February 04, 2011
From the Perdido River to Biscayne Bay the Sunshine State holds a wealth of fishing options. Here's a look at three dozen of the best.
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There are a number of good reasons to live in Florida, but if you are an enthusiastic angler the list gets longer. There isn't another State in the Union that offers the abundance and diversity of World Class angling the Sunshine State has to offer.
Here's a look at 36 spots, and times, when your odds of success are high.
Largemouths - Lake Okeechobee
The spawn is in full swing on this 780-square-mile lake and that puts a lot of big bass into areas where they're much easier to find. Savvy anglers move inside the outer weed line and concentrate their efforts at depths of 5 feet or less.
Key areas of the lake are the islands south of Okee-Tantie, Fisheating Bay, Moonshine Bay, Turners Cove, the West Wall and Coot Bay. Areas on the west and northwest shores are normally more productive since they are shielded from strong cold front winds that can stir up waters.
Bedding bass can be sight fished with compact weedless soft plastics. Subtle topwater plugs are very effective in open pockets, while weedless soft plastics can be deadly in peppergrass or lotus pad beds.
The maze of tidal creeks at the mouth of the Suwannee River holds good numbers of seatrout. Focus on the deeper holes with jigs and sinking plugs.Some of the biggest bass of the year spawn on the Orange Creek flats in Rodman Reservoir. Flipping shallow matted cover takes many that aren't actually on their beds.
Largemouths - Lake Kissimmee
This month normally sees the first spawn of the year on Kissimmee, but just what depth and cover the fish use depends on current weather.
Early in the month start your search on the inside edge of the maidencane line. Top areas to check are where lotus pads abut the inside edge of a maindencane point. Weedless soft plastics are a top choice in June bug, black and blue or watermelon red.
As the month progresses the bass move shoreward to spawn. One of their favorite bedding covers is arrowhead in 2 to 3 feet of water.
Monster amberjacks are gathered on the "Hump" 12 miles off of Islamorada. Fifty to 80-pound tackle, combined with a 1- to 5-pound bonito as bait is the ticket.
Largemouths are spawning around the mouths of the springs along the west shore of Lake George. Probe the inside edge of the eelgrass with soft plastics or subtle topwater plugs.
Striped Bass - Lake Talquin
Not many anglers get the opportunity to catch a 15- to 20-pound fish on their bass gear. But they can this month, if they target striped bass on Lake Talquin.
Stripers roam the length of the lake but most are within two miles of the dam this month. Top lures are chrome countdown crankbaits and 4- to 5-inch swimming tail grubs on a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce jighead.
The rock face of the dam is an excellent place to start, especially during water releases. This area also has numerous submerged points extending from the shoreline to a 15-foot drop-off, all of which attract linesides.
The largemouth spawn is in full force this month on Lake Tohopekaliga. Start your search on the inside edge of the main lake hydrilla beds in 3 to 4 feet of water.
Trophy class bonefish are active on the flats in south Biscayne Bay. They are in schools on the deeper edge of the turtle grass flats, eating shrimp.
Largemouths - Orange Lake
During the last couple of years this Gainesville area lake has regained its reputation as a top trophy bass water. Fish of up to 14 pounds have been taken recently and April is a great month to score.
Look for bass to be finishing up their spawn and moving back to offshore cover. Top targets are any large offshore hydrilla beds spanning 3- to 8-foot depths. Most bass are on the shallow edge.
Countdown crankbaits, hard plastic jerkbaits, or spinnerbaits take many fish from the hydrilla edges.
When the sun hits its midday peak, begin flipping any patches of surfaced hydrilla. Any one of them can hold a 10-pound-plus bass.
Snook are leaving the rivers and migrating back to the waters of Port Charlotte Harbor. Look for them on points and man-made structure near river mouths.
Outsized cobia are cruising the bars off the beaches at Destin. Sight fish from the breakers to 25-foot depths and feed them live baitfish.
Seatrout - St. Augustine
If you have your sights set on a 5-pound "gator" trout, there are few places better than the Intracoastal Waterway near the St. Augustine Inlet in May. Mullet and pogies flooding through the inlet draw in big trout from the ocean.
The top areas are within 3 miles of the inlet, including the Salt Run. Within this area look for Spartina grass banks with a quick drop off to deeper water. The upper end of the rising tide early in the day is the proper time.
Have three rods ready. One should have an aggressive topwater plug like a Zara Spook. The second should have a hard plastic jerkbait like a Bomber Long A. Finally, rig a 4- or 5-inch swimming grub on a jighead.
Largemouths in Lake Talquin have finished their spawn and are stacked up on the main-lake points leading from the creek arms to the main channel.
"Fun-sized" tarpon of 5 to 30 pounds are leaving the Sebastian River for the Indian River. Concentrate around the river junction to find them.
King Mackerel - Sebastian Inlet
Kings migrate northward along the Atlantic coast during the summer, running close to the beaches. In June, you can expect to find them along
the shore just outside Sebastian Inlet, where even small boats can access he fishing.
Look for kings in 30 to 45 feet of water, which is close to the inlet. Find clear water with a temperature of at least 76 degrees. That's the place to troll for the mackerel.
The top baits are live mullet in the 5- to 7-inch range, or pogies of 4 to 6 inches. You need a wire leader for this action.
The trolling speed should be slow enough to let the baits swim instead of being dragged. Find the right speed, and kings up to 30 pounds can be caught in June.
Trophy class permit cruise the ocean side flats in the Middle Keys this month. The last half of the rising tide is best.
Big seatrout are eating topwater baits along mangrove shorelines during the early morning in the Fort Pierce area. Mangroves in on sharp drops on the eastern side are top areas to try.
Cobia - Cedar Key
The annual migration of bruiser cobia puts plenty of them on the Gulf side flats of the Cedar Key islands this month. This can be exciting sight fishing that's easy to get to.
Look for cobia following rays as they move into the shallows on the rising tide. A good pair of polarized glasses is a must.
Experienced anglers look for the flats holding the most rays, and are rigged and ready with a 4-inch chartreuse-colored swimming tail grub on a ¼-ounce wide gap hook jighead. Cobia up to 50 pounds are not uncommon.
The same kings that were off Sebastian Inlet last month are now off First Coast beaches and can be caught with the same tactics.
"Schoolie" sized dolphin are abundant off the waters of Miami. Watch for birds feeding, or fish breaking the surface. Have a light spinning rod rigged with a jig ready.
Snook - Captiva Island
A boat is an asset for anglers, but it's not always required. That's especially true this month along the beaches of North and South Captiva islands.
Big snook are cruising the sand and not very far from shore. Anglers who wade out waist deep may have many of the fish behind them.
Some anglers stake out a spot and wait for the snook to pass them, while others prowl the beach looking for the fish. In either case, polarized glasses are a major plus to spot the linesides.
These beach snook eat jigs-and-trailer combs or plugs, but the most successful anglers use live sardines, herring or anchovies. Toss the minnows without weight near a cruising snook and a fight should ensue.
Big channel catfish are feeding at night in the deeper holes of the Oklawaha River below Rodman Dam. Live shiners or bream are top baits.
Some of the biggest shellcrackers in Florida are bedding on Lake Jackson. Look for hard sand bottom in 4 to 6 feet of water.
Seatrout - Jacksonville
This is a peak month for gator trout around the mouth of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. The best action should be in Mill Cove. Located directly across from Blount Island, it's about 8 miles from the mouth of the river at Mayport.
The water here is shallow with abundant oyster bars and massive grass beds along the shoreline. Anglers need to exercise some care entering the cove, due to the shell bars. Veteran anglers normally fish it on the last half of the flood tide, when the water has risen enough for the fish to reach the grass.
Topwater plugs in chrome or red and white are often the most effective lures. If you're getting short strikes, shift to a shallow running hard plastic jerkbait. Another effective option is a rattling cork rig with a live shrimp.
Blackfin tuna are busting bait off the Lower Keys reef line. Sardines are the bait to use.
Redfish are gathered in schools in Estero Bay behind Fort Myers Beach. Look for tailing fish in the grass beds and potholes at low tide.
Redfish - Cedar Key
Cedar Key is the place for redfish this month. The reds gather in large schools and cruise the shallow grass flats and oyster bars on the inside of the keys. Polarized glasses can reveal these large moving masses of bronze, and one doesn't have to venture more than 5 miles from the ramp to locate them.
A key area is the big grass flat between the inside edge of Seahorse Key and Deadman's Key. Other productive spots are McCray Cove and the area around North Key. The flats in front of Snake Key should not be overlooked either.
Once a school is spotted, gold spoons or lightly weighted plastic jigs in electric chicken, mullet, or yellow and red colors should produce. If a school is spotted and then vanishes, find the nearest deep hole within the area and fish cut crab, cut mullet, or fresh shrimp on the bottom.
Wahoo invade the DeSoto Canyon area in the Panhandle region in October. Troll at depths of 250 to 450 feet.
Redfish are schooled up in the Broad and Lostmans rivers of the Ten Thousand Islands. They take artificial lures or cut bait once you find them.
Redfish - Ponce Inlet
If you've never caught a 40-pound bull red, you might want to give it a try. Ponce Inlet in November could be your best shot at accomplishing the feat.
Ponce Inlet is the ocean access for Mosquito lagoon that is famous for its resident schools of monster reds. During the fall, many of those fish move north to Ponce Inlet in response to the fall mullet run. The inlet isn't a big area, and those big reds can stack up.
Stout tackle is the order of the day. Cut mullet is a top choice for bait, but a half a blue crab won't be overlooked. Rig these on a fish finder rig with enough weight to hold the bottom, a 5/0 hook, and a 2- to 3- foot leader.
Largemouths on Lake Seminole are schooling over the bars in the lower pool. Watch the birds, get there quick, and enjoy the action.
Grouper begin to gather over the shallow rock piles in the Crystal River area. Sturdy crankbaits and stout tackle are needed.
Speckled Perch - Santa Fe Lake
Speckled perch may not be glamour fish, and Santa Fe may not be a househol
d name. But, put the two together and there are plenty of 2-pound specks to be caught.
Start your search by drifting in 25 feet of water. If that fails to produce quickly, move to 21 or 22 feet and watch your depthfinder for hard shell bottom areas. Specs often lay right on top of them when they are not actively up and feeding.
Spread your baits from 2 to 16 feet deep to find the fish. Top baits are a Missouri minnows on gold No. 4 Sproat hooks. A 1/6-ounce tube jig in black and green, pearl, or pink and white is good too.
Sailfish are hitting off the Miami coast. Concentrate on wrecks in 160 to 240 feet of water, using live baits.
Large numbers of kingfish gather over hard bottom areas in 45 to 55 feet of water offshore of Naples. Many anglers anchor over a wreck and chum the kings up to be taken on light tackle and live bait.