Fishing report: Giant bass and dead gators

February’s Full Moon arrived on the heels of quite a chilly spell.

This celestial event often marks a time when crappie lovers see the relatively brief move of specks into shallow shoreline cover to spawn.

So far, we have not heard the great tales of fat slabs gathering in local lakes, but things seem to be moving in that direction. For sure, Ren Gallon and Andy Hadsock feel that the best of the speckled perch spawn might be very near.

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For two Saturdays running, the Gainesville anglers have found specks shallow on Newnans Lake. They know, though, that they haven’t been present for that brief magical spell when the heaviest female crappies move in en masse to deposit their eggs.

Casting little crappie jigs next to bits of brushy cover standing in water now shallower than ideal, the longtime fishing buddies hit the 35-speck mark on each of the last two Saturdays. Most of the fish were males. But, encouragingly, the few big female fish they harvested had very-nearly-mature roe.

Lochloosa speck fishers, too, have enjoyed similar success, and the specks here seem to be on schedule with the Newnans fish. Many of the Lochloosa fish now are being found around and amongst the lake’s weedy or brushy shoreline cover.

For the last few years, February has seen fantastic bass pulled from Orange Lake. That string will not be broken this year. An Xtreme Bass Series tournament was held at Marjorie K Rawlings Park on Saturday and joining them at the boat ramp that morning was a bass club from Georgia. The local Xtreme anglers ended up weighing the heaviest limit of bass that day—a fine 25.11-pound limit weighed in by Joe Yarborough and Dewayne Moore.

It was the Georgia Boys, though, that caused the greatest stir. One of their fishermen, Daniel Day, captured a massive 14-pound, 4-ounce Orange Lake largemouth. This is the heaviest reported area bass of the year, and it anchored Day’s winning 20-pound total catch.

Unfortunately, the giant bass was not released back into Orange Lake, but was reportedly instead taken back across the state line into Georgia.

The Gainesville Sun reported early this week on the sudden, mysterious presence of dead alligators, turtles, and snakes on Orange lake. This puzzled us all since nobody could imagine what in the water might take out reptiles while not affecting fish.

Mid-week, FWC Regional Fisheries Administrator, Allen Martin issued a statement regarding the “Orange Lake mortality event” and it offered a very plausible explanation. After the reptiles were examined, Martin explained, “Major findings indicate evidence of external and internal trauma such as lacerations, bruising on the skin, internal bleeding, and organ damage. There was no evidence of infectious disease or toxins.”

He went on, “The most likely cause of this event is believed to be an impact with an aquatic vegetation shredder. As reptiles are “cold-blooded” they likely took shelter under a floating mat of vegetation during a recent cold snap. During cold temperatures, reptiles move more slowly and were unable to get out of the way of the shredder as they normally would during warmer weather.”

Martin went on to promise that, “The FWC will incorporate temperature-related requirements into our Best Management Practices to minimize future mortality of wildlife.”

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