By Rusty Chinnis
SUN STAFF WRITER
Andy "Doc" Lee launched his 13 foot Boston
Whaler at Jigs landing near the confluence
of the Braden River and Evers Reservoir. The boat
was festooned with homemade rod holders, live well,
and a depth finder attached to the bottom of a small
plastic bucket. Hanging from the business end of
four Fiberglas extension poles were Lees signature
bright orange and chartreuse hand tied jigs, ready
for the large bream, bass and crappie that Lee,
Ken Kinzie and I would be seeking today.
Andy Doc Lee holds up a large crappie
he caught while fishing in Evers Reservoir.
SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
Lee is something of a legend in Manatee County, where
he has been a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service
for close to three decades. The job affords him the time,
and he has taken the opportunity, to parlay his intuition
and passion into mastering the nuances of fishing local
waters. Lee started out fishing Manatee Countys
saltwater and freshwater realms, and quickly made a name
for himself. He was soon in demand as a speaker and was
one of the top draws at the Bradenton Heralds Fishing
College. These days "Doc" prefers fishing the
Braden River and Evers where he guides on his days off
from the Fire Service.
We started the day by catching small freshwater shrimp
from the edges of the lake and river. These small crustaceans
look like miniature versions of their saltwater cousins
and are one of Lees many "secrets." We
harvested three dozen of the inch long shrimp with a fine
meshed net that Lee ran under vegetation that lines the
lake and river. Our first stop was to one of the many
aeration stations that line the reservoir, anchoring the
boat within "flipping" distance of the frothing
water. Lee predicted that it would be a while before the
fish settled down and began to bite, and he was right.
We worked the area around the boat for 10 minutes until
my bobber began to move towards a nearby lily pad. All
of a sudden it disappeared, and as I lifted the long Fiberglas
pole, I could feel the resistance of a very large bream.
The compact fish put up a feisty battle, causing me to
weave the pole around several clumps of lily pads. As
soon as my bobber hit the water again it quickly disappeared.
This time I had another bream on that pushed 12 inches,
huge by bream standards. After I landed my second fish,
it was Kinzies turn, as he lifted the pole and found
himself firmly attached to a two pound bass. Lee kept
both our jigs baited with shrimp, and soon we were alternating
fish as the "bite" was on! In just over an hour,
we landed 22 large bream and four small bass before heading
out in the main body of water to search for crappie.
The crappie proved hard to entice, although Lee had landed
14 the day before. We were fishing under a rising barometer
and Doc explained that while bream are less reactive to
pressure changes, crappie can be very sensitive. We fished
several of his favorite spots that he located with the
depth finder, and worked the areas carefully with a trolling
motor. In an hour of fishing, we managed three of the
beautiful and tasty fish. We finished the day near the
mouth of the river where we landed three more bass. In
just one morning, we managed 22 bream, seven bass and
three crappie. This was slow by Docs standards,
but quite a good day on a body of water considered hard
to fish by most anglers.
Doc fishes the Upper Manatee River as well as the Braden
River and Evers Reservoir, but considers the latter
his home water. The winter and early spring are prime
fishing times for this beautiful and unique body of water
that also serves as Bradentons water supply. To
book a charter, call Lee at 941-758-7670.