Fishing report: Looking back on good fishing year

Redfish were among those reportedly biting on the Steinhatchee last week.
Redfish were among those reportedly biting on the Steinhatchee last week.

All-in-all, 2021 was a good fishing year for us in North Florida. A rainy start made for some good things in our lakes but did no favors for gulf rivers or salty inshore Big Bend fans.

Not until late spring did the Big Bend shallows clear. Then the end of hot weather brought the threat of red tide that, thankfully, ended up not affecting us a lot.

Aside from these negatives, fishing was generally fine. It could be said that the summer of 2021 was a sub-par one for speckled trout fishing on the gulf flats, but the great number of trout that arrived with the coming of cool weather made up for that.

George Deloach and Greg Brown, anglers from Gainesville and High Springs, fished Friday out of Steinhatchee. They ran north out of the river and quickly found an active speckled trout and redfish bite.

The anglers caught fish through the day at a nice pace, but the last spot of the day, with the tide now higher, really made the fishing day special. Casting floating/diving twitch baits, the anglers found not just a large wad of trout—but a large wad of very large trout.

They hooked fish that were uniformly hefty, losing a few but boating eight that were each at least 25-inches long. While present in good number, the men found that the fish were quite particular regarding the size and color of lure they would strike. And that part the anglers would not divulge.

The clients of Capt. Sean Rush have sure enjoyed his amazing recent run of big Rodman Reservoir bass. Since October, the famed bass guide has had 73 trips with customers hoping to hook a trophy largemouth.

Most were evidently happy with the results. These 73 trips produced 80 TrophyCatch bass, or bass weighing at least 8 pounds. Twelve of the whoppers weighed in at more than 10 pounds.

“Last fall was good,” Rush said. “But this year it was a lot better.”

Speckled perch remain the most-sought panfish in local lakes, but the unseasonably warm weather has bluegill and shellcracker biting as well for the few that still seek them.

But the word is out that fishing is good … and launching a boat at Newnans, Orange and Lochloosa lakes can be aggravating for experienced and impatient anglers—even during mid-week.

One of Gainesville’s top panfishers, Ronnie Brown, has gone to impressive lengths to avoid the local boat ramp crowd.

“Fishing around here is pretty good,” he told us this week. “But I’ve been driving to Astor.”

That’s a pretty long drive to sidestep slow local boat launchers—at least 70 miles. But this is a piece of the St. John’s River that does have a good reputation with bream and speck fishers.

When Ronnie showed us pics of his Sunday trip to Astor, we agreed the distance traveled was justified. Fishing grass shrimp and minnows in the river near Lake Dexter (a few miles upriver from Astor), he and his fishing buddy Rich Richardson tallied 24 specks, 68 bluegill and shellcracker, four bass and a catfish.

This week was the last one to harvest Gulf gag grouper for a few months. Offshore anglers were thankful that the last week of 2021 offered weather about as nice as they could have reasonably hoped for.

Mike English and his well-experienced crew ran out from Steinhatchee on Sunday to water 70 feet deep. Fishing natural bait on the bottom, they filled a fine six-person limit of good sized gags.

Nothing, however, to compare with the giant gag grouper that Mike wrested from deeper water two weeks ago. That fish, at 49-inches long and 38 pounds, was his personal best.

But then, it would have been a PB for nearly every grouper angler, anywhere.

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