North Florida Bass Fishing Waters for 2018

North Florida Bass Fishing Waters for 2018
Despite some issues from Irma, the fishing in Florida should still be pretty good, especially in the north. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

florida bass fishing
Despite some issues from Irma, the fishing in Florida should still be pretty good, especially in the north. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

Despite widespread damage throughout Florida, the bass fishing waters in the northern half of the state escaped Irma's wrath relatively unscathed.

Back on Sept. 9, Hurricane Irma blasted into the Florida Keys and then for two days battered the peninsula, as it moved steadily northward. After its second landfall around Naples and Marco Island, the storm moved inland through central and north Florida, wreaking havoc along the way.

As with any such event, concern for lives and lost property are the first orders of business. Only later do folks survey what the hurricane meant for fisheries. As the year enters the prime months for targeting largemouths in north Florida, it's time to take a survey of the region and its bass waters.

When the storm reached the bass lakes and rivers to the north of a line from Tampa to Orlando, it had weakened a great deal. Still, the flooding and winds did have some effect on that part of the state's fishing waters.

Fortunately, nature has a way of being prepared for the problems she inflicts upon an area. Plants, animals and fish all take such events in stride and are soon on their way back to normal. 

bass fishing"In general, impacts were less than with earlier hurricanes that ripped out vegetation," said Allen Martin, fisheries biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We're not sure why that didn't happen this time."

As it turns out, the biggest culprit affecting fishing was what washed into the river systems. The downpours of rain and heavy winds associated with Irma carried a lot of organic matter from the swamps into the waterways, along with stagnant, warmer water. Additionally, the organic muck stirred from the bottoms of streams put a real nutrient stew in the water. Even worse, hurricanes usually cause several days of cloud cover, which creates a "perfect storm" to cause a fish kill. 

The clouds block sunlight that aquatic plants use to produce oxygen in the water, causing respiring that uses oxygen. Additionally, the water coming from the swamps is dark and tannic, which further blocks sunlight and adds to the issue.

Thus, with no new oxygen being produced and decaying plant material using up what's already there, a fish kill becomes inevitable. Indeed, two large kills were recorded, along with scattered smaller ones across north Florida.

"We've seen some kills and we expect dead vegetation to collect and decay, which could lead to more," said Barron Moody, FWC biologist. "But, history shows we will recover."

Based on those assessments, there were four fisheries that were heavily affected by Irma. Three of those took a hit, but surprisingly, the fourth actually improved due to the violent weather.


The St. Johns is the state's biggest river. It was heavily affected by Irma's visit, which came in the form of fish kills. The portion that took the brunt of the impact was from just south of Lake George at the town of Astor and upstream.

While the FWC termed the fish kills as "not unexpected or catastrophic," the local populace had a differing opinion soon after the storm, with a front row seat to see the masses of floating fish, as well as having to endure the smell.

"There are blankets of dead fish, primarily from Astor to as far south as you want to go," said Stephen Bishop. "I've got contacts from all corners telling me the same thing. I've experienced this before, and it was nowhere near this size." 

By the end of September, the fish kill had tapered off. While bream and bass were present, including some 5- to 7-pound largemouths, the vast majority of the fish were reported to be tilapia. Indications were that the bass population may have taken a hit, but should still have plenty of fish this spring.

As to catching them, two patterns apply. To begin, the fact vegetation was not uprooted is good news. The abundant lily pads and dollar pads still provide shoreline mats upstream to Lake George, toward lakes Dexter and Woodruff. Targeting the edges with live golden shiners is the go-to method for hooking big bass.

Those shiners can be in the 7- to 8-inch range and fished under floats with only minimal weight. Casting to the edge of the weed line and letting the bait swim up under the mat is the preferred tactic. 

Those who prefer artificials should look for spawning beds in backwater ponds off the main river or in canals and feeder creek mouths. The best tactic is to drop plastic baits, either with or without weight, right in the beds. Worm, craw and lizard patterns all work for this fishing.

Pro Adrian Avena: Big Bass on Big Worms

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


Quick Tips: How to Spot and Stalk a Hog

Ian Nance - May 28, 2019

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set.

Field Tested: Lightweight Raingear

David Draper - May 30, 2019

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.


MLF Pros: What's With the Moon?

G&F Online Staff

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think?

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.


10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them.

Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...

See More Stories

More Bass


3 Pro Picks for Post-Spawn Bass

Pete M. Anderson - May 31, 2019

MLF pros Josh Bertrand, Dave Lefebre and Andy Montgomery share their choices.


Chicago's Smallmouth Bass Hot Spot

Tim Holschlag - June 17, 2019

Want to get after smallmouth near the city? Hit the Kankakee River south of town.


MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish New Waters

G&F Online Staff

These Major League Fishing pros share their approach to a new lake.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.