Fishing report: Orange bass still biting

Allen (L) and Stephen Dyson with their winning Orange Lake Catch on July 2
Allen (left) and Stephen Dyson with their winning Orange Lake Catch on July 2.
Courtesy of Dyson

Area lake levels are slowly dropping and water temps are rising. This shouldn’t necessarily be a great combination for fishing, but at least one lake continues to put out amazing catches.

The stellar Orange Lake big bass bite lives on. 

Stephen and Allen Dyson fished in the B.A.S.S. Nation Open Team Tournament on July 2. They

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found a couple of great spots and, flipping soft plastic crawfish, bagged a winning five-bass limit that weighed 33.52-pounds.  

The giant limit was anchored by Stephen’s 10.24. The whopper broke their landing net, but the trade-off was a good one as the double-digit beauty also won the tourney’s ‘Big Bass’ money.  

A bad thunderstorm swept across the lake at 1 p.m. and that pretty much ended the fishing for most teams, as weigh-in was at 2:30.  

“We took time to cull carefully, and it’s a good thing we did,”  Stephen said. “The second-place team was barely behind us at 33.21.”

Fishing was also generally very good in the Gulf over the [Fourth of July] holiday weekend.

Fuel prices seem to be coming down, but most offshore anglers still say they think twice before planning costly trips to the deep water.

At least one group, on the other hand, is traveling well beyond the depths that most would even consider.

When Jacob Brown came in the store this week asking about tackle for Wahoo fishing, we naturally assumed he must be fishing off Florida’s East Coast. But a little while later, he mentioned Crystal River.

Pressed a bit farther, he explained that he would indeed be looking for the rocket-like predators off Crystal River—FAR off Crystal River.

The Ocala angler went on to show us a phone pic of the fish he had caught there the day before on July 6. The 88-pound Wahoo was a beauty. And the day before that, he and his crew had boated another weighing 56-pounds, also while flatlining a live bait.  

The key, he explained, is being able to go far enough offshore.  

“It’s different out there,” he said.  

Brown went on to describe commonly catching 12- to-15-pound mangrove snappers and vermillions that run 5 pounds. Dolphin (mahi), sailfish, huge cobia, and amberjack way over 100 pounds have all been pulled aboard out in what sounds to us like the promised land of offshore fishing. 

Brown describes a “ledge in about 250 feet of water” that holds all of these wonderful fish. And that’s more than 110 miles off the mainland.

Closer in, the 60- to 80-foot deep range that most offshore anglers visit continues to produce snapper and grouper at a good rate. Seems to matter little whether you’re out of Crystal River, Cedar Key, Suwannee, or Steinhatchee. Offshore reports sound similar out from all of these ports.

On June 1, Chris Clark went offshore from Horseshoe Beach with three co-workers. In water 65 feet deep, they were having good luck bottom fishing for mangrove snapper when they spotted a sizable piece of wooden flotsam.  

With dolphinfish in mind, they investigated and saw swarms of fish in the clear water underneath and around it. As they had hoped, the fish were little ‘schoolie’ dolphin from 14- to 18-inches long.  

The surprising part was the number of fish. Chris said, “There must’ve been a thousand of them.”  

The anglers caught 25 of the small dolphin before moving on. Seeing that these seemed to be shaped a bit differently, Clark found that these were a slightly different variation of the mahi-mahi known as Pompano Dolphinfish.

It’s said that these are smaller on average, but I bet they still make a tasty sandwich.

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