Florida Tournament Report

Periodic Rodman Reservoir drawdown has begun

fishbusters_original

Florida Fish Busters’ Bulletin
November 2015
By Bob Wattendorf

The Rodman Reservoir drawdown that anglers have become accustomed to is underway and waters will stay down until the spring of 2016. The reservoir will be 7 feet below normal water level for over three months from the middle of November 2015 to the beginning of March 2016 (see details below).

Temporary boat ramps are at Kenwood Landing and Orange Springs, where anglers can launch into the Barge Canal and river channel. Hog Valley has a place where anglers can launch small boats if they are using a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The ramp at Eureka will also remain open and the Orange Springs ramp provides a popular bank-fishing site (see MyFWC.com/BoatRamps for locations). Boaters should look out for floating logs. To prevent boating accidents during the drawdown, boaters are asked to watch their wake and be courteous to anglers fishing along the Barge Canal and river channel. Anglers may also contact the Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails at 352-236-7143 for up-to-date information on water levels and temporary boat ramps.

Throughout the drawdown, anglers targeting largemouth bass can expect to experience excellent fishing but there is a temporary catch-and-release regulation in effect. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has issued an Executive Order to make largemouth bass catch-and-release only from Nov. 1, 2015, through March 14, 2016, with the area affected all of Rodman Reservoir north of Highway 316. All other fishing regulations remain in effect as normal (go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Freshwater Fishing” then “Regulations”).

Largemouth bass anglers on Rodman Reservoir tend to target trophy largemouth bass using live golden shiners, either floated under a cork or free-lined, with most big bass coming from the “stump fields” along the river channel. Other trophy bass come from the area between Cypress Bayou and Kenwood Landing. Some anglers find success using artificial baits, such as deep-diving or lipless crankbaits, spinner baits and soft plastics.

Black crappie anglers will have success trolling live minnows and/or jigs along the edges of the Barge Canal, as well as the river channel bends in the Kenwood area.

Bream anglers can expect to catch plenty of stocky warmouth between Orange Springs and Cypress Bayou using worms and grass shrimp for the best results.

Rodman Reservoir is located east of Gainesville and south of Palatka and covers 9,500 acres of prime fisheries habitat. The reservoir was created in 1968 when an earthen dam was built across the Ocklawaha River. A four-gate spillway (Kirkpatrick Dam) controls the water levels of the reservoir. The reservoir extends from Eureka to the George Kirkpatrick Dam and is renowned for producing trophy largemouth bass. The Barge Canal and river channel that are part of this system have areas as deep as 30 feet – a rarity in Florida. Much of the fishery’s success depends on quality habitat in the form of stumps and submersed aquatic vegetation (hydrilla, coontail and eel grass), and periodic drawdowns, such as the one currently underway, which are conducted every three years.

Drawdowns on Rodman are conducted by the DEP, which manages the reservoir primarily to control invasive aquatic vegetation. However, FWC fisheries biologists have demonstrated a relationship between strong largemouth bass year-class production and reservoir drawdowns. These year classes provide “pulses” to the fishery at three-year intervals that provide the majority of the angler catch. In exposed areas during the drawdowns, muck from decaying vegetation has a chance to consolidate and oxidize, helping to reduce the depth of the muck and providing firmer substrates that are more suitable for fish and wildlife.

To demonstrate how outstanding a bass fishery Rodman Reservoir is, Bob Williams from New Jersey caught and released the first Hall of Fame bass in the popular TrophyCatch (see TrophyCatchFlorida.com) citizen-science conservation rewards program there in 2012.

More recently, Dewight “Richie” Whitmore, from Ringgold, Ga., caught, documented and released a 14-pound, 1-ounce Florida largemouth bass at Rodman Reservoir on Martin Luther King Day. Whitmore and Williams were both fishing with guide Sean Rush when they documented their trophies. During their three-day trip, Whitmore also caught and released four additional bass heavier than 8 pounds that earned TrophyCatch awards, and his buddy caught two more.

In the first three years of TrophyCatch documenting bass heavier than 8 pounds that anglers catch, photograph in their entirety on a scale, and release alive has demonstrated Rodman Reservoir to be one of the most productive trophy bass fisheries anywhere. This drawdown, along with other management efforts should sustain these opportunities.

Rodman Reservoir proposed drawdown schedule:

  •  16  ̶  Begin formal drawdown
  •  1  ̶  Largemouth bass become catch-and-release
  •  15  ̶  Arrive at drawdown elevation of 11 feet NGVD
  •  March 1  ̶  Begin refill to 18 feet NGVD
  •  March 15  ̶  Normal largemouth bass regulations in effect
  •  April 15  ̶  Arrive at normal level (18 feet NGVD)

Instant licenses are available at License.MyFWC.com or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Tip@MyFWC.com. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “more news,” or bit.ly/FishBusters for more Fish Busters’ Bulletins. To subscribe to FWC columns or to receive news releases, visit MyFWC.com/Contact.