers, Tony Love, has made recent red snapper catches that are nothing short of amazing.  This week in the shop, he said, “In my opinion, looking for red snapper this year in less than 90 feet of water is a waste of time.” 

Last Friday (July 14), the Alachua angler and two fishing buddies enjoyed as successful a red snapper trip out of Cedar Key as I can recall. The weather was perfect for their 70-mile boat ride out to nearly 100 feet of water, and the fishermen made the good conditions pay off. 

Love hauled in a massive 29-pound specimen, while Jamie Howell, also of Alachua, bagged a 26-pounder and Steven Holton caught a 23-pounder.

The Florida Panhandle typically is considered to offer the state’s very best red snapper fishing, but Love said his trips off Cedar Key have outdone his panhandle trips this season.  You just need to go a long way out.

Our own Orange Lake has become the State of Florida’s big bass gem, and of course, this truth has created a great deal of angling effort there.  A very unusual situation involving access onto the revered lake, though, could well end up temporarily ruffling angler feathers.

Renovations are scheduled for the boat ramp at Marjorie K Rawlings Park near Cross Creek. Repaving of the parking lot and the addition of a floating courtesy dock are on tap.  This was slated to be a two-month-long undertaking beginning in July, but such projects always seem to commence well after the projected starting dates.

Now, another project — this one at Heagy-Burry Park and boat ramp on the Marion County side of the lake — has been in the works for several years. 

It seems that permitting finally has gone through. These improvements will add a two-lane boat ramp, “shoreline stability” and a restroom facility, and all this could require a nine-month closure.

Unfortunately, there is a fair chance that these two projects will overlap, even though FWC indicates a willingness by both Alachua and Marion counties to try and avoid such a calamity. These two locations, of course, provide the best ways onto Orange Lake.

Now, eventually, everyone will be pleased with the improvements. While the work is going on, not so much. And particularly if it turns out that the projects coincide. 

Stay tuned for updates.

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Jeffrey Chaney

WOW, how great that must have been!