JANUARY – LAKE GEORGE LARGEMOUTH BASS
Lake George, located in Putnam and Volusia counties, is one of the best bass fishing lakes in central Florida. It’s part of the St. Johns River system, and at 46,000 acres is the second largest lake in the state. Large eelgrass beds provide excellent bass habitat.
Fish with plastic worms or topwater lures in the eelgrass; deep-diving crankbaits also can produce fish, especially around old dock structures along the northeast shore of the lake and around Drayton Island.
Other Options: Peacock Bass: The canals of south Florida are full of Peacock bass hugging to structure, but Irma might make this area difficult. Naples Pier: The pier seems to have resisted damage, meaning it should be open, with opportunities for a variety of saltwater species.
FEBRUARY – LAKE SEMINOLE STRIPED BASS
This lake covers more than 35,000 acres on the Florida-Georgia line in Jackson and Gadsden counties and is the headwater of the Apalachicola River. The state record striped bass, weighing more than 42 pounds, came from the Lake Seminole/Apalachicola River system.
Striped bass don’t like warm water, and generally seek out water temperatures below 75 degrees.
Look for striped bass in the old river channels and lower lake near the dam. Try bucktail jigs and shad-type crankbaits around structure and on drop-offs, particularly into deep channels. For live baits, use shad and shrimp.
Other Options: Rodman Reservoir Largemouth: Try using deep crankbaits and Carolina-rigged worms in the river channel. Lake Talquin Crappie: Drift through deep channels, using grass shrimp or small minnows on a No. 4 hook with a split shot below a float.
MARCH – LAKE KISSIMMEE BREAM
Historically, the middle of February to the end of April is prime time for redear sunfish. Bluegill are also biting, but they’re better later in the summer. This large lake in Osceola County is one of the best bream fisheries in Florida, with lots of vegetation, good spawning substrate and fertile water.
For shellcrackers, work the shoreline or around the four islands in the lake using red wigglers. For bluegill, try weighted crickets. The best spawning areas have a mixture of water lilies or bulrush and native grasses. Other areas that hold fish are Brahma Island and Grassy Island, and shoreline sections near Jackson Slough, Lake Kissimmee State Park and Philadelphia Point.
Other Options: Piney Z Lake Largemouth: Situated within the limits of Tallahassee, Piney Z hasmore than three miles of shoreline. Sunshine Skyway: Billed as the “world’s longest fishing piers,” this area offers both access and amenities for anglers.
APRIL – YELLOW RIVER CHOCTAW BASS
The “spotted bass” found in the Panhandle streams west of the Chipola River is a new species, the Choctaw bass. This bass has a very limited range and a small population, and biologists ask the anglers who target them to return all fish to the water. Choctaw bass do not get as big as largemouth bass; a 3-pound fish is a good-sized specimen.
To find Choctaw bass, look in the upper reaches of the Yellow River, especially areas with current, in shallower water than typical for largemouth. Look for cover, and use lures that imitate crawfish and blacktail shiners, as well as crankbaits in brown or crawfish colors.
Other Options: Lake Newnam Bream and Catfish: This lake, east of Gainesville, provides a lot of opportunities for anglers. Lake Victor Largemouth: Spring offers nice catches of 1- to 2-pound bass.
MAY – MOSAIC FMA CATFISH
With more than 1,000 acres of ponds to fish, this is one of the best places in the state to go for catfish. Located in Polk and Hardee counties near Ft. Meade, the dozen lakes in this fish management area range in size from 10 to 200 acres. Biologists stock these ponds regularly to ensure good fishing, with anglers allowed to harvest six channel cats a day. Bullheads reproduce well and are common, with anglers reporting catches of up to 100 bullheads a day.
Other Options: Juniper Lake Multi-Species: Species present in the lake include largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, warmouth and channel catfish. Lake Weohyakapka: Missouri minnows fished under corks or on small jig heads, as well as Hal-Flies and small spinners, are excellent for catching crappie.
JUNE – CHIPOLA RIVER SHOAL BASS
Shoal bass occur in the Chipola River mostly between Spring Creek, north of I-10, to Johnny Boy Landing near Altha. Three public boat landings in this stretch of river provide good access. However, the river can be quite hazardous in low water, so check USGS river levels before heading out.
Shoal bass like runs and riffles with rocky substrate, as well as runs with eelgrass. Pools with limestone outcroppings above and below shoals may hold larger fish, especially during summer. Fish for shoal bass like largemouths, using the same types of lures. Crayfish are important in the diet of shoal bass, so match baits to crayfish colors.
The shoal bass is a species limited to a very small area, so practice good catch-and-release techniques.
Other Options: Key West Tarpon: Fish between 50 and 150 pounds can be caught on the flats. Dania Fishing Pier: Pursue snapper, pompano, croaker and more from this pier in Broward County.
JULY – LAKE JACKSON BASS
Lake Jackson, located north and west of Tallahassee, has a reputation as a bass fishery because of its high diversity of aquatic vegetation; hydrilla, eelgrass and maidencane are the best habitats in which to fish in this shallow lake.
Lake Jackson is a natural lake, perched atop two sinkholes — Porter Sink and Lime Sink.
Rig worms Texas style with weights and drop them on ledges, or tie on small weights and cast into lily pads. Spinnerbaits also can be effective, especially early in the morning.
Other Options: Starke Lake Multi-Species: This lake in Ocoee has a boat ramp, an ADA accessible fishing pier equipped with fish feeders, an enhanced shoreline area for bank fishing and four oak-brush fish attractors. Gulf Bay Scallops: The Bay Scallop Harvest Zone runs from the west end of St. Vincent Island through the Pasco-Hernando County Line.
AUGUST – WAKULLA RIVER SUWANNEE BASS
Suwannee bass are more common than Choctaw bass and shoal bass, but they rarely exceed 12 inches in length, with the state record at only 3.89 pounds. They are found in a number of rivers including Wakulla. They’re generally found in moderately to swiftly flowing water near structure, and they seem to like wood structure or rocky shoals.
The best stretch of the Wakulla River for Suwannee bass is the area between Shadeville Road (Highway 365) and Highway 98. There are boat ramps at both these locations. Look for areas with shallow water and more current than typical for largemouth.
Other Options: FWC Urban Ponds: Fishing is available in ponds located in a number of urban areas, including Jacksonville, Orlando, St. Lauderdale and Tampa. Steinhatchee River Seatrout: There are a lot of good places to stay and pursue seatrout in Stienhatchee.
SEPTEMBER – TAMPA BAY SNOOK
Snook have been spawning all summer, and in September they are ready to leave the bays and head back up into the rivers where they spend the winter. During this period, many anglers catch snook on artificial baits, including Exude Darts in sunlight crystal color, as well as on Top Dogs, Zara Spooks and other baits that are silver. They are also caught on a variety of live baits.
Out on the flats and in the open water, along the drops and edges, the best thing to use is white bait. Drop the bait on a sandbar, or fish the mangroves along some of the islands in the bay.
Snook are a protected species with a slot limit, allowing anglers to keep one fish per day between 28 inches and 33 inches.
Other Options: Dania Fishing Pier Multi-Species: Common catches on this Broward County pier are snapper, snook, blue runners and croakers. Pensacola Beach Pier: Jutting way out into the Gulf of Mexico, this 24/7 pier offers many different depths in which to fish.
OCTOBER – DEER POINT LAKE BASS
Deer Point Lake, located about seven miles north of Panama City, is about 5,000 acres. Its depth varies, with many holes and old creek channels. There are a lot of shallow areas in the south-
central part of the lake, but there are a lot of deep holes there as well, particularly around the mouth of the bayous and in the old creek channels. Deer Point Lake has a good bit of standing timber in its north end.
Look for bass in the old creek channels, particularly Bear, Econfina and Cedar creeks. Target docks and boathouses along the creek channels. In the creek channels, plastic worms and diving crankbaits are usually pretty good; try a variety of colors.
Other Options: Miami Canal Peacock Bass: Fish for largemouth early and late, then swap to peacock when the sun gets high. Lake Woodruff Largemouth: Located just north of Deland, Lake Woodruff can be a good bet with topwaters and spinnerbaits late and early.
NOVEMBER – TAMPA BAY TROUT
When the weather turns bad throughout central Florida, it’s time to fish for trout in Tampa Bay. The action takes place from inside Tampa Bay out to the Gulf itself. Fish some of the flats that are out closer to the Gulf. Look around Tarpon Key and in other areas where there are nice stands of turtle grass. Also be sure to fish mangrove shorelines, deep holes and channels, and above oyster bars.
Be sure to use long casts and fairly light tackle to reach them with silver and gold jerk baits. Freelining shrimp or small pinfish or grunts near the bottom also works.
Other Options: Lochloosa Lake Crappie: Good baits include jigs and minnows. Merritt’s Mill Pond Shellcrackers: This long, 202-acre reservoir is renowned for trophy shellcrackers.
DECEMBER – ORANGE LAKE CRAPPIE
Orange Lake in Alachua County has had its share of problems. After very low water conditions that led to access issues, the water is back up and access is much improved. Anglers are catching good numbers of crappie between 11 and 14 inches, as well as a few larger ones.
A handicapped-accessible fishing pier has been built in Heagy Burry Park, with a fish attractor located nearby. Expect to catch a lot of large bream while fishing for crappie.
Other Options: Lake Okeechobee Crappie: December is a good time for crappie, as the weather is generally fairly warm and comfortable. Lake Talquin Crappie: Another good spot is located between Tallahassee and Quincy.