Fishing report: Wintertime successes abound

The surest way to find out if something happened is to write that you think it didn’t.

We expected the dip into the low 20s two weekends ago to kill some snook that have, over recent years, expanded their territory to the gulf’s Big Bend shallows. But, despite speaking with several that were on the water, we were not able to find any angler who had actually seen any belly-up linesiders in the days following the freeze.

Of course, publishing this good news last week brought out a handful of people who let us know that they had, indeed, spotted some cold-killed fish. The number, however, was small enough that the takeaway remains unchanged: The fish that now inhabits our nearest shallows seems to be a hardier version of snook than we have known.

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The Speck Headz Classic, a much-anticipated crappie-fishing tournament, went off as planned Saturday despite inhospitable conditions. Just 12 teams took off in a chilly drizzle to vie for the specking prize money.

Although on the nasty side, the day saw impressive catches. A father/son duo, fishing on different teams from different boats, took first and second places and most of the prize money. Chris Cercy and partner weighed in a five-crappie limit at 8 pounds, 8 ounces to win. His dad, Dale Cercy, and had five specks that went 8-06.

Nate Smith had the third place catch at 7-14, and he also bagged the biggest single speck of the day: a 2-pound 4-ounce slab.

The Levy County FFA Fishing Tournament was held out of Waccasassa Fishing Club the same day. The saltwater anglers were concerned far less, though, with the uncomfortable weather than they were with a morning tide so low that boats with outboard motors were severely limited in the waters they could reasonably reach.

At least one skiff returned via Sea Tow with a busted lower unit. But, here as well, the catches were better than one might have expected. Samantha Dean bagged the best redfish at 7.2-pounds, while Ron Boatwright’s winning trout weighed 4.2.

The Gainesville team of Kirk Smith and Mike Hill Jr. claimed the prize for heaviest bag (one red, plus five trout). Their winning bag of fish weighed in at 15.2-pounds, topping the 49-team field.

Low water temperatures haven’t altogether held down the trophy-sized catches that bass fans expect in February. Randy Wilkes from Zanesville, Ohio, is in the area on business. The former Stock Eliminator World Champion soon will run his Firebird at the NHRA Gatornationals. But last week, he spent some time fishing on a small area lake.

Monday, casting a Zoom Trick Worm, Wilkes hooked a heavyweight bass that turned out to be a double-digit lunker.

“She weighed 10-09,” Wilkes said. “I was surprised to hook a fish like that with the water in the low 50s.”

Capt. Ken Walker has put customers on several big bass since the low-20s freeze almost two weeks ago. The Rodman Reservoir guide took a visiting father and son last weekend, and their catches were epic. Saturday, Ron Peer caught and released a 12-pound, 2-ounce giant. Then on Sunday, his son Chris hauled in a whopping 12-pound, 12-ouncer.

Rodman produced several solid limits Saturday in the Xtreme Bass Series tournament—and one that was altogether outstanding. Wyatt Kinney and Austin Black docked with five heavy bass topped by an 8.21-pound beauty. The total weight of their winning limit was 34.04—an eye-popping bag of bass.

The BASS Elites, in Palatka for their first qualifier of the year, undoubtedly got wind of these catches right away. It’s a good bet that Rodman will be a popular destination of the big-league bass anglers that will fish the St. John’s River and connected waters through this weekend.

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