February 02, 2016
Florida has a wealth of fishing resources, both freshwater and saltwater. Regardless of where in the state, or the time of year, anglers can find somewhere to wet a line.
Picking the "best of" so many wonderful resources is always risky.
No matter what is recommended, we're bound to leave out someone's favorite. Nonetheless, here are some trips to consider this year.
Lake Talquin Crappie
Look for fish in stump fields and deep water with 1/16- to 1/8-ounce curly-tailed jigs in yellow, chartreuse, pink or white. Some anglers are successful night fishing for crappie using the same baits, but under the glow of a lantern.
Take care when boating on Lake Talquin. Even though it's an old impoundment, stumps and floating logs can still create a hazard for boaters.
OTHER OPTIONS: The C-111 Aerojet Canal is the southernmost freshwater canal in Florida. Fish species in the Aerojet Canal include largemouth bass, peacock bass and a number of bream species, as well as some saltwater species.
In the Indian River, try fishing holes and deep canals for speckled trout.
South Florida Canals Peacock Bass
Look for peacock bass in shaded areas provided by bridges, culverts and other structures in the canals. Fallen trees, canal ends, bends and intersections also are good places to look for fish.
Try a small golden shiner fished below a float or free-lined; cast it or slow troll with a trolling motor along canal edges. Angers may need to put a small split shot on the line to keep the shiner at the proper depth.
Good choices for topwater include Rapalas, Yozuri minnows, Rat-L-Traps, Shad-Raps, Jerk'n Sams, Wobble Pops, Tiny Torpedos and Pop-Rs. Those looking for big fish should throw lures up to 5 inches. For more action, stick with baits 3 inches or smaller.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Weohyakapka (Lake Walk-in-Water) is a 7,800-acre lake east of Lake Wales. Minnows fished under corks or on small jigheads, as well as Hal-Flies and small spinners, are excellent for catching crappie.
Lake Okeechobee is a good bet for bass. Check around bulrushes and peppergrass in the shallows.
Tampa Bay Snook
Look for snook off the beaches, as snook are moving out of the rivers to the mouths of the bays to get ready to spawn. Many anglers catch snook on artificial baits, including Exude Darts in sunlight crystal color, as well as on Top Dogs, Zara Spooks, or anything else that's silver.
A variety of live baits also work well. Out on the flats and in the open water, along the drops and edges, the best thing to use is white bait.
OTHER OPTIONS: Bear Lake Fish Management Area, located in Santa Rosa County, can be very good for pursuing black crappie in the early spring.
The most effective baits generally are live minnows or feather jigs. Another spot for spring crappie is Lake Weir in south Marion County. Fish around fish attractors, which can be spotted by looking for the large yellow buoys.
Lake Newnan Mixed Creel
The most consistent fisheries here are catfish and bream, which can be caught year 'round. Minnows and grass shrimp are good baits for panfish in this lake.
Expect to catch white catfish, brown bullheads and yellow bullheads; many of which will be in the 6- to 12-inch range, perfect for eating. All the traditional catfish baits should work well, including mud minnows, grass shrimp, earthworms and chicken liver.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Victor Fish Management Area in Holmes County can produce nice catches of 1- to 2-pound bass in the spring. Fish the deep water along the old streambed and near the dam, using shiners or blue, black and purple worms rigged Texas style.
Mallory Swamp WMA has a network of canals that hold panfish and catfish; light tackle and cane poles work well. The best bait is probably worms.
Lake Jackson Largemouth Bass
This 4,000-acre lake has a high diversity of aquatic vegetation, but hydrilla, eelgrass, and maidencane are the best habitats in which to fish for bass in this lake. Anglers often rig shiners with the hook through the back or through the lips, while others use Texas-rigged worms to get down into the grass. A few use a paddle-tailed worm and pull it rapidly over the top of the grass.
In the spring and early summer, smaller fish form schools all over the lake. Small rattling or topwater lures can provide continuous action.
OTHER OPTIONS: Hurricane Lake Fish Management Area in Okaloosa County is a beautiful place to fish with lots of bluegill and redear sunfish. Crickets, worms and white beetle spins work well.
Piney-Z Lake is a 193-acre lake within the city limits of Tallahassee; it's actually one arm of Lake Lafayette. It's laid out for bank access, with more than 3 miles of shoreline and several "fishing fingers" for anglers. Try live baits and beetle spins for panfish.
Key West Tarpon
Despite the heat, the calmer days of June mean good fishing for tarpon. Tarpon range from 50 to 150 pounds or even bigger, but anglers fish for them in 3 to 4 feet of water as they swim across the flats. It's the time of year for fly anglers and for people who freeline live bait using spincasting rigs to sight fish for tarpon.
OTHER OPTIONS: For saltwater fishing without a boat, try Anglins Fishing Pier at the east end of Commercial Boulevard in Lauderdale By The Sea. Some of the common catches here are snapper, snook, blue runners and croakers.
Karick Lake Fish Management Area in Okaloosa County is a good place for largemouth bass even though it is only 65 acres. Use shiners, yellow-skirted flutter baits, or black or blue plastic worms rigged Texas style around the aerators. Be aware of special bass regulations.
Steinhatchee Speckled Trout
This area has lots of seagrass, shallow water and prey fish that speckled trout like to eat. In July, trout are in the middle of their spawning period, which generally takes place from May until September, with slight peaks at the two ends.
This is a case where the bigger the bait or lure, the bigger the trout. Those who fish with little shrimp are going to catch little fish. Use large lures for large fish; trout are predators, so toss them something that will trigger their predatory instinct.
When looking for trout, begin by looking in about 5 feet of water. Trout like grassy areas with potholes or areas of sand mixed with grass.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Stone Fish Management Area in Escambia County can provide good bass fishing during the hot summer months, especially at night and during early morning and late evening hours.
Try dark-colored plastic worms and Rat-L-Traps in flooded timber or along the shoreline. Catches at Dania Fishing Pier in southern Broward County, include snapper, Pompano, blue runner, croakers and more.
Tenoroc Fish Management Area Largemouth Bass
Tenoroc Fish Management Area near Lakeland is a reclaimed phosphate mine with 14 lakes ranging in size from 7 to more than 200 acres. Intensive management produces excellent catches of largemouth bass, as well as other species.
When starting out to fish for bass on the phosphate pit lakes, bring along a little of everything. Try topwater lures around vegetation and off some of the points before the sun comes up, as bass are in the shallows and feeding actively. Also look for underwater humps and brush structure.
Here, buzzbaits and jerkbaits may be particularly productive. Once the sun comes up, bass move down into the deeper parts of the lakes. At that point the two best-producing baits are plastic worms and crankbaits.
OTHER OPTIONS: Merritt's Mill Pond is renowned for trophy shellcracker (redear), but it also contains bluegill and stumpknockers (spotted sunfish). The pond currently holds the state record for redear at 4.86 pounds.
Take a stealthy approach in the clear water using crickets or worms around the eelgrass beds. Flathead catfish aren't native to Florida, but they're still fun to pull out of the Apalachicola River.
Skyway Pier State Park Saltwater Species
The Skyway Pier State Park offers anglers a chance to fish for deep-water species, such as grouper, shark, tarpon, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and sea bass, particularly when the weather cools in September. Live shrimp and cut bait on Christmas tree rigs work well, especially during tide changes.
OTHER OPTIONS: Toward the end of the month, visit Sebastian Inlet for flounder. Over the next month they will start to move offshore to spawn. Fish on bottom during incoming tides. Also, cooling water means gag grouper are moving into the spring holes along the west coast.
Deer Point Lake Bass
Deer Point Lake is about 5,000 acres, with depth that varies a great deal and includes many holes and old creek channels. There also are a lot of shallow areas in the south-central part of the lake, but 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 fish 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: Located just north of Deland, Lake Woodruff can be a good bet for largemouth bass. Use topwater lures and spinnerbaits late and early for good action.
Check out the canals around Miami for early morning and late evening action on topwater lures. Expect mostly peacock bass, but anglers can catch a few other species as well.
St. Johns River Sunshine Bass
Look for sunshine bass around jetties and bombing ranges in Lake George, in the lower Ocklawaha, near Buffalo Bluff, around the Memorial Bridge in Palatka, Shands Bridge in Green Cove Springs and the bridges in Jacksonville. Fish for them like largemouth bass. Good baits include grass shrimp, live shad, shiners, jigs and crankbaits that imitate shiners.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Trafford in Collier County has a variety of species, including crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, bullheads and bass. Try worms, crickets and small spinnerbaits for some late fall action.
Hillsborough County has a number of Fish Management Areas that are ideal for a quick afternoon fishing trip. At least one — Bobby Hicks Pond in south Tampa — contains somewhat brackish water, and an occasional saltwater species pops up. Try shrimp, earthworms, chicken livers or any other live bait.
St. Mary's/Nassau Rivers Striped Bass
Striped bass are the No. 1 sport fish in both these rivers, which are connected by the Intra-Coastal Waterway (Amelia and South Amelia Rivers). The entire system also connects to the St. Johns River through the Intra-Coastal.
The salt marsh zone is famous for striped bass, as they like to remain in the lower parts of the system during cold weather. Troll or cast to steep banks with Bucktail jigs or rattling jigs that imitate shad.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Osborne in Palm Beach County has a wide variety of species, including sunshine bass, largemouth, black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, catfish and Mayan cichlids. The 17.8-mile main Snake Creek Canal is one of the longest, widest and straightest sections of canal in southern Florida.This system can produce peacock bass, snook and tarpon.
Try looking around fallen trees, canal intersections, sharp bends,and dead ends. Other good places to look include the shade of bridges and culverts, along areas of riprap and along residential seawalls, particularly in lateral canals.
If there's a strong current in the main canal, try fishing in the lateral canals, small lakes and other areas that offer fish a refuge from the current.
Of course, these are just a few of the many opportunities available to Sunshine State anglers. Now you just have to figure out which ones you want to try.