We’re well into the spring season now, and the overall fishing picture is as pleasing as the pesky, persistent wind has allowed it to be.
It’s also the pinnacle of the fishing tournament season. Not everybody likes them, but everybody seems to pay attention to the results. Even if you dislike the notion of competitive fishing, there is a lot to learn from the catches made by good anglers working hard with money on the line.
Saturday, the fourth Orange Lake Division qualifier in the Xtreme Bass Tournament Series went out of Marjorie Rawlings Park. The 57 competing teams reported good fishing, but this turned out to be the first Orange Lake tournament in a while that did not require a five-bass catch topping 30 pounds to win.
Chris Keith and Ben Darling weighed in a 28.34-pound winning limit. Behind them in second place, Tommy Studstill and Bryan Lewis’ five fish catch totaled 23.16 pounds and was anchored by the day’s biggest individual bass—an 11.79-pound lunker.
Low water levels continue to fall in our lakes, worrying boaters. Levels are better in some parts of Florida, but the best rains have largely managed to miss us here in the Gainesville area. Local fishers are hoping that in the coming weeks, the rains will find us and the winds will miss us for a change.
On the other hand, the low and clear conditions on the Suwannee, Santa Fe and Ocklawaha rivers is conducive to great springtime pan fishing. And here, redbellies are bedding.
The prettiest of all bream might also be the sportiest, ounce-for-ounce (we can’t use the old ‘pound-for-pound’ analogy here, as true one-pound redbellies are quite scarce). I’ve sure never caught a true ‘pounder.’ It has long been said that the brightly colored beauties being on the small side is a good thing because if they got much bigger, they’d tear up a lot of bream tackle.
Saltwater reports are generally good, but a bit limited on account of windy weekends. Gulf anglers tell us that Spanish mackerel are around in good numbers and, as usual, willing to strike on Seahorse Reef out of Cedar Key and Spotty Bottom off Suwannee. The mackerel fishers are also hooking occasional kingfish, and the pelagics have arrived as well.
A few tripletail and cobia have been taken into Crystal River, Cedar Key, Suwannee, and Steinhatchee marinas. The annual Josh’s Place Fishing Tournament held Saturday out of Steinhatchee drew a field of 59 anglers and produced some very good catches. Andy Phillips docked with a giant 7.12-pound speckled trout to easily win that division. The big ‘speck’ nearly doubled the second-place trout, a fine 3.80 taken by Brenda Stevens.
In the Redfish Division, the top three fish looked like triplets. Rick Pena hauled in a legal red that would weigh 6.45, and that fish was barely topped by Greg Hause’s 6.47. But it was Julie Hause’s 6.49-pound red that took the first-place prize.