Vol 6 No. 17 - January 18, 2006

The Dean of Evers

By Rusty Chinnis
SUN STAFF WRITER

Andy "Doc" Lee launched his 13 foot Boston Whaler at Jig’s 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 Lee’s 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 Ever’s 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 County’s 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 Herald’s 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 Lee’s 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 Kinzie’s 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 Doc’s 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 Ever’s 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 Bradenton’s water supply. To book a charter, call Lee at 941-758-7670.

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