Fishing report: Summer changeups produce                  

Sport fishing in the Gulf

On-the-water pursuits not involving alcohol and sand bars are pretty slim during the breathless part of summer we call the Dog Days. However, two North Florida seafood-collecting pastimes — scalloping and shrimping — arrive right along with the dog. 

Things would be mighty slow in, say, Steinhatchee during August if not for the arrival of bivalves that populate the shallow sea grasses.  Collecting a bucketful of these morsels is a revered tradition for many families, and that shellfish-collecting is presently in full swing. 

Along with Steinhatchee, the largest mid-to-late summer crowds gather at Crystal and Homosassa rivers for this traditional seafood-finding pursuit. The run of saltwater shrimp up the mighty St. John’s River happens about the same time. 

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While this summertime shot at seafood might be bit less hyped, cast-netters of shrimp on their annual river run can be every bit as fanatical as the shellfishers on the Gulf side.

During daylight hours, the shrimpers’ most important tool is a cast net specially rigged with tape or lawn chair webbing sewn into the mesh just above its lead line. The webbing acts to hold the net open as it sinks through the depths and over the unsuspecting crustaceans.

At night, the shrimp travel closer to the shoreline and can be scooped up from piers and boat docks with a long-handled dip net.

We recently lost a huge info source on St. John’s happenings when Messer’s Bait and Tackle in Palatka went out of business. Now, we’re stuck with hoping for information from customers. 

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been able to deduce only the following: Hook-and-line anglers fishing the Palatka stretch of the big river tell us they see no vessels with folks casting nets and, of course, that’s a big negative indication. 

On the other hand, though, fishermen up in the Green Cove Springs stretch several miles downriver (towards the Atlantic) ARE seeing considerable shrimping effort.

Most years, experienced Palatka cast-netters expect the leading wave of shrimp to arrive a couple or three weeks behind their appearance in Green Cove. This typically happens sometime in August, and it appears that things are pretty much on schedule.

You’d think that anglers willing to fish through such a historically hot summer should be rewarded with worthwhile catches. But, unfortunately, not many hook-and-line fishers are really bragging these days.

Gainesville angler Peter Boyd is not bragging either, but he certainly could. Chatting with him early this week while he was in the shop for supplies, we gleaned the notion that he was having some success.  Finally, he revealed the scope of his recent fish catching.

Casting from his small Gheenoe-style boat in an unnamed Alachua County lake, Boyd has put together an impressive string of bass catches over the last three weekends. Working various soft plastic lures during the heat of the day (“from mid-morning to mid-afternoon”), he has caught and released bass weighing 7.4, 8.5, 8.8, and 9.9 pounds. 

And\ that’s about as good a group of Dog Days bass (from lake not named “Orange”) as we have heard of this year.

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