Fishing report: Lake title on line

John Nemenyi and Garrett Perry with part of their grouper limit.
John Nemenyi and Garrett Perry with part of their grouper limit. (Photo by Jason Evans)

A few weeks of seemingly sub-par fishing finally started to improve noticeably around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Heading up several good inshore gulf reports were Charlie McCallister and Joe Yarborough. The well-experienced Gainesville anglers fished out of Crystal River on Saturday. 

They waited in a drizzly overcast for the tide to rise and then eased in to cast topwater lures around mangrove-covered bars. As soon as they arrived, they found these loaded with large snook and redfish that were in the mood to crush the surface baits.


The anglers had come armed with good rods, reels, and line capable of turning big reds, but these proved incapable of handling some of the beasts they hooked. Snook up to 38 inches and reds to 28 inches made it to the boat to be unhooked and released, but a few large snook claimed victories over the fishermen.

The same day, Gainesville anglers Jason Evans, John Nemenyi, and Garrett Perry ran offshore from Yankeetown in the chilly fog. The trio stopped in water 35 feet deep and started trolling deep-diving lures to pick up a pair of gag grouper.  But when they anchored and dropped sardines to the bottom, the better bites came.  By 9:30, they had a nice limit of gags up to 32 inches long. 

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Grouper limits filled, the three ran out a little deeper to water 40 feet deep.  Bottom fishing there, they pulled in an impressive total of twelve hogfish – a coveted species tough to take with hook-and-line. Most were smallish, though, just shy of the minimum 14-inch legal fork length.

This week, Scott Gamble related a similar fishing story of a trip he and John Maze had taken out of Cedar Key on Wednesday, a day ahead of Thanksgiving Day. The anglers headed out early and arrived at their spot in water just 30 feet deep at sunrise.  The Mann’s Stretch 25+ lures they put out to troll were nailed right away – and the bites kept coming. 

In fact, they hauled in 15 gags in the first hour of fishing. When they headed back to port, Maze and Gamble had a fine four-fish limit of gags, and had released 15 smaller fish.

Florida bass anglers generally regard December as the first of a five-month stretch considered best for finding heavyweight bass.
Furthermore, area bassers agree that Orange Lake is – and has been for years – the most productive lake in North Florida for largemouths of trophy size.

Most South Florida bass enthusiasts, on the other hand, would likely rank a relatively new lake, Fellsmere Water Management Area, as the top spot to hook a trophy bass in the state’s lower half. This reservoir is better known among anglers as “Headwaters”.


Fully aware of all this, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently decided it would be interesting to pit the lakes against each other in a big bass competition. 

And so it is born: The “Battle of the Lakes” will determine which lake, Headwaters or Orange, will be crowned as Florida’s 2022-2023 Florida Trophy Bass Lake of the Year.

Since Orange is ‘home water’ for Gainesville’s legendary bass angler, Shaw Grigsby, he will be pulling for our beloved Orange and will act as its spokesman. 

Well-known bass angler, JT Kenney is considered Fellsmere Reservoir’s local pro, and so the Palm Bay resident was chosen to represent the South Florida contender. 

This contest is scored through Florida’s TrophyCatch program that documents and releases largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida.  At the end of 2023 (the 11th season of TrophyCatch), the lake with the highest total cumulative weight of approved submissions will be crowned “Best Trophy Bass Lake in Florida”.

Without a doubt, Kenney’s Headwaters is good, but I’m betting on Grigsby’s Orange!

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