Fishing report: Holiday angling options abound

Here at the start of winter, the biggest fishing news in our part of Florida remains the exceptional ‘speck’ fishing. Speckled perch, that is, in Gainesville’s nearby lakes and speckled trout across nearly 100 miles of coastal shallows on the gulf side of the state.

The saltwater variety of ‘speck’ continues to cause a lot of angler excitement. Rick Pena, James Lovvorn and Alan Dubose headed out last Thursday morning from Horseshoe Beach, where they have been wrecking the trout for weeks.

The morning was a foggy one and the tide was falling when they reached their first spot near Pepperfish Keys. The three started out in the close mist casting topwater lures.

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Right off the bat, both redfish and trout busted the dog-walking surface baits worked over clear, grassy shallows. By the time the fog was lifting and the topwater bite slowed, the anglers had boated six redfish with two over-slot fish longer than 27-inches … plus several good trout.

The biggest trout of the day, a 23-incher, had also fallen for a Rapala Skitter Walk. A relatively new speckled trout regulation allows only one fish over 19 inches to be harvested per vessel …. and so, several fish between 19 and 23 inches were carefully released.

When the day brightened a bit, the trio moved a little deeper and worked the other extreme in the water column, bumping soft plastic lures slowly over the bottom. Utilizing this method, they finished their three-man limit of both speckled trout and redfish.

Trout are hardly the only top-notch target of gulf anglers now. Redfish are biting just about as well out of most Big Bend ports ranging from Keaton Beach all the way down to Crystal River—in some places, even better. To boot, the snook that have invaded our nearest gulf coastline are frequently hooked incidentally by folks casting for trout and redfish. This pleasing trend has caused more and more anglers to dedicate their fishing efforts altogether toward the game, line-sided battlers.

Out deeper, grouper are in good supply for anglers taking advantage of the final weeks of open gag season. Trolled diving lures and natural baits fished on rocky spots not far offshore are regularly producing nice limits of gag grouper.

As with salty trout, speckled perch are not the sole objective of the freshwater fisher. Bass fishing is reasonably solid in the same lakes that are putting out so many crappies: Newnans, Orange, Lochloosa and Little Orange.

You would have to travel a little more than an hour south to Leesburg to find really outstanding bass action. The Harris Chain of lakes is definitely producing that. In recent bass tournaments held on that famous cluster of lakes, winning five-fish limits totaling more than 30 pounds are not uncommon. A limit of bass averaging better than 6 pounds apiece will cause jaws to drop anywhere in the world.

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