Fishing report: Catches roll in as summer nears

Emerson Fair, age 6, shows off her 4-pound bass.
Emerson Fair, age 6, shows off her 4-pound bass.
Photo courtesy of Michael Fair

Tales of good catches are coming in pretty steadily now, from both fresh and saltwaters. Not surprisingly, many of the best stories are coming from the Gulf of Mexico.

Jim Fleming has been a consistently successful angler for years and years. When he comes in with excitement in his voice, we know he has a special fish-catching thing going on. A few days back, he came in obviously fired up.  It seems that two Saturdays back, he had run out from Cedar Key to Seahorse Reef with Myra Zeigler—and it didn’t take long for them to see that the reef was alive with baitfish and bigger fish looking to eat them. 

The sleek and deadly Spanish mackerel, for which the reef is well-known, was the primary predator on hand. The angling pair caught a few before heading back to port. This had mostly been a scouting trip.

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Fleming returned the next morning with Zenon Alonzo and Doug Fertig. Again, the reef was working alive with fish. Casting and trolling, the three anglers each filled a limit of shockingly-large Spanish running from 4-to-6 pounds.  Once their limits were filled, the satisfied fishermen returned to Cedar Key for lunch—but their fish-catching wasn’t over. 

In the afternoon, they went back out to work the inshore shallows. This added six redfish to the day’s impressive catch count.

The Orange Lake Division of the Xtreme Bass Tournament Series went out of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park on May 13. This was the division’s fifth qualifier of the season, and it drew a field of 58 teams. And yet again, Orange Lake shined. 

Robby Ratliff and Stacey Cowart teamed up to win with an eye-popping five-bass limit that totaled 33.13 pounds. Derek Daniels and Brett Maddox had the next best limit at 28.13, and Nathan and Tommy Beasley took home the third-place check with 25.42.

Pete and Rob Roberson weighed a 24.02, while Deryl Williams and Tyler Griffis had a 23.23-pound fifth-place catch that included the heavyweight of the day—a 12.21-pound Orange giant.

Most of us assumed that all hot-weather bass tournaments on Orange and Lochloosa would be greatly reduced (if not eliminated) between the dates of June 15 and September 15, since FWC’s new no-tournament-exemption-permits rule inside this hot-weather span will be in effect. 

In some cases, this lack of special tournament permitting would not allow competing teams to take their best bass to the weigh scales if they caught multiple larger fish. As a mild surprise, the Xtreme Bass organization will continue to host tournaments through the summer—within the more restrictive rules.

During June, July, and August tournaments, teams will be able to weigh only three bass (instead of five). And since each angler (now without exemption) will only be allowed one bass 16 or more inches long, one of every team’s three fish will need to measure under 16 inches. 

If any team brings in a third bass 16 or more inches long, the team will be disqualified for violating the state length law. Anyone fishing solo, or course, will be at a big disadvantage since he will only be able to weigh one larger fish. At minimum, this should make for some interesting post-tourney stories.

On Memorial Day, Michael Fair took his 6-year-old daughter bass fishing for the first time, to a pond in Gainesville. Casting a June bug-colored worm made by Gambler, young Emerson Fair surprised her dad by catching three bass in a 10-minute span. The largest was a fine 4.05-pounder.

It seems we have a fishing star on the rise!

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Tedd Greenwald

Thank you for continuing to write this important community service.