Fishing report: Fishing improves in cooler nights

Crappie fish

We’re halfway through the 2022 hurricane season, and not a single named storm has threatened Florida. 

Often, desperate anglers find themselves wishing for a slow-moving weather event to bring our fresh waters back to a healthy level ahead of winter. It’s a lot to ask —
a drenching system lacking damaging wind. 

So far this year, we have the best of situations regarding lake levels and major weather threats, and we don’t happen to be in particular need of a visit from a drenching system. In the tricky balance between too much and not enough rain going into cold weather, this autumn finds our fresh waters in a pleasing spot.

Newnans Lake is a prime indicator of the health of surface waters along the Orange Creek Basin. It’s the first lake to rise dramatically with big rains and also the first to fall in their absence. For a few weeks earlier this summer, Newnans was too low for many vessels, as outboards churned mud even far off the tree-lined shore. 

A rainy August delivered the needed correction and a trip to the boat ramp last week showed the old lake to be at a near-ideal level for fishing.

Historically, by the way, Newnans is an excellent lake for fall speckled perch fishing. When the nights begin to cool perceptibly, we expect the crappie fishing to ramp up quickly, as lake conditions will be favorable. 

Orange, Lochloosa, and Rodman are also productive speck lakes that are likewise looking good.

In our nearest salty Gulf shallows, scallop season has ended and snook are now in season for anglers possessing a snook stamp. The daily limit, though, makes snook fillets a rather slim chance. The Gulf fisher can harvest one linesider per day measuring between 28 and 33 inches in length. 

From Suwannee southward, the snook bite has been consistent. Most anglers looking for shallow water gamefish say that they can locate snook more dependably than they can find redfish — a fact shocking to old-timer fishermen.

Speckled trout catches have held up better than in most summer seasons, and as water temperatures begin to fall, trout fishing will improve. Along the Big Bend coast, there are presently large pockets of darker water in areas that are normally clear. 

To boot, anglers have noticed an absence of sea grasses on flats that have been grassy for decades. We’re not sure we understand what has brought about these changes, but the old rule remains true. Find clear water and a nice, grassy bottom and you’ll probably be around speckled trout.

The start of football season and the arrival of fall-run Spanish mackerel on Seahorse Reef have gone hand-in-hand for as long as we can remember. Many consider the large reef a few miles off Cedar Key to be the top mackerel attractor on the coast. 

Already, we’ve heard of a few limits of mackerel from Seahorse,  and that action should only improve through the coming weeks.

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