Prefishing at Blue Gator

Prefishing is s term used by anglers to describe the time spent fishing in preparation for a tournament. These fishermen look for all the best spots on the water in hopes of a winning effort in the tournament.

This is not what I mean by prefishing. Instead, prefishing describes the eating of fish at a restaurant on the water prior to going fishing. Not tournament fishing, just throwing in a line in hopes of reeling in a lunker.

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Last night we went prefishing at Blue Gator on the Withlacoochee River, a new place for me. Sitting on the patio, listening to live music, eating a little grouper made for a pleasant experience.

No complaints about the food. Large portions of fish, fries, hush puppies, and slaw. John must have been confused about the purpose of the trip to Blue Gator since he ordered a cheeseburger. He was pleased with his meal as well, but I’m afraid failure to order fish set our course for the evening.

On our after dinner fishing trip, gators serenaded us while otters splashed around the boat. Turtles, herons, anhingas, and sandhill cranes watched as we threw our Zoom Vibes – blackberry and watermelon seed red – along the weed lines and stumps without much success.

A couple of bites, a small bass that threw the hook as I brought it to the boat, and one just shy of the 14″ keeper size for John. Not a successful evening a fishing, but a great time on the water and a rainbow over the Rainbow River…not bad.

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Dunnellon Bike Riding

An extension of the Withlocoochee State Trail has come to Dunnellon. The trailhead, located on Citrus County Road 39 which is off US 41, is just south of Dunnellon. The extension closes one of the gaps in what’s known at “The Heart of Central Florida” bike loop, a nearly 1000 mile long trail.

A stop on the newly opened bridge provides an excellent view of the river.

The trail runs along the Withlacoochee River for much of the four mile section ending near the Rainbow River Club. Trail users enjoy a shaded path through cypress lowlands with frequent views of the Withlacoochee and Rainbow Rivers.

The city of Dunnellon hopes to have a paved extension from its current end to the bridge on County Road 484 providing a safe bike route into downtown Dunnellon.

Wildflowers border much of this flat trail which is perfect for walkers as well as bicyclists of all ages.

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Additional work is underway to connect the Dunnellon Extension to the current trail to the south and will eventually allow bicyclists to ride to Citrus Springs, Inverness, Floral City, Nobleton, ending east of I-75 at the Owensboro Junction Trailhead on Highway 301. Quite a ride!

Tour de Withlacoochee…Continued

In July we rode two legs of the Withlacoochee Trail. We started the tour in Inverness and rode south to Floral City. On this leg of the trail we visited an art gallery, a railroad depot, and vowed to return to take a side trip to Fort Cooper since the weather forced us to hurry back to the trail head earlier than planned. IMG_0350

Then a week later we started in Nobleton and rode north to Floral City. On this leg we stopped at an old General Store and explored a county park where we took a walk down to the river. The tree lined shaded trail is one we plan to ride again.IMG_0451

Since we enjoyed our first two rides on the Withlacoochee Trail, we were anxious to ride the next section. On Saturday, we parked at the trail head near Nobleton and rode south a little more than eight miles to where I-75 crosses the trail. I’d have to describe the ride as disappointing. The trail cuts through the Withlacoochee forest yet lacked shade. With the exception of a couple of swampy areas that added interest to the ride, most of the trail passed through a portion of the forest that lacked much character.

A fawn, a couple of wild turkey, several gopher tortoises, and a thousand or so love bugs greeted us, and we located the Silver Lake Campground in the Withlacoochee Forest where we’ll camp on a future trip. It will be the perfect place to start the southern most portion of the trail, and we’ll use the boat ramp for a trip on the river as well.

 

One for the Book

It looks like Sarah wants to be included in Grandpa’s next book. She and Daniel even woke before sunrise to join John on the Withlacoochee River for a morning of fishing. They met with success early and often catching seven keepers…although they only kept five since that was plenty for their eating pleasure.

It’s a great day fishing when all catch fish. Daniel started things off with a nice bass, but within a couple of hours, all three fishermen landed fish in excess of three pounds…not monsters…but perfect for eating and fun to catch.

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They finished the day keeping a stringer of five bass that weighed in at a little more than 18 pounds. After cleaning, Sarah and Daniel have fish for two dinners and John and I will be eating fish later this afternoon. Not a bad day’s work…maybe that should be not a bad day’s fun!

Oh, and what is this Grandpa’s book? A Shutterfly book created to share his and his family and friends’ fish pictures. Can’t get in the book without a fish. Looks like Sarah and Daniel will both be in the next edition. (Make sure you click the link, Grandpa’s book, to see the one published earlier.)

2 Down; 11 To Go: Operation Big Bass

When we developed our list of 13 in 13, I included “catch a big bass” to the list. John asked my definition of a big bass and when I said an eight pounder, he suggested that I might want to reconsider since a bass of that size would be considered a lifetime catch by most fishermen. Since I don’t claim to be a fisherman, I took his advice and modified my definition to “at least six pounds”. (However, if you refer to the original 13 in 13 post I said – catch a big bass of at least six pounds, but hopefully closer to eight.)

Three weeks ago in my first attempt at this challenge, I caught what I thought at the time was a pretty big bass only to be told that it was “only” 2 1/2 pounds. I needed to catch something almost three times the size of my current record. This may be more difficult than I anticipated.

Spent much of the day watching the bobber
Spent much of the day watching the bobber

Yesterday we took the day off to make a second attempt at catching a big bass. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. The 45 degree temperature and cloudless sky guaranteed a great day on the water with or without fulfilling the big bass requirement. We returned to the Withlacoochee River and Lake Rousseau since Dad reported that he and his guests caught several big ones throughout the week.

After about three hours, we started planning the next attempt since not only had I not caught a big one neither had John. And, in fact, we hadn’t landed a single bass. In an effort to help me meet my goal, John sacrificed catches. He handed me his rod on three occasions so I could set the hook and reel in the catch…no success…I lost all three. I finally announced that I thought I should change my goal from catching a big bass to being in the boat when a big bass was caught.

Then it happened. I actually saw the bass hit my line only a few feet from the boat. John talked me through the process…let it take some line…now reel in slowly to take out the slack…jerk hard to set the hook and start reeling. I guess I followed directions pretty well. I maneuvered the bass around a stump and reeled it up to the boat so John could scoop it in the net and lift it into the boat.

Time to collect the data…24 inches and 8 pounds! I’m pleased to announce I caught a BIG bass! Yes, I even caught the once in a lifetime version.

Mission accomplished - 8lb., 24in. bass caught on 2/15/13.
Mission accomplished – 8lb., 24in. bass caught on 2/15/13.

 

Not only was John there to support my efforts by guiding me to the best spots on the lake and talking me through the process of bringing in the fish once I felt the hit, but he was also there to document the event with a quality picture. Thanks, John! In addition, thanks Dad for your scouting reports and the trip with Max to the far ends of the county to locate the shiners needed for this adventure.

A bald eagle - quite a bonus!
A bald eagle – quite a bonus!

As a bonus, we noticed a bald eagle in the top of a snag as we headed back to the boat ramp so I not only caught a big bass, I photographed a bald eagle in flight. Another once in a lifetime event for many birders!

A beautiful day on Lake Rousseau
A beautiful day on Lake Rousseau

What a wonderful way to start a long weekend!

 

 

Big Bass – 1st attempt

One of my 13 for 13 goals is to catch a big bass – at least 6 pounds…hopefully closer to 8 pounds. Since this is “the perfect time”, we decided to go to the Withlacoochee for my first attempt to catch this bass. Viola! In less than an hour…

Danielle with 6lb. bass
Danielle with 6lb. bass

Sarah’s friend, Danielle, caught a six pound bass. In fact, she caught two six pounders. I did not catch a big bass.

My not-so-big bass!
My not-so-big bass!

I caught a two pound bass. Not bad, but I’ll be doing some more fishing this year.

It was still a pretty good day…beautiful, warm, Florida weather.

Had to commandeer the boat from the heron.
Had to commandeer the boat from the heron.

We watched a heron feeding its young in a nest just a few hundred yards from the dock.

 

Heron feeding its young.
Heron feeding its young.

And before heading back in, we saw the moonrise. No big bass…but a wonderful day. Looking forward to the 2nd attempt!

Moonrise over the Withlacoochee
Moonrise over the Withlacoochee