Fishing report: Big rains alter fishing landscape

The year’s biggest rain event persisted for four days in our area, continuing through last Saturday. When it was done, our lakes were considerably higher, giving us pretty solid assurance that nice water levels will hold at least into summer.

Our customers at Gary’s Tackle Box reported rain-gauge accumulations ranging from 5 to 11 inches over the four days. Then another sizable mid-week rain came to raise lake, pond, and river levels a bit more.

Newnans is a volatile lake as far as the fluctuation of its level—thanks mostly to Gum Root Swamp that feeds it. By my eye, it appears to have come straight up at least a foot. Other area lakes with smaller runoff contribution will have risen less.

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While the nasty weather kept most freshwater fishers off the water, anglers returned to find different-looking lakes when things cleared on Sunday.

Allan Beach and James Weaks launched at Powers Park on Newnans Lake at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, taking advantage of an extra hour of daylight afforded by the just-commenced daylight saving time. The Gainesville anglers boated a short distance to a favorite shallow spot at a treeline—or, at least a spot that had recently been shallow.

“There was an extra foot of water on it when we pulled up, and the fish sure were there,” Beach said.

The crappie jigs they cast drew bites almost every throw, and before dark, Beach and Weaks had put 80 specks in the boat. They harvested the best 50 fish that included slabs up to 2 pounds.

There were lots of February spawning specks caught shallow in February, and now that March’s full moon is at hand, another wave of fish is apparently shallow on Newnans.

Ted Lincoln is catching bass in near-shore cover as well. Sunday, the Gainesville bass angler took a friend, Justice Mims, bass hunting on Newnans. Flipping a Kinky Beaver into emergent vegetation, Justice hooked a big bass that would turn out to be his personal best at 9 pounds, 3 ounces.

That would be quite a good one to find in about a week, during the FWC/UF Bass Club tournament coming up on March 26. The catches in this tournament will assist FWC in collecting bass genetic samples.

And yet another shot at a big paycheck is swimming somewhere in Newnans. As part of the 10th year of Florida’s TrophyCatch program, 10 bass with bright pink tags have been released in various Florida lakes. Newnans is one of those lakes. It’s unlikely that all 10 of these fish will be caught …. but the 10 tags are worth a total of $70,000 in prizes.

There are stipulations and instructions to be followed, though, so visit trophycatch.myfwc.com to find out more.

Most area bass specialists are focusing hardest on Orange Lake and Rodman Reservoir. Rodman Captain Ken Walker has enjoyed quite an impressive recent run, putting his clients on big fish almost daily.

Sunday, it started with an 8-pound, 4-ouncer. Then on Monday, Captain Ken’s angler hauled in a 10-04. Tuesday, an 8-11 was the best fish.

And then the fourth straight day of big-bass catching on Rodman saw largemouths of 8-04, 9-04, 9-05, and 9-13 caught and released. The five best bass that day totaled 43 pounds, 10 ounces.

Things are stirring in earnest on the Gulf Coast, where anglers are reporting lots of large speckled trout—particularly in the long Horseshoe Beach-to-Keaton Beach stretch. The season’s first whispers of mackerel catches are being heard.

And a little way offshore, the annual gathering of spawning sheepshead is well underway on natural and artificial reefs in water 20 to 40 feet deep off Cedar Key, Suwannee, and Steinhatchee. Shrimp and fiddler crabs are the trick for hauling in limits of the banded battlers.

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