Fishing report: Early winter fishing starts strong

A nice holiday season warm spell has allowed anglers easy shots at fish and reports have been outstanding from several areas along the Big Bend Coast.

Capt. Sean Campbell is one of a number of near-shore gulf fishers reporting dependably fast action. Campbell’s run of good fishing has lasted so far for more than a month in Cedar Key waters. Casting various soft plastic lures and concentrating on redfish and trout, he has found fish easily on “nicer weather days with good tidal movement.”

The water temperature dipped considerably a time or two during that span of time, and caused him concern—knowing that the trout and snook, in particular, might exit the shallow areas he prefers. When temperatures fall out of their range of tolerance, the fish can get out of dodge with surprising speed.

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But so far, plenty of hungry fish remain in the shallows.

Around 50 miles to the north, Robert and Jennifer Hart have found that some of the cold-shy favorites have, indeed, headed in to the deeper and slightly warmer waters of the Steinhatchee River. Last Sunday the Harts loaded up with a pleasing mix of tasty species.

Casting jigheads with shrimp threaded on, they pulled speckled and sand trout, flounder, whiting, drum, redfish, sheepshead, and a big black sea bass from a hole near the river mouth.

“It was the best river bite we’ve had in years,” Robert said. 

Also fishing out of Steinhatchee, Ed and Marcia Ellett added yet another species to the Hart couple’s impressive list. And Ed’s Atlantic Croaker was a real whopper for its kind. In fact, the 2.08-pound fish is an all-time record with the venerable Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club.

There was just one thorny detail, however, that might have caused Ed a moment of concern when he brought the fish near the boat. It seems that the prior club record for the species was a 1.58 pound example that was caught in January of 2019… by Marcia.

“She netted the fish for me knowing it was bigger—and she didn’t try to knock it off my line,” Ed recounted. 

Capt. Randy Harris took the Dennis Crawford party from Starke and Lake Butler out from Steinhatchee Tuesday. For a while at low tide, they were able to sight-cast live shrimp to tailing redfish on a shallow flat. Then as the tide rose, jigs and suspending hard baits accounted for more fish.

Everyone aboard caught both redfish and trout limits—and they put a few now-legal-to-harvest flounder on ice to boot.

Several anglers running out into 30-to-45 feet of water and targeting grouper have also offered glowing reports this week. Diving lures trolled in this depth range have accounted for nice-sized gags that will be in season for recreational harvest for a little while longer, until January 1.

Pretty much any day you drive out to Powers Park at the south end of Newnans Lake, you will see several tow vehicles with empty boat trailers in the parking lot. This serves as strong evidence that the speckled perch bite there is still ‘on’. The speck bite is good, too, on Orange, Little Orange, and Lochloosa Lakes.

At Twin Lakes Fish Camp on Cross Creek, limit speck catches are pretty commonplace now. Camp owner Jeff Septer says most of the catches are coming from Lochloosa’s deep, open water, but a few of his customers have found crappies in the shallower lily pads as well.

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