GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Frank Sargeant.
If there's any question that the lunker bass bite is on, check this: the winner in last weekend's Bass Federation tournament at Okeechobee brought in five fish that totaled 32 pounds, 10 pounds — an average of almost 61/2 pounds!
Captain Mike Shellen guided one of his anglers to a monster 11-4, which gulped down a live shiner.
Shellen says the east side of Grassy Island is loaded with small bass as is the whole east side of the lake down to J&S Fish Camp. Many techniques are working, including spinner baits, top water, traditional plastic worms, Senkos and flukes. He said larger bass are being taken by flipping or pitching a creature style bait, tube or oversized plastic worm.
Shellen said the North Shore area is also hot, although the water on the outside edge may be stained due to south winds. Anglers are finding bass well back in the marsh in some very heavy cover areas. Down the west side of the lake, Observation Shoal is holding large numbers of bass in the eel grass and pepper grass beds.
Shellen reports speck fishermen are finding fish in the Kissimmee River as well as up to a half-mile straight out from the mouth of the river. Other anglers are probing the outside grass lines with jigs or minnows to catch heavyweight specks. Many have spawned or are preparing to spawn, Shellen said; www.okeechobeebassfishing.com.
Last weekend's B.A.S.S. collegiate tournament at Lake Harris also turned up lots of big fish and winning catches of five fish in the 30-pound range — if you want a lunker, the time is now through late February.
In saltwater, captain Sergio Atanes of Tampa has been finding some lunker sheepshead inside the bay. Live shrimp fished around wrecks and rock outcrops are the ticket, and this action will get better as the fish begin to spawn in predictable areas on the edge of the shipping channels. The bite typically lasts well into March; www.reelfishy.com.
Captain Ray Markham reports the big tides generated by the new moon should make this a great inshore weekend, with good wadefishing in potholes on the flats all along the South Shore and in lower Tampa Bay on low tides, and good action around docks and deep mangrove edges on highs. He said black drum are joining reds and sheepshead around the docks, while trout and flounder can be found in the potholes, where they'll grab a DOA Shrimp as well as the real thing; www.captainraymarkham.com.
Farther south, sporadic red tide is likely to slow fishing. Heavy to moderate outbreaks have been reported by FWRI from Venice southward this week. (Not to say you can't enjoy great action by running well up inside Charlotte Harbor to Bull Bay, Turtle Bay and the back of Pine Island Sound.)