Fishing report: Weedy menace approaching

Ted Lincoln holding one of his recent big bass catches.
Ted Lincoln holding one of his recent big bass catches.
Courtesy of Ted Lincoln

It seems like these days something is constantly shooting at Florida’s saltwater anglers. If it’s not tiny bag limits and restrictive open seasons, it’s Mother Nature taking her swings.

Red tide outbreaks have played havoc with stocks of beloved fish in the southwest part of the state. And, not many years ago, the toxic microorganism visited us here in the northern gulf waters. 

The damage done by these visits from Karenia brevis can negatively impact fishing in the affected area for years. Already this year, an early-season red tide outbreak in the gulf is doing considerable damage in the Tampa area. 

When these dreaded outbreaks develop, it happens most often in late summer. That this one is already doing its hurtful work in early spring cannot be a good sign. Big Bend anglers are keeping a wary eye on this situation.

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Unfortunately, red tide is not the only natural menace threatening our coasts. Now, another brand-new threat is said to be heading our way – the largest seaweed bloom scientists say they’ve seen. To be more specific, a 5,000-mile-long raft of floating sargassum is approaching Florida and is expected to affect both coasts by summer. 

The giant weed blob stretches across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to The Bahamas and is moving west. One might think Florida’s East Coast beaches are most in harm’s way, but the Atlantic Coast will not receive all the havoc from the dreaded visitor. 

A huge slug of the weed is forecast to enter the Gulf of Mexico through the Florida Straits. Its arrival will bring a myriad of negative effects and would at the very least make hook-and-line angling extremely challenging. 

Finally, after a lengthy dry spell, significant rainfall came to our lakes a few nights ago. Last weekend’s nighttime storms didn’t deliver enough to bring levels up appreciably, but at least lakes whose levels have fallen slowly through this year might not drop further for a while. 

Bass and speckled perch catches have been generally good, with the best reports coming from Orange and Santa Fe Lakes.

Ted Lincoln has enjoyed some great bass fishing in recent days. The lifelong Gainesville angler’s specialty is catching big bass using unusual lures that few others cast and he has made some of these off-center baits work very well over recent weeks.

Lincoln’s hot fishing streak started in late January and continued through last weekend. While fishing with friends, he has made good catches from various bodies of water ranging from Lake Panasoffkee to Lake Orange. The biggest bass have included a few six-pounders, two between seven and eight, an eight-pounder, three nines, and two barely reaching double digits. 

The big bites came with these baits: a Megabass Magdraft swimbait (10-02); a small Berkley propbait (10); a “big shad-imitating glidebait” (9); a free rig with a soft plastic lure called the ‘Man Bear Pig’ (9 and 8); and a custom-colored Pro Point 6” swimbait with an EWG underspin hook (9). 

But Lincoln seems most pleased with pulling off the bass fishing equivalent of a baseball batter ‘hitting for the cycle.”

Over a 48-hour span, he caught and released bass ranging between four and nine pounds — a rare accomplishment, for sure.

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