Fishing report: Smoking catches in summer heat

These six anglers from B&D Electric caught this haul off Steinhatchee on June 27.
Courtesy of Jeff Taylor

Most years, anglers manage to soldier through the burning summer heat—at least until the stifling period in late July and August known as ‘Dog Days.’  This year, the ‘Dog Days’ seem to have arrived early.

The afternoon heat can definitely be rough to navigate, and this has already started to reduce on-the-water activity. It seems that the old ‘fish early and late in the day’ mantra has come to roost for the season.

Despite the daily blow torch and rising water temps, one area lake is still producing pretty amazing results, especially in the largemouth bass department.

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Orange Lake, over two straight Saturday bass tournaments in boiling heat, has yielded world-class hauls of trophy-size fish. Two Saturdays ago (June 18th), catches made by anglers competing in an Xtreme Bass Series qualifier had freshwater anglers everywhere talking.  

The biggest bass weighed in that day—a 12.5-pound summertime giant—anchored a fine 24.03-pound tournament limit of five bass. But that brag-worthy catch was only good for seventh place overall.  

On this day the eighth-place team weighed in an 11.56 beauty and, along with their four other bass, Mike Hafer and Chad Dorland turned in a 23.62 pound total that in past summers might well have been enough to win.

These days, though, you’ll need a mind-bending 30-pound bag to score a big paycheck. Tray and Woody Bozeman claimed second place with 31.76. Among their five fish were individuals of 12.04 and 9.7.

The team of Tom Morgan and Dale Kendrick won the day with an astounding 33.42-pound hot weather limit. Bass of 9.8 and 9.7 helped them get there.

Then last Saturday, the Toho Marine Elite One Man Series visited Orange.  

Again, skilled competing anglers located and caught great fish. Mason Boylan won with five bass weighing 34.92. Boylan’s best two fish weighed 11.46 and 10.57.

Just unreal.

Offshore anglers fishing out of the long Big Bend stretch from Crystal River to Steinhatchee are generally faring quite well with red snapper and grouper. Big water fans taking advantage of the dual open season show us pics of 20-pound gags and 20-pound red snapper almost daily.  

One thing we’ve noticed, though, is that the really good catches this season are being made out deeper than many are willing to venture.

On Monday, a group of six anglers with B&D Electric went out from Steinhatchee aboard a 33-foot Scout. They didn’t stop until they got way out there. In spots ranging from 100 to 130 feet deep, the men dropped various baits—squid, pinfish, and threadfin herring—to the bottom and hooked hefty fish at a good pace.  

The all-day effort produced limits of red snapper up to 24-pounds, plus four big gag grouper (all over 20 pounds). Their results were impressive, but the cost was considerable, too. They had left the Steinhatchee River at 5 a.m. and didn’t see the river mouth again until well after dark.  

And at its end, the hardcore fishing trip had used up 250 of the boat’s 256-gallon fuel capacity.

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