Fishing report: Speck fishers go on alert

Person holding large black crappie fish
Person holding large black crappie fish

Early Saturday morning, hopeful anglers were greeted by windy, chilly and rough conditions.

The new year always sees the start of fishing tournaments, and organizers of the 12U Elite Baseball Team Tournament fundraiser rolled the dice, taking the first slot and hoping for the best, weather-wise. They got “almost decent.”

Just a few participants went out of Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marina that morning. To their credit, some docked a few hours later with nice catches.

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Kaiden Kresak weighed in a winning 6-pound redfish and his fishing partner Chris Keel had the biggest trout at 2.5-pounds. Team Phillips docked with a five-fish limit of trout that totaled 9.6-pounds to win the Trout Aggregate division.

Today Sea Hag is hosting another angling fundraiser, the GHS Fishing Club’s Fishing Tournament.

Sunday was a better fishing day, but anglers out early said it was still breezy and tough until about mid-afternoon, when the gulf “slicked off,” offering a warm calm. Here at its end, came the best fishing of the weekend. Even casters who had earlier struggled to find willing fish scored well during the sweet late-day spell.

“The best fishing of the weekend was its last three or four hours of daylight,” one angler said.

No doubt the freshwater action was similar, but the good stories we heard came from the gulf shallows and involved trout and redfish.

In freshwater, the local speckled perch that have fed actively through the cooler months usually spawn heaviest around February’s full moon. Depending on weather, some years this can occur a month earlier—or a moon later.

A couple of local speck sages have said lately that they wouldn’t be too surprised if this was one of those ‘a month earlier’ years. At this writing, the water temp is favorable, and some Newnans Lake crappie fishermen have already found larger fish around shallow, brushy cover.

To top off the evidence for an early spawn, there have also been whispers that some fat specks are carrying large, nearly mature roe.

Most years, the Newnans crappies spawn first. Lochloosa and Orange Lake specks are often next to procreate, and then a clearer-and-deeper Santa Fe Lake sees its specks hit the shallows later yet. The spawning specks don’t hang around in the shallows for very long, but their stay marks the pinnacle of the crappie fishing season. If you can be in the right place at the right time, the fishing is memorable for sure.

Great crappie reports have already come from a couple of lakes along the St. John’s River system—Crescent and Dexter. Curiously absent, though, have been promising stories from Rodman and Lake George.

But such is the North Florida speckled perch spawn. Choose your water body and your time of arrival. Maybe you hit things right and fill a big limit of slabs. Maybe you miss your guess.

Monday the 17th will see the January full moon and it would seem to coincide with some of the coldest forecast temperatures of this winter season. It could postpone things and could spur the specks on. By next week’s report, we will know!

It’s also possible that an upcoming tournament for speck fishers will be timed perfectly. On Feb. 5, the 1st Annual Speck Head Classic Crappie Tournament will take off from Newnans Lake’s Earl P. Powers Park at first light. Teams made up of two anglers will put together their best five-fish catches by the 2 p.m. weigh-in.

The heaviest five specks wins. First, second, and third-place teams will win cash prizes and there is a guaranteed prize for the heaviest single speck of the day.

We see tournaments for bass and for saltwater trout and redfish almost every weekend. A speckled perch tournament like this seldom comes along.

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