Gainesville Sun Fishing Report 3-31-2011

Though its effects will likely be minimal in terms of water level, local anglers are hopeful that this week’s rainfall will kick-start the bass and bream bite on Orange and Lochloosa Lakes. So far, the usually top-notch fishing lakes have not produced as well as they did last spring.

Competitive bassers are looking forward to the popular Wednesday night Orange Lake bass tournaments that will resume next week, running from 6 ’til 9 p.m. out of Heagy-Burry Park. Some have questioned whether there’s sufficient water in Orange to hold tourneys. A Cracker Boys contest held there Saturday attracted more than 50 competing teams. While the winning weight was not overly impressive at just over 15-pounds, the smoothly run event proved that the lake remains capable of accommodating a large field.

Bass action was already very good on Rodman and Santa Fe Lakes, even before any rain fell. Saturday, Robert and Cody Black found the bass schooling — chasing shad and shiners out in the mid-lake stump flats. Casting Rapala jerkbaits, the Waldo father-and-son teamed up to boat and release 25 fish ranging in size from 2-to-5 pounds. Unfortunately, young Cody lost the biggest bass of the day when the lunker dove at the boat, broke his new graphite rod, and pulled free.

A too-strong wind lessened the Rodman catches Sunday, but Buster Lipham and Scott Simken were able to find a few willing fish in the Orange Springs area. Casting pumpkinseed-colored Zoom worms in a thick early fog, and then later in a considerable bluster, the men took eight keeper-size fish. Utilized frequently, Lipham’s Power Poles contributed considerably to the day’s success. The Gainesville anglers reported the reservoir’s level to be higher by a foot or more than it was kept through the winter season.

Santa Fe Lake also continues to put out fetching bass stories. Fishing alone last Friday, Don House found that the fish spawning in the Santa Fe maidencane could not resist grape-colored, straight-tail Bitter’s plastic worms. The Gainesville angler released several hefty fish including a seven-pounder and three more of about five pounds each.

And anglers with access to smaller area lakes and ponds are also enjoying fast fish-catching. Using ultralight tackle, Steve Camp cast tiny Rapala CD3 lures in a pond near his home in Hawthorne Tuesday evening to tempt 25 bass up to three pounds, 10 big bream, and a couple of specks — in just two hours.

There are plenty of good targets for gulf coast fishers these days, and trout are probably at the head of the list. Great catches of big speckled trout remain common — like the impressive three-man limit Capt. Jim Keith and his party showed off at the Cedar Key boat ramp Tuesday afternoon. The catch consisted of only top-of-the-slot fish and included three over 20-inches.

Terry Wilkins of Brooker and his fishing buddies found it necessary to expand their trout search out of Keaton Beach last weekend. A few days earlier, they had caught big trout in water just two feet deep. The shallows, though, held no sizable fish Saturday. Finally, Wilkins located plenty of fish all the way out on grass flats five-to-six feet deep. Casting Gulp! shrimp and Mirrolures, the anglers filled trout limits that included a few stout fish more than 20-inches long.

Fishing out of Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marina, local angler James Malloy, Gary Lastition of Fruitland Park, and Michael Tomberlin of Martinez, Ga. were among the successful weekend speckled trout anglers.

Another, often overlooked trout is likewise abundant. Great numbers of sand trout currently reside in slightly deeper, sandy-bottomed areas (such as navigation channels) off Cedar Key and Suwannee. Typically smaller and feistier than its spotted cousin, the sand trout is not subject to length or bag limit…and is a fool for jigs with grub tails fished slowly along the bottom. Saturday, Buddy DeGraff and Greg Bachman found such a spot near North Key. Casting jigs with Gulp! and Saltwater Assassin grubs, the Melrose men pulled in more than 50 of the spot-free trout. Along with two of the speckled variety and a couple of flounder, they iced twenty of the biggest ‘sandies’.

The Florida Legislature has declared the coming weekend to be Florida’s Free Fishing Weekend. Both residents and nonresidents in Florida can fish public fresh waters statewide during the weekend of April 2 and 3 — even without a fishing license. All other fishing laws and rules still apply.