We usually expect the gulfâ€™s fall mackerel run to start up in earnest sometime in late September. Judging from recent catches off Cedar Key and Suwannee, the macks have started their migration a little early this year.
Early Saturday morning, Wally Grant and Don House headed out from Suwannee, bent on catching trout in the fertile zone about 10 miles offshore known as Spotty Bottom. With the sun peeking over the horizon behind them, the Gainesville anglers pounded through a considerable chop. Upon arrival, they were greeted by good indications … diving birds, porpoises and clear water. The anglers were unable to stand and fish in the pitching vessel, so they cast while sitting. Saltwater Assassin jigs accounted for several of the trout they had in mind, along with the ever-present incidental ladyfish and Black sea bass. Mostly, though, there were cutoffs. Grant and House had come without wire leaders, and some sharp-toothed predator clipped off their lures one after the other. When they did manage to hook a couple of the fish outside their row of razors, the men learned that their trouble was being caused by jumbo-size Spanish mackerel. Heading back to the river mouth, they resolved to never visit Spotty Bottom again without wire leaders.
Also out of Suwannee last Saturday, Jeff Taylor and Rick Pena found a great mix of near-shore favorites. Casting Rapala Twitchinâ€™ Minnows, the Gainesville anglers hauled in five trout â€” all at least 22 inches long. To boot, with soft plastic â€śLittle Bossâ€ť lures, they caught and released a half dozen redfish and two tripletail.
John Nemenyi, Max Goepper and Joe Ambrose decided lateÂ Sunday morning to make the drive to Cedar Key for some fishing. While battling midday heat and sand gnats, the Gainesville trio spotted a number of large fish tailing on a favorite stretch of shallow sand and oyster bars. The anglers presented them with both mud minnows and mullet, but strangely, the fish turned down the live baits. Stranger still, when John tied on a Slayer, Inc. swimbait, one of the fish ate it up. A few minutes later, John was posing for a quick photo with a 32-inch Cedar Key snook. This would be the highlight of a fine afternoon trip that also produced five redfish.Â
Saturday brought one of the most anticipated of all annual North Florida bass tournaments when the 5thÂ Casting for Autism event went out of Sandy Point, near the confluence of the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers. This tourney typically attracts around 100 teams, and it did again this year with 92. It is a two-day contest â€¦ at least, for 15 teams. Following Day One, only the top fifteen qualify to fish on Day Two. With the Suwannee system still high and dark, most anglers found the bass-catching to be quite tough. Some made impossibly-long trips in the attempt to find willing fish, but Day One catches were uncharacteristically small. The 15th-place team after the first day of competition had a mere 8.07-pound total. But, as is often the case, three or four teams had located good bass. Then, as if the bite wasnâ€™t tough enough already, things changed dramaticallyÂ Sunday. The bass behaved differently on the brighter, sunny day.
In the end, P.J. Shirha and Tim Webb of Live Oak and Wellborn won the prodigious first-place cash with a two-day total of 31.56 pounds. They needed every bit of it, as the accomplished Lake City team of Donnie Feagle and Josh Lester was right behind in second place with 31.16.
The tournament raised over $30,000 for its charity, Puzzle Pieces of North Florida.Â
Orange Lake bass fishing continues to pick up steam. Corey Kempton fished Orange over the weekend, looking for the big bites that seem to come most often to anglers punching heavily-weighted soft baits through thickly matted vegetation. Along with James Hatch, Kempton employed this technique (flipping) Saturday. The Gainesville men pulled seven bass from under the weeds. Sunday, he returned for another short, midday trip with Winston Kicklighter. Again flipping with Bass Assassin Skunk Ape baits, they took four more Orange bass. Speaking of all the fish he and his buddies caught Saturday and Sunday, Kempton said, â€śI donâ€™t think there was one under three pounds.â€ť
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary’s Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.