Florida's Top Freshwater Fishing Destinations for 2011
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) freshwater fisheries biologists from across the state recently weighed in to suggest fishing sites that novice to expert anglers might want to try out in 2011 for a variety of species. Florida is the ?Fishing Capital of the World? due to great resources and responsible management. Those great resources include a wide variety of fishing opportunities throughout the state. So every winter biologists select some of the larger water bodies they recommend anglers try out.
Electrofishing allows biologists to assess a fishery without harvesting the fish.
Biologists use information such as creel (data from actual anglers? on-the-water success for the previous year); electrofishing (a sampling method that uses electric currents to stun fish so they can be netted, examined and released); tournament data; Big Catch (the FWC?s popular angler recognition program) or state records; and interviews with local guides and bait-and-tackle shop owners, as well as their own fishing experience, to make recommendations. All of the sites are large enough and have adequate public access facilities to accommodate additional fishing pressure and still provide great fishing opportunities. We also try to take into account recent or anticipated weather or vegetation trends that might impact angling success during the coming year. The results are posted on MyFWC.com/Fishing (see fishing sites and forecasts) each January. In addition, that site also provides quarterly fishing forecasts for major resources in each region of the state, along with fishing tips and information about all of Florida?s recreational freshwater fishes and when it is best to pursue them.Of course, one of these lists features largemouth bass, the most popular sport fish in North America, and one which has been a jewel in Florida?s crown since the first angler cast a hook alongside a lily pad. Long before that, it was a gem for native fishermen casting a fish spear or a gorge (the predecessor of fish hooks) ? typically a bone with an off-center hole to which a line was attached; when it was swallowed and the line pulled, the gorge stuck in the fish?s throat.The good news is that Lake Okeechobee, the ?Big Waters? in the midst of the renowned River of Grass, is back on the list. Following a series of environmental calamities, including prolonged high water and hurricanes, the lake?s resiliency and management efforts have generated a resurgence in bass. Other featured black bass waters include perennial favorites, such as: the Everglades Conservation Areas; lakes George, Istokpoga, Kissimmee, Monroe, Seminole, Talquin, Tarpon, Toho, Walking Water, Mosaic and Tenoroc fish management areas; Orange Lake; Rodman Reservoir; and the Suwannee River.Bass are the biggest sunfish in Florida, but numerous anglers find crappie to be the tastiest and best overall table fare from among the Sunshine State?s native freshwater fishes. Their cousins, the bream, include bluegill, redear (shellcrackers), spotted (stumpknockers) and redbreast sunfishes. Each has its preferred habitat, with bluegill being the most cosmopolitan and best known of the group. It?s likely a tossup between bluegill and catfish for having generated most of those awesome ?first fish? smiles for millions of young and not so young anglers in Florida. Biologists have also enumerated their choices for likely venues throughout Florida for anglers to encounter these species during 2011. Check the website for details.
Tom Flynn caught this 5.05 lb. yellow bullhead in the Crystal River in 2010--a new state record.
FWC scientists also shared their opinions on some of the best catfish fisheries, which cover a wide range of species, from relatively small bullheads to some of our biggest freshwater fishes ? the flathead and blue catfishes found in northwest Florida rivers. Just before 2010 wrapped up, a yellow bullhead caught in the Crystal River on Dec. 17 became the new state record for that species. Tom Flynn of Homosassa was fishing with minnows he had caught at a boat ramp when he hooked the catfish. The new state record yellow bullhead weighed 5 pounds, .75 ounces and was 20 inches in length.Crystal River, perhaps because of its relatively small size, wasn?t specifically selected as a top catfish destination, but plenty of rivers and lakes were. Check out the Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee and Escambia rivers for channel, flathead and blue catfishes; the Yellow River is another good choice for large flatheads. More centrally in Florida, bullheads, channel and white catfish can be found in abundance in the St. Johns and Kissimmee rivers, the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Haines Creek. A variety of small southwest Florida lakes yield excellent catches of bullheads and channel cats. Other sites making the list are the Ochlockonee River, Clermont Chain of Lakes and Joe Budd pond.The last list featuring top destinations for 2011 by a species grouping is for striped bass, white bass and sunshine bass. Sunshine bass are a hybrid species developed by FWC biologists by crossing a female white bass and male striped bass. Because stripers are at the extreme southern end of their range in Northern Florida, they don?t do well in central or southern Florida. However, the sunshine bass thrives in these waters, helping consume abundant shad and providing put-and-take fisheries (ones that are stocked with fish that can immediately be harvested) in community fishing areas. Highlighted fishing holes include the Apalachicola, Blackwater, Escambia, Nassau, Ochlockonee, St. Johns, St. Marys and Yellow rivers, as well as the Ida Chain of Lakes, Eagle Lake, and lakes Osborne, Seminole and Talquin.Please check out MyFWC.com/Fishing
under fishing sites and forecasts to learn more about these destinations and how your fishing license dollars help ensure the future of quality freshwater fishing throughout Florida. We hope you will try your luck fishing for a new species or testing some of these outstanding fishing waters this year to expand your enjoyment, and we encourage you to take a kid fishing. It?s inexpensive, it?s fun, it?s healthy and it?s a great way to spend quality time with someone you care about away from the stresses of daily life.