Fishing report: Winds fail to halt good catches

Gary Simpson holding a speckled trout he recently caught.
Gary Simpson holding a speckled trout he recently caught.
Courtesy of Gary Simpson

The 18th Annual Shands Fishing for Kids Tournament drew 73 boats to the choppy Steinhatchee flats Saturday. 

Despite gusty winds, the much-anticipated fishing fundraiser was a success, generating more than $27,000 to benefit UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. And although conditions were less than ideal, catches were solid.

Speckled trout are the primary target in this contest and an angler who has been on a big-trout-catching roll of late must’ve been licking his chops ahead of takeoff. In the recent Josh’s Place tournament out of Steinhatchee, Andy Phillips won the trout division with a giant 7.12-pounder.

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On this day, his trout wasn’t quite so large at 5.30, but it was plenty big to earn Phillips and his partner, John Hinsen, Big Trout honors. And, buoyed by this single-heaviest specimen of the day, the Phillips/Hinsen team also claimed the Trout Aggregate title with a five-fish limit totaling 10.84. 

Robbie Emmons and Bradley Adams teamed up to bag the second-heaviest five-trout catch at 10.55. The heaviest legal redfish of the day was a good 6.98-pounder presented to the weighmaster by the team of Collin English and Clay Rowe. 

Winners in the Youth Division with nice-sized trout were Clay Taylor 2.18, Rhett Jackson 1.99, France Davis 1.95, and Connor Kelly 1.94.

Aside from trout and reds, gulf anglers have reported finding good numbers of cobia and mackerel when the persistent winds have allowed.

A large percentage of our customers who have spent at least a day in the Big Bend shallows say they have seen, hooked, and lost, or caught big cobia. To be legal to keep, these tackle-wrecking beasts must be at least 36 inches long to the tail fork. Only one fish per harvester per day, and not more than two fish per vessel. 

Mackerel lovers have found nice numbers of both the Spanish and king varieties—especially off Cedar Key and Suwannee. Each harvester can take 15 Spanish with ‘fork lengths’ of at least 12 inches per day. Kings must be 24-inches long to the tail fork and Gulf fishers can take three per day.

In freshwater, the rains last weekend were welcome, but they weren’t heavy enough to give lake levels perceptible help. If we don’t have a wet May, we will go into the heat of summer with area lakes lower than we’d like.

Florida’s BASS Nation held weekend tournaments for its Northeast Region anglers on Orange Lake. Saturday’s tourney was in the Pro/Am format. Although this was generally the better weather day, the 22 competing boats found Orange’s bigger fish tough to tempt. 

Claude Loftin won on the Boater side with a 22.29-pound limit that was anchored by the best single fish of the day, a 9.12-pounder. On the Co-Angler side, Cary Wien came out on top with a 5.84 total.

The next day’s BASS Nation event was a team tournament.  But by now, conditions were different and not for the better. The day dawned with winds high enough to apparently eliminate chances of much angling success, and only nine teams chose to brave the bluster. 

But surprisingly, Sunday produced better catches than were seen the day before. Chad and Isaac Dorland fought through the stiff wind to bag a hefty limit of Orange bass totaling 29.39 pounds. 

The Compton & Compton team rode a nice 9.13 — a twin of Saturday’s Big Bass — to a 22.3 total and a second-place finish.  The Loftin/Shawver team finished third with 21.64.

Even on the most unsavory fishing days, Orange Lake continues to produce bass impressively.

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