Fishing & Boating

For a big payoff, it’s time to try small baits

By NICK WALTER

nwalter@bradenton.com

If you want your best chance at catching some fish this week, consider a few factors that successful anglers have been screaming lately.

For one, use small baits. That’s worth repeating: Small baits! In saltwater or freshwater, that’s been a key. The water has been so clear that fish typically don’t have enough time to determine its size, and it’s easy for a fish to quickly inhale the bait, instead of nipping a piece of a shiner, and leaving an angler with nothing but a mangled bait.

This is true is saltwater and freshwater.

In waters out east, water levels are quite low. At Lake Evers, for example, water levels are about four feet under the normal level, according to Capt. Doc Lee.

“Low water has been the boom for fishing at Evers,” Lee said. “All game fish are feeding on bait fish and shrimp because the water’s so low. There’s no place for them to hide.”

Some freshwater lakes won’t have quite the extreme drop as Evers. Cooper Creek is much deeper than Evers, so any drop won’t be as dramatic. In the lakes at Myakka River State Park, water levels had already been so low that Penny Crawford from Mr. B’s Fishin’ Hole in Sarasota said that anglers should probably not even try to put in a boat. At Lake Manatee, anglers have been drifting minnows for speckled perch with much success despite any drop in water levels.

The most obvious drop, besides backyard ponds that are likely framed by mud, is at Evers. Lee recommends 1 1/2 to 2-inch Rapalas or 2-inch crank baits or the smallest RattleTraps you can get in shad or bluegill colors.

Lee also has been using woolly buggers in either green or white.

In general, bluegill and speckled perch are in deeper water (5-6 feet or more) over structure such as trees or breaks. Try a grub tail jig or a worm cut into a length of 2 inches with a pyramid sinker.

In any waters, use lighter-than-average lines. In freshwater, Lee has been using 4-to-6-pound fluorocarbon lines.

Shorelines are holding bass and shellcracker in 3-4 feet of water. Anglers should fish breaks in the lily pads. There are ideal shoreline spots in Evers where the shorelines drops sharply to 2-to-4 feet of water. Throw out a lure and feel the bottom for these spots.

If you don’t have a woolly bugger or do not know how to make one, don’t worry about it. Just use a small, green-and-white crappie grub tail jigs (1/8 ounce) and put it 4-5 feet under an indicator cork. Toss it into the lily pads and work it out slowly. Twitch the cork, and let it sit. Repeat the process until its well away from the pads.

Lee has had great success with bass, especially between 1 and 3 p.m., and the phase of the moon didn’t seem to matter. Fish the above jig anywhere along shorelines.

Low water levels due to a lack of rain also means an increased risk of fire danger.

This is the beginning of what could be a fierce fire season. One cold and windy cold front and the ensuing low humidity could help spark a 1,000-acre fire for any number of reasons.

Lee, a Florida senior forest ranger, said his biggest concern isn’t unkept campfires. It’s the fact that vehicles pull onto dry, flammable grasses that touch their furnace-hot catalytic converters.

“People pull off to the side of the road,” Lee said, “and don’t realize it.”

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