By Gary Simpson
Published: Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Orange Lake Big Bass Documentation Program provided fishery managers with important information about trophy largemouth bass caught from the lake that Alachua and Marion counties share.

Following last year’s explosion of very large Orange largemouths, the FWC wanted to try and document fish more than 10 pounds caught by recreational casters through the first part of this year. Low water levels, however, held fishing activity — and big fish catching — to a minimum. Even so, lake managers will learn what they can from the entries they did receive.

All of the anglers who properly entered an Orange Lake-caught lunker of at least 10 pounds during the five month-long event that ended July 15 will now have a shot at the grand prize: a fishing day with Shaw Grigsby, Gainesville’s renowned bass fishing star and certainly among the most famous Florida fishermen of all time.

And happily, area anglers need not win any contests to share stories with not only Shaw, but also with his friends and fellow Bassmaster Elite Pros, Bernie Schultz and Peter Thliveros. All three angling studs will be in Gainesville and on hand for this Saturday’s grand opening of Gary’s Tackle Box.

The event at 5721 NW 13th Street will last from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and the amount of angling talent and knowledge on hand will be staggering.

Another big feature will be the great food provided by famous Blue Water Bay Restaurant. Stop by, swap fishing stories with the pros, have a bite and check out the new shop.

The name of the Orange Lake Documentation Program’s grand prize winner will be drawn at the shop’s opening, and Grigsby will learn the name of his fishing partner for a day. The list of potential winners includes: R.J. Crawford, Treg Jones, Cynthia Minshew, Sam Sanders, Zack Lackey and James Hatch.

We have heard relatively little this season about an old standby of hot-weather freshwater fishers. This summer, access problems have kept even the diehard bluegill fishers largely off the water. Recently, though, panfishers have managed to locate bedding bream in Newnan’s Lake. A number of the cane polers are sliding small jonboats in at Palm Point (situated on Lakeshore Drive that runs along the lake’s west side). From there, it’s a short paddle out to the productive beds in just a foot or two of water.

Leroy and Percell Holmes accessed Newnan’s in this manner last Wednesday. Fishing mud worms, the Gainesville father and son hauled in 45 big bream in short order.

Jonathan Reed of Gainesville got out to the Newnan’s bream beds Saturday, and fished grass shrimp with a cane pole. His catch was a good one, but it was only after he had cleaned his fish that he decided to weigh them. Even scaled and gutted, the 35 bluegill weighed 25 pounds.

“I’ve been fishing Newnan’s Lake for 15 years,” Reed said, “and I’ve never seen such thick bream.”

While the fishing is good, anglers should keep in mind that this lake is best suited at present for small vessels with trolling motors or simply a paddle.

Scallop hunters have had little to complain about out of Steinhatchee, Crystal River and Horseshoe Beach. The “adult Easter egg hunt” is hitting on all cylinders out of each port. With both customers and family, Capt. Brad Riddle collected scallops for seven days running through last weekend. He searched in water 3-to-5 feet deep north and south of the Steinhatchee River, and filled limits every day.

Monday, Marshall Carlton and Buddy Register proved that there are still plenty of near-shore speckled trout available out of Suwannee. The High Springs friends made it out onto the Suwannee grass flats late that morning and quickly found fish. Casting New Penny-colored Gulp! shrimp and Super Spook surface lures, each angler hauled in a big flounder to complement a hefty double trout limit that included a pair of 22-inch fish.

“That was the prettiest cooler of fish I’ve seen in a while,” Carlton said.

Some of the avidly sought saltwater shrimp migrating up the St. Johns River have now made it as far south as Palatka, but serious river shrimpers say that Shands Bridge at Green Cove Springs remains the best hotspot. Cast-netters there are cleaning up in the river’s depths during the day, while folks with cast and dip nets are enjoying shrimping success from lighted boat docks at night.

Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary’s Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.

Till next time tight lines and good fishing….
From Staff Writer BASSonline – / 888-829-BASS