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Fishing report: Cold fish, cold anglers

Only the most hardcore anglers hit the water last weekend as winter bared its teeth like it seldom has in recent years. Lower temperatures are coming.

The Xtreme Bass Trails Lochoosa Series, held out of Orange Lake’s Marjorie Rawlings Park last Saturday fell on one of the harshest days. Just 26 teams braved the misty, breezy cold. Only one catch was made that would rank as ‘impressive’ by Orange Lake standards—and it was fueled by a rare blessing.

The day got started with a bang for C.J. King and Taylor Snirley, when C.J.’s lure was taken by a 10.68-pound giant on his first cast of the cold morning. He and Taylor went on to fill a winning five-bass limit that would total 22.61.

In second place was the Davis team, Jody and Russell, with a 16.56-pound limit. Carson and Scott Kamien wrapped up third with 12.64.

An upcoming tournament to be hosted by the UF Bass Team in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is unlikely to see better conditions. The Fish for Research Open Bass Tournament to be held on Newnans Lake is happening today. From all weather reports, participants will have to suffer a cold wind all day to make their catches. The FWC plans to collect genetic samples from the fish weighed in.

Bass tournaments are commonplace during this season and throughout spring. Although the speckled perch boasts an even bigger army of angling fans, there are few speck-catching contests. We’ve been riding a wave of very good speck fishing locally, and some competition-minded crappie fans will be pleased to know that two speck tourneys are coming up.

On Feb. 5, the Speck Headz Classic will be held on Newnans Lake. One or two-person teams will look for the heaviest specks they can find. The heaviest five-fish limit wins. Plus, the heaviest single speck will win a Gary’s Tackle Box gift card.

Pay the entry fee at the boat ramp the morning of the tournament and call Justin Hardy for more info at 352-559-9257.

Gainesville’s own Eastside Garden Club will hold its annual Billy Evans Speckled Perch Tournament on February 10th. This is a tourney for members only, but these are good speckers. Competition will be fierce, and the weigh-in fun to watch.

For instance, one longtime member, Mike Hill Sr., came in the store the other day telling us of an interesting statistic. The Gainesville speck sage keeps meticulous track of the catches he and his boat mates make.

It seems that Hill fished 168 days in 2020, catching with his buddies 3,631 speckled perch. Anyone would be proud of this catch rate.

Coincidentally, when he totaled up his days fished in 2021, the number was identical—168. But the number of crappies caught rose dramatically to 6,537. Through the year, Hill and his buddies visited Orange, Lochloosa, Newnans, and Santa Fe Lakes most often.

On the saltwater tournament slate, the Power Pole Pro Redfish Tour event scheduled for Saturday out of Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marina moved up a day to Friday the 28th due to the cold winds forecast to come through over the weekend. Redfish action has been good in the shallows within 50 or so miles of the Steinhatchee River mouth, and on Friday, entrants might be found anywhere along that 100-mile stretch of Gulf Coast.

Ahead of very low temperatures forecast to arrive Saturday night, Big Bend anglers have lots of concern for the well-being of snook that have pushed their territory northward to include the Crystal River-to-Suwannee piece of coast.

Through the last half of the 20th century, the cold-sensitive snook could not survive much north of Homosassa, but this new snook strain is thought to be more cold-tolerant. We will see. The last deep freeze several years ago took the fine game fish out by the thousands in our nearest Gulf Coast waters.

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