At an age when most kids are thrilled to catch a bream, nine-year-old Ryan Schiavone already has a more than impressive fishing resume.
Young Ryan fished far off St. Augustine last Saturday with his dad, Carmine, and mom, Regina. Trolling a small Ilander lure with a ballyhoo added in water 400 feet deep, the young angler tied into a large fish. His Penn 30 International reel quickly lost most of its 30-pound test monofilament, but Ryan battled hard and eventually brought his 40-pound wahoo to the boat. By early afternoon, the Schiavones headed back to port with a pair of wahoo and a dolphin. Ryan, by the way, boated his first sailfish last year.
Outstanding near-shore fishing along the Gulf Coast has the attention of the North Florida angling masses.
Bobby Gaff and Carl Barnes fished last weekend out of the Waccasassa Fishing Club. Saturday, it took the High Springs anglers a while to locate the larger speckled trout they were after. Smaller trout were abundant, but the bigger fish seemed scarce. Finally, casting Cajun Thunder rattling floats with Gulp! and Saltwater Assassin tails on jigheads, they did fill a double limit of good-sized fish more than 17 inches long. Sunday, with a better idea of the most productive spots and baits, the men maxed out on hefty trout up to 20 inches long by mid-morning.
The clear Steinhatchee flats have come alive with trout, and most fishers are faring well with various lures and natural baits in water 3 to 6 feet deep. Chartering inshore guides, Fuzzy Finch has enjoyed steady trout action every day of his stay at Sea Hag Marina. The Dawsonville, Ga., angler arrived Saturday. Fellow Georgia fishermen, Jeff Luke and Randy Puckett, have also pulled in loads of Steinhatchee trout over recent days. But Trey Williams docked with the biggest fish and the best Steinhatchee story of the weekend. The Cochran, Ga., angler was casting a Gulp! bait in water about 6 feet deep with light tackle when something more than just another trout latched on. After a tooth-and-nail battle, Williams wrestled aboard a fish about a third as long as his little Sundance boat. The kingfish would later weigh 25 pounds at the marina.
While the mid-April fishing seems best on the salty coasts, this is also a prime time of year to cast in our nearby freshwater fishing holes. Sub-par rainfall over the past few months has rendered many of the naturally shallow lakes difficult to access, but low water or not, the annual warm-weather bream bedding is firing up. Panfishers on Lochloosa say the bream are gathering in earnest as the moon nears its ‘full’ phase. Mike and Alicia Bass of Cross Creek fished grass shrimp in the Little Lochloosa lily pads Monday to ice a 70-fish mix of big bluegills and shellcrackers. Tuesday morning, Roger Elliott also departed from Twin Lakes Fish Camp at the Little Lochloosa end of Cross Creek, armed with cane poles and grass shrimp. The local panfishing sage took 34 bream in an hour and a half.
Although the ‘practice days’ ahead of the Bassmasters of Gator Country’s monthly tournament on Rodman Reservoir went well for many members, the bite toughened considerably on contest day. I fished as a guest with Wally Grant. Gawking at the big bedding shellcrackers we spotted in the clear shallows was a highlight of our fishing day. Without light tackle or tiny lures, we could only observe the two-hand size bream as they milled about the bright white sand and shell beds. I’m not sure about Wally, but those big bream fired me up more than catching the few small bass we managed to trick. Tourney winner, Dennis Hart did bag a nice five-bass limit that weighed 13.07 pounds, and Jason Howe vanquished an 8.37-pound beauty to claim the big bass prize.
A much larger field of bass-seeking competitors will fish out of Kenwood Landing Saturday in the 15th Save Rodman Reservoir Open Bass Tournament. This popular event features a world-class barbecue and raffle, and typically draws more than 100 angling teams.
Then on the following Saturday, April 23, the Military Support Group of Alachua County will hold a bass tournament on the reservoir that will attract another crowd of anglers to Kenwood Landing.
Catches will likely be impressive in both events. Recently, Rodman was rightfully designated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as one of the 10 best bass lakes in Florida.
It’s pretty good for shellcrackers, too.