Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bass Bonanza in Old Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bass Bonanza in Old Florida

Article excerpt

ST. CLOUD -- With bellies swollen from all the catfish you

can eat at the Lake Marian Restaurant, Carl Middleton and I

are traveling north in the night back to our motel, regrettably

leaving old Florida for new Florida, bass world for Dismal

World.

To the east, a fiery image in the sky interrupts our

conversation. We pull over to the side of the road, next to a

cow pasture, to watch a rocket jettison its booster above the

Cape. Here we are, only an hour's drive from outer space and

cyberspace, and yet we might as well be in Wyoming.

In this southern corner of Central Florida, barely outside the

gaudy night glow of Orlando, real cowboys herd real cattle,

uncemented land stretches as far as the eye can see and the

Silver Spurs Rodeo is some kind of big.

"An airboat and a satellite dish," Middleton observes as we pass

a modest residence. "What more could you ask for?"

Not much, except maybe good fishing, and this area has loads of

that.

Middleton, now a park ranger at Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach,

worked for two years in this region and returns periodically to

reacquaint himself with the bass fishing. Our recent two-day

trip took us to lakes Kissimmee, Jackson and Marian, which

comprise the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area.

Two days is way too short a span to seriously fish these lakes,

but we found bass in all three, an indication of how good the

fishing can be.

Kissimmee, of course, is the most famous of the three. It's

currently undergoing a facelift, a managed drawdown to remove

muck from the bottom. Even before the drawdown, fishing was

gangbusters -- during the summer, the winning boat in one bass

tournament weighed in eight fish that averaged over 8 pounds.

"It's one of the top 20 bass lakes in the country," said Jim

Sweatman, a Kissimmee-area fisheries biologist with the Florida

Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. "They say the fishing

should be best now and during the refill."

The refill is expected to be completed sometime late this

summer. Special management regulations are currently in place on

Kissimmee for bass: you can only keep one fish, and it must be

24 inches in length or greater. …

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