Compiled by: John Cimbaro
Largemouth bass are found in almost every body of freshwater in Florida. With more than 7,500 lakes available, anglers sometimes face a tough decision about where to fish. The following list of Top Bass Fishing Areas aims to help anglers find a quality place to catch either good numbers of bass or to catch a trophy bass.
FWC fisheries biologists selected these Florida lakes and rivers (in no specific order) as top black bass fishing destinations for 2013. (See Top Sites Map 5 MB) See also the Department of Health's Florida Fish Consumption Advisories for important information about eating fish.
Lake George is one of the premier largemouth bass fishing lakes in central Florida. It is the second largest lake in the state (46,000 acres), and is located 18 miles northwest of Deland and 29 miles east of Ocala. Lake George is one of the many natural lakes that are part of the St. Johns River System. It has extensive aquatic vegetation, primarily eelgrass, that provides excellent habitat for bass. Wade fishing in eel grass with plastic worms fished on the surface or with other top-water lures is productive. Fishing with live golden shiners is an excellent method for catching trophy bass during the spring spawning season.
Hot spots on the lake include Juniper, Salt and Silver Glen spring runs on the western shoreline. In winter and early spring, look for bass to congregate at the jetties on the south end of the lake. Casting deep-diving crankbaits near old dock structures along the northeast shore and off Drayton Island can also be productive.
There are fish camps on the St. Johns River just north and south of Lake George; however, the only one located on the lake itself is Pine Island Fish Camp. There is one public boat ramp with limited parking on the south end of the lake off Blue Creek Lodge Road, located north of Highway 40 while many of the fish camps and marinas offer fee boat ramps for additional access. A fishing pier is also located along the east side of the lake at the end of Nine Mile Point Road.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in the St. Johns River from the SR 415 bridge near Enterprise south, including Lake George. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow Department of Health (DOH) guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to eight 6 oz. meals per month (or two per week).
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West Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho)
Located adjacent to the City of Kissimmee in central Florida, the 18,810-acre West Lake Tohopekaliga is well known in the angling community for producing excellent fishing as well as trophy largemouth bass. The lake continues to provide anglers with a diverse plant community for which to try their luck and also affords fish optimum habitat to live. Bass anglers fishing Lake Tohopekaliga in 2012 have reported excellent catches of fish with several trophy fish being caught. Results from angler surveys conducted from August through November 2012 indicated bass angler catch success was 0.73 fish/hr, which is well above the average for many other lakes monitored within the state. In addition, the 2012 catch success estimate signified the fifth year in a row that angler success had been estimated to be 0.64 fish/hr or higher, indicating excellent fishing on the lake. Based on this estimate and the advent of the spawning season, bass angler success in spring 2013 should again be outstanding.
The majority of anglers targeting trophy bass use live golden shiners during late winter/early spring. Shiners are fished inshore near native vegetation or topped-out hydrilla. Plastic baits (worms, crawfish and lizards) flipped or pitched along either grass edges, hydrilla or bulrush will account for some quality-sized bass. Spinnerbaits, plastic frog imitations, soft jerkbaits and chugging baits can also be very productive. Both Texas- and Carolina-rigged plastic worms, rattling crankbaits, buzz-baits and chugging baits are proven lures during warmer months of the year. Also, schooling activity by bass can usually be observed during the warm months and can provide anglers with some fast action on topwater baits and lipless crankbaits.
North Steer Beach, Lanier Point, Little Grassy Island and Goblet's Cove are areas that bass anglers frequent and have had good success in the past. Both Shingle Creek and St. Cloud Canal (C-31) hold good concentrations of fish when flow is present through these tributaries. Eight man-made fish attractors located in deeper areas of the lake consistently produce good stringers of bass during the summer.
Two fish camps, one marina, one County park and five public boat ramps are available to anglers. Two fishing piers and numerous access points exist for bank fisherman along Lakeshore Drive and Neptune Road at the north end of the lake.
For more information about the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes visit http://www.visitkissimmee.com/leisure/.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Lake Tohopekaliga. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH gudelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass per month. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to four 6 oz. meals per month (or one per week).
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Lake Kissimmee (34,976 acres) is the largest of five main water bodies on the famous Kissimmee River in central Florida. Nationally renowned for consistently producing high quality fishing, Lake Kissimmee continues to be a favorite fishing destination of anglers visiting Florida. As a result of aggressive habitat management, anglers fishing the lake will find both a diverse and expansive plant community at their disposal, providing numerous areas to try their luck and enjoy their time on the water. Based on results from angler surveys conducted in spring (January through May) 2012, bass fishing continued to be very good as anglers experienced a catch success rate of 0.63 fish/hr, double the average across the state, with an estimated 279 bass 24 inches or greater caught and released during the survey period. Lake Kissimmee is a popular water body among the tournament bass fishing community with several tournaments held there annually.
Native grasses, bulrush, cattail, hydrilla and lily pads at Philadelphia Point, North Cove, Brahma Island and the Pig Trail provide anglers with excellent cover to pitch or flip plastic baits or slow-troll golden shiners for spawning bass during the winter and spring seasons. Rattling crankbaits, plastic frog imitations, soft jerkbaits, minnow-type stickbaits and Texas- or Carolina-rigged plastic worms fished in open-water or along edges of vegetation are productive during summer and fall. Fly fishermen have access to some outstanding areas to wade fish and consistently have good success with popping bugs during the spring and summer.
Three fish camps, one state park and two public boat ramps are available to anglers.
For more information about the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes visit www.floridakiss.com.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Lake Kissimmee. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass per month. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to four 6 oz. meals per month (or one per week).
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Rodman Reservoir, of Gainesville and south of Palatka, covers 9,500 acres of prime largemouth bass habitat. Since its creation in 1968, Rodman Reservoir has been known for trophy largemouth bass. Much of the fishery's success is attributed to abundant habitat in the form of stumps and submersed aquatic vegetation, and periodic drawdowns occurring every three years. Although drawdowns on Rodman are used primarily to control invasive aquatic vegetation, biologists have demonstrated a relationship between strong largemouth bass year-class production and reservoir drawdowns. These year classes provide "pulses" to the fishery at three-year intervals that provide the majority of the angler catch.
Generally, largemouth bass on Rodman Reservoir are most active during cooler months. Anglers targeting trophy largemouth bass use live golden shiners, either floated under a cork or free-lined. Most big bass are caught in the pool area, known as the "stump fields," along the river channel. However, many trophy bass come from the area between Cypress Bayou and Kenwood Landing. Successful anglers also use artificial baits, such as deep-diving and lipless crankbaits, spinner baits and soft plastics.
During normal water levels, boat ramps can be found near the town of Interlachen off C.R. 315 in Orange Springs and Kenwood. Additional boat ramps are located at the Rodman Recreational Area off Hwy 19 and at Eureka off C.R. 316. Anglers may also contact the Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails at (352) 236-7143 for up-to-date information on the water levels and temporary boat ramps.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Rodman Reservoir. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to four 6 oz. meals per month (or one per week).
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Lake Tarpon is a 2,500-acre lake near Tampa/St. Petersburg in Pinellas County. This lake has consistently produced high quality largemouth bass fishing for years. Most fish range from 12 to 16 inches long; however, quality and trophy fish are also present in good numbers. Biologists have observed individual anglers catching upwards of 20 fish, including an occasional ten-pounder.
Anglers are most successful flipping or pitching plastic worms along canal and bulrush edges. Offshore bass fishing is productive for anglers who fish around ledges, humps, coontail, and eel grass beds. Popular lures offshore include shad-imitating jigs, crankbaits, jerkbaits and top-water baits. Fishing with live wild shiners and live shad is also effective.
There are two public boat ramps within county parks. Anderson Park boat ramp is on the west shore, off U.S. 19. Chestnut Park boat ramp is on the east side of the lake, off C.R. 611. Some bank access is available in both parks. Boardwalks and piers serve as excellent fishing locations.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Lake Tarpon. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to eight 6 oz. meals per month (or two per week).
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Evers Reservoir / Ward Lake
Evers Reservoir is a 400-acre reservoir on the Braden River in Bradenton just south of S.R. 70 and west of I-75. There is a newly renovated park area at Jiggs Landing that has a boat ramp, canoe/kayak launch, and a fishing pier, as well as small cabins that can be rented. The reservoir also doubles as a drinking water supply for Bradenton, and aerators are used to improve water quality. Electrofishing samples indicated a quality largemouth bass population with over 2.2 bass captured per minute, and a tagging study on the reservoir has had good returns. Evers Reservoir has long been a favorite among local bass anglers, who have reported catches of 40 to 50 bass in one trip. The area around the aerators is a great place to try on hot summer days as cooler bottom water is mixed with the warm upper water column creating a thermal refuge, while the moving water attracts baitfish (primarily threadfin shad). Jerk baits and shad imitating baits are a good bet in this area. The island at the mouth of the Braden River creates a natural ambush point and holds many bass. When the water is moving, you can throw just about anything and catch some quality bass.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Evers Reservoir. All individuals (including women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children) should follow DOH gudelines and limit consumption of largemouth bass to eight 6 oz. meals per month (or two per week).
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Largemouth bass anglers who fish the Kissimmee Chain of lakes to the north and Lake Okeechobee to the south often overlook 28,000-acre Lake Istokpoga. Situated in Highlands County between U.S. 27 and U.S. 98 south of Sebring, Istokpoga is the fifth largest natural lake in Florida and has an average depth of only six feet. Past angler surveys have estimated more than 1,000 bass over 8 pounds being caught in less than a year's time. Bass angler catch rates were relatively slow last year, but have increased quite a bit this year.
Although bass fishing is excellent throughout the year, April and October are the best months for anglers looking for cooler weather and lots of bass. From January through April, bass can be found spawning in bulrush, cattail, and other vegetation over sandy lake bottom areas that were enhanced during the 2001 drawdown. Spawning bass can also be found around the lake's two islands: Big Island and Bumblebee Island. Flipping dark-colored, soft plastics in bulrush patches and in pockets of submerged vegetation can be productive during this time of year. Red shad and Junebug colors seem to be the most successful when fishing with soft plastics.
In spring and summer, top-water lures and jerkbaits worked over the top of hydrilla and pondweed in the south half of the lake are often successful. Weedless spoons tipped with grub tails and spinner baits fished over pondweed south of Bumblebee Island are deadly on bass during early morning. Rattling lures (silver, gold, and "Tennessee shad" are excellent colors) can also be effective during summer and fall as baitfish school in open water areas along the north end of the lake. A live shiner fished a few feet under a popping cork is the most reliable bait for catching trophy bass.
Lake Istokpoga has a 15- to 24-inch protected (no-harvest) slot limit for bass with a three fish daily bag limit, of which only one bass may be 24 inches or longer. All residents between 16 and 65 years of age and all non-residents are required to have a fishing license.
Several fish camps and four public boat ramps provide access to the lake. For more information about lodging and other amenities around Lake Istokpoga, contact the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce at (863) 385-8448.
Consumption Advisory: Mercury has been found to occur in largemouth bass from Lake Istokpoga. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass less than 15 inches in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass less than 15 inches to four 6 oz. meals per month (or one per week).
In addition, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should not eat largemouth bass 24 inches or more. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass 24 inches or more to 6 oz. of cooked bass per month.
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Winter Haven South Chain of Lakes
Tucked in and amongst the city streets of Winter Haven in north-central Polk County, the southern portion of the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes may well be Central Florida's best kept bass fishing secret. Polk County is home to 554 named lakes, the state's certified record Florida Largemouth Bass (17.27 lbs.), and typically sells more freshwater fishing licenses annually than any other county in the state. That's because resident and non-resident anglers take their Polk County bass fishing seriously! The chain is comprised of 14 lakes ranging in size from 25 to 1,160 acres and totals just over 4,000 acres of fishable waters that offer a wide variety of habitats and bass fishing experiences, from shoreline bulrush/cattail stands and cypress trees to open water beds of eelgrass and pondweed. The unique residential/urban setting allows anglers to watch bald eagles circling overhead in Lake Shipp or take in a water ski show while plying the waters of Lake Eloise at Florida's newest theme park, Legoland. A recent angler creel survey revealed success rates for bass in the 1.0 fish/hour range, well above the state average, with fish 3 to 6 pounds caught regularly as well as the occasional 10 pound-plus trophy. Standard state regulations apply to the entire chain: 5 fish per person per day, 14-inch minimum total length, with only one fish in possession at 22 inches or greater. Ample public access is available in the form of six boat ramps, two fishing piers, bank fishing at a half-dozen city parks, and public easements alongside the numerous canals that form the connecting links between lakes. Live shiners, jerkbaits, and the classic plastic worm presentations work well here and several outstanding local bass guides are available for those who want to get on fish quickly. Guide services, fishing forecasts, and lodging may be found through Polk County's Outpost 27 Visitor Center, http://sunnycentralflorida.com/.
Consumption Advisory: Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH gudelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass per month. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to eight 6 oz. meals per month (or two per week).
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Lake Talquin is an 8,800-acre reservoir located just outside Tallahassee. This lake has a lot of submerged stumps and snags, so proceed with caution, particularly in the upper half of the lake. The 18" minimum size limit on the lake helps maintain the largemouth bass fishery. Electrofisher sampling by FWC biologists also showed high numbers of bass, with good representation of larger individuals. A 12.3 lb bass, the first entry into the statewide Trophy Catch program, was caught and released from Lake Talquin in October 2012. In 2012, the FWC stocked 800,000 fingerling largemouth bass to further enhance the fishery.
Boat ramps and fishing piers are located off Hwy 20 (Coe Landing Road, William's Landing, etc) and Hwy 267 (Cooks Landing Road, McCall Bridge Road, etc). Check out the interactive map on our website for specific details on boat ramps and directions.
Check in at the Lake Talquin Lodge (231 Gainey's Road), Whippoorwill Sportsman's Lodge (3129 Cooks Landing Road), or Ingram's (354 Lois Lane) for more up-to-date information.
For further information on special bag and length limits for Lake Talquin, please contact the Northwest Regional Office (850-265-3676).
Consumption advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Lake Talquin. All individuals (including women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children) should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass per month.
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The Suwannee River is a pristine, black-water stream which flows 213 miles within Florida from a swampy region near the Georgia border to salt-marsh tidal creeks where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Rocky bluffs and shoal areas occur in the upper reaches of the river. Floodplain cypress tree/hardwood swamp borders, lined with lily pads, are found throughout the middle reaches of the Suwannee River. The Santa Fe River, a major tributary of the Suwannee, is influenced by the input of many natural springs which makes the water clearer, yet more productive for submersed vegetation and invertebrate fish food organisms.
Although the Suwannee River is not known for trophy largemouth bass, good numbers of bass can be expected, and quality-sized largemouth bass are frequently caught by anglers. The smaller, but feisty, Suwannee bass species also occurs throughout much of the river system. Suwannee bass over 16 inches (two pounds) can be caught by anglers in the Santa Fe River, which qualify as a "Big Catch" in FWC's Big Catch Angler Recognition Program.
Crawfish are the main food item for bass throughout the entire river system, so anglers should fish accordingly. Plastic worms, lizards and crawfish; jigs with orange skirts and pork rinds; and metallic crankbaits are all standard fare that catch fish in the river. While the scenery may change every 20 or 30 miles, the key to catching bass is the same. Anglers should always look for deep structure, or shallow structure that has deep water nearby. Suwannee bass, which are more common in the Santa Fe River, prefer moderate to fast current flowing around cypress trees. When water levels are low, the mid-river is a better bet for catching Suwannee bass, particularly in vegetated areas or other structure.
The lower Suwannee River moves more slowly, and bass utilize shoreline cover such as fallen trees and cypress trees on the outer bends of the river. Plastic baits, rigged weedless, can also catch bass on the inside shallow banks where lily pads are present. Live shiners can be fished into brush piles from upstream areas by letting them float downstream. Small bass will hit a fly or a small floater-diver fished along the bank in the Suwannee.
The estuary is also productive. Fishing can be outstanding during the fall when shrimp migrate into the river. Tidal creeks provide a unique fishing experience near the Gulf of Mexico.
Boat ramps are located along the entire river, but fish camps are few and far between.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in the Suwannee River drainage, including the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers. All individuals (including women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children) should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass per month.
In addition, for the Santa Fe River women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should not eat largemouth bass. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to 6 oz. of cooked bass per month.
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Lake Okeechobee is Florida's largest lake and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. Lake Okeechobee is located on the south-central portion of the Florida peninsula at latitudes 27o 12'N to 26o 40'N and longitudes 81o 07'W to 80o 37'W. Vast surface area (730 sq. mi.), shallowness (averages only 9 feet) and enormous habitat diversities make the ecosystem unique on the North American continent. This vast expanse of water includes more than 150,000 acres of productive vegetation. A 100-yard wide rim canal circles the lake, and many secondary canals and cuts are linked to it, resulting in hundreds of miles of fishing water.
Millions of largemouth bass inhabit the huge lake, and can be caught year-round. Many anglers from around the country have claimed Okeechobee as the black bass capital of the world. Lake Okeechobee has made a remarkable comeback after years of high waters and the 2004 hurricanes had diminished aquatic vegetation, prey and largemouth bass in the lake. The 2007/2008 drought allowed turbid waters to settle and aquatic vegetation to return. With the return of habitat, prey species and largemouth bass have made finally made a comeback. The October 2012 electrofishing samples yielded near-record catch rates for the lake, with fish over 18 inches well represented. The past three years have yielded the highest success rates, all over 1.25 fish per hour, in the 36-year history of the modern creel survey for Lake Okeechobee.
While the fishery on Lake Okeechobee is largely catch and release, up to five bass can be kept per day with a minimum size limit of 18 inches, while only one may be kept over 22 inches.
Numerous boat ramps, fish camps and marinas are located around the lake. View our interactive public boat ramp finder.
A list of launching areas can also be found at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/BoatingFishing/BoatRampsintoLakeOkeechobee.aspx.
Consumption Advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Lake Okeechobee. All individuals (including women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children) should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than four 6 oz. meals of cooked largemouth bass less than 13 inches in a month's time (or one per week).
In addition, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should eat no more than one 6 oz. meal of cooked largemouth bass 18 inches or more in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass 18 inches or more to four 6 oz. meals per month (or one per week).
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Everglades Water Conservation Areas 2 and 3
The Everglades Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) are south Florida marshlands intersected with over 200 miles of canals. WCA 2 has 210 square miles of marsh, and WCA 3 covers approximately 915 square miles of marsh. Originally designed for flood control and water supply, the area provides some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the country. Daily catches of 50 or more bass are not uncommon during the peak season.
Over 25 public boat ramps provide access to the different segments of canals surrounding and intersecting the WCAs. The L-67A, L-35B and Alligator Alley (I-75) are three of the most popular canals in the area for fishing.
The best fishing usually occurs in the spring when declining water levels concentrate fish in the canals. April is the peak fishing month when angler catch rates can be as high a 4.1 bass per hour in the L-67A Canal. This is a water-level driven fishery. Recent water level and angler catch rate analyses indicate that the larger the drop in water level, and the faster it occurs, the better the fishing. In 2012 a gradual water level drop was insufficient to “push” fish out of the marsh and into the canals, and catch rates were historically low. This coming year will hopefully mark a return to the usual, high-catch-generating water level patterns.
Most anglers fish in the canals rather than in the marsh. Anglers work canal edges with plastic worms, soft jerkbaits and minnow imitations. Flipping the vegetation is also a popular technique. During high water, some anglers will enter the marsh areas where bass can be found in the open slough areas. The L-67A and Alligator Alley canals have access trails off them that are specifically cut to provide boat access to adjacent marsh areas.Remember to display an orange flag 10 feet above your vessel when entering the marsh.
NOTE: Continued elevated water levels as we enter 2013 may delay peak catch rates this year. Whenever water levels are high and fish are not being pushed out of the marsh and concentrated in the canals, anglers should consider fishing the "flats."
Low water levels tend to push fish out of the marsh and concentrate them in the bordering canals. Recent water level and angler catch rate analysis indicates that the larger the drop in water level, and the faster it occurs, the better the fishing. Conversely, a small or very gradual drop in water level may not be sufficient to stimulate fish movement and generate high catch rates, as occured in 2012.
The L-67A Canal has access at the north end at Everglades Holiday Park off U.S. 27, where camping and boat rentals are available. At the south end, it can be accessed via a FWC boat ramp at the S-333 water control structure off Tamiami Trail (S.R. 41). The L-67C Canal may also be accessed from a FWC boat ramp and parking area adjacent to this site. One access point to the L-35B Canal is at Sawgrass Recreation Area off of U.S. 27, which has boat ramps and boat rentals. Ample access to the Alligator Alley Canal is available via a string of recreation areas and boat ramps along I-75.
A special bass fishing regulation is in effect in south Florida, including the Everglades Water Conservation Areas, where only one bass of the five-bass daily bag limit may be 14 inches or longer. This gives anglers the opportunity to harvest smaller bass, but still prevents over-harvest of fish over 14 inches in total length.
Consumption advisory: Mercury has been found to occur in largemouth bass from the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs). For largemouth bass less than 14 inches, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to four 6 oz. meals per month (or one per week). No one should consume largemouth bass exceeding 14 inches in length.
Additional consumption advisories are in place for some sites adjacent to the Water Conservation Areas. Individuals should check the complete Fish Consumption Advisories.
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Lake Monroe is a shallow 9,400-acre lake located on the north side of Sanford near Orlando. For the past several years, electrofishing surveys by biologists have resulted in some of the highest catch rates for bass for the St. Johns River chain with many lunkers sampled. Preferred artificial baits include plastic worms, spinner baits and crankbaits. Live golden shiners are always a popular bait. Several boat ramps provide access to the lake, including two near I-4. Although bank access is extensive on the southern end of the lake, water depth and habitat is variable and not always conducive to bass fishing.
Consumption advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Lake Monroe. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to four 6 oz. meals per month (or one per week).
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Tenoroc Fish Management Area
The 7,300-acre Tenoroc Fish Management Area near Lakeland provides a special opportunity to bass fish in Florida's famous phosphate pits. These 7- to 227-acre lakes were created years ago by draglines during phosphate surface mining operations. As a result, lake bottoms have irregular contours with depths ranging to 35 feet.
The bass fishing experience in these phosphate pits can rival any natural lake when the bass are biting well. Bass fishing is best from mid-November through March. Lake 3, Shop Lake, Hydrilla Lake, Butterfly Lake, Fish Hook Lake, Half Moon Lake, and Lost Lake West offer some of the best bass fishing opportunities on the property.
Probing deeper waters with chrome-colored rattling lures and chartreuse ("Firetiger" color) diving crankbaits is a good bet in phosphate pits. Plastic worms are often the best all around lure for fishing in these lakes. Red shad and Junebug colors are good plastic worm colors for bass in these lakes. Anglers that can find submersed islands or sandbars off points will find concentrations of bass. During the spring, flipping worms or soft plastic baits in thick brush will produce largemouth bass.
Tenoroc lakes are managed with a variety of catch-and-release harvest regulations; including total catch and release (no harvest) and 15-inch maximum size limits, in which anglers must immediately release all bass larger than 15 inches in total length.
Tenoroc is located just two miles northeast of Lakeland on Highway 659, which can be accessed from Highway 33 just south of Intestate I-4. Call the Tenoroc Headquarters at (863) 499-2422 for more information or to make reservations, because these lakes are only open to the public four days a week. All anglers must check in and out at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area Headquarters, deposit their valid fishing license and pay $3 for a daily fishing permit.
Consumption advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Tenoroc lakes. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to eight 6 oz. meals per month (or two per week).
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Mosaic Fish Management Area
A bass fishing trip on the 1,000-acre Mosaic Fish Management Area (formerly Cargill Fort Meade Mine) in Polk and Hardee counties is definitely worth planning. Anglers had an average catch rate of over 1 bass/hour last year, well over the statewide average. There are 12 phosphate pits (i.e., lakes created by surface mining) that range in size from 10 to 200 acres, and have depths that range down to 30 feet. The fishing pressure on these lakes is relatively low and the bass fishing can turn on at a moment's notice. These lakes offer a special opportunity to fish Florida's famous phosphate pit bass fisheries.
Top-water baits around dawn and dusk, white or chartreuse spinner baits, plastic worms, and chrome or "Firetiger" (chartreuse and orange) colored crankbaits can all be successful. Fishing shoreline brush and vegetation works well in the spring. Anglers that can find submerged islands or sandbars off points will find concentrations of bass, particularly during warmer months of the year. Lakes LP2 West, Coulter, and Pine Lake East offer some of the best bass fishing opportunities on the property.
Mosaic lakes are managed with a variety of catch-and-release harvest regulations, including total catch and release (no harvest) and 15-inch maximum size limits, in which anglers must immediately release all bass larger than 15 inches in total length.
Mosaic Fish Management Area is located near Ft. Meade in Polk County. The FMA is only open to public fishing four days a week from Friday through Monday. No reservations can be made, so lake permits are allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. Please call (863) 648-3200 for more information about fishing at Mosaic Fish Management Area.
Consumption advisory: Relatively low levels of mercury in largemouth bass have been found to occur in Mosaic lakes. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should follow DOH guidelines and eat no more than 6 oz. of cooked bass in a month's time. All others are advised to limit consumption of largemouth bass to eight 6 oz. meals per month (or two per week).
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Big Escambia Creek (Spotted bass)
Big Escambia Creek in Escambia County has a healthy population of Spotted bass that is rarely exploited. This five mile stretch of river is a tributary of the Escambia River and is characterized by gravel substrate and gin-clear water ranging from inches deep to over 10 feet. The Florida portion of Big Escambia Creek begins at the Florida/Alabama state line and ends at the confluence of the Escambia River.
The catch rate (fish/km) of spotted bass in Big Escambia Creek was the highest out of nine rivers sampled in 2009-2011, and was almost twice that of the next highest river on that list. Biologists have noted that the greatest catch of spotted bass typically occurs in areas of moderate current and depth, and not necessarily in the deepest water you can find. Smaller individuals, up to 12 inches, can be found in the wood cover lining the outside of the river channel in 2-5 feet of water, as well as the first drop-off near gravel bars located on the inside bend of the river. Spotted bass up to 16 inches, although not as abundant as smaller fish, will be in the deeper water found in runs and outside bends of the river farther downstream.
Crawfish and blacktail shiners are the prevalent forage for spotted bass in Big Escambia Creek. Anglers should use imitations of these prey items to be successful at catching fish. Plastic crawfish-imitations and finesse worms rigged weedless with a 1/8-1/4 ounce weight can be fished effectively through the wood cover without snagging. Crankbaits in brown or crawfish colors also catch spotted bass when worked along the gravel bars imitating a fleeing crawfish.
Access to Big Escambia Creek is fairly limited, which keeps fishing pressure low and sport fish populations abundant. The nearest public boat ramp is at Fischer Landing on the Escambia River, located on Route 4. The confluence of Big Escambia Creek and the Escambia River is 1 mile upstream from Fischer Landing, and is characterized by deep runs and undercut banks that can hold trophy spotted bass. Anglers interested in wade fishing or using paddle craft can launch at the bridge crossing on Fannie Road, located just north of Route 4. This stretch of river is much shallower and has abundant gravel bars and swiftly flowing water that holds abundant numbers of small to medium size spotted bass.
Spotted bass are managed with state wide bag and length limits for black bass. Fisherman are allowed to harvest 5 fish per day and all spotted bass less than 12 inches total length must be released immediately.
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Chipola River (Shoal bass)
Shoal bass primarily occur in the Chipola River between Spring Creek (the outflow of Merritt’s Mill Pond located above the I-10 bridge) to Johnny Boy Landing (located off of CR 274 near Altha, FL). There are three public boat ramps located within this stretch of river: Magnolia Bridge (SR-280), Peacock Bridge (SR-278), and Johnny Boy Landing. Canoe and kayak outfitters catering to paddlers wishing include the Chipola River Outfitters (850-762-2800) and Bear Paw Adventures (850-482-4948). Individuals planning their own trip can download the Chipola River canoe trail map from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s greenways and trails website (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/). The FWC recommends checking USGS river levels (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/fl/nwis/rt, Marianna and Altha stations) prior to planning a trip on the river. Boaters should be careful when navigating the Chipola River. There are many limestone shoals and snags throughout the river. Shoals may not be as visible after recent rain events. The river is also used by tubers, divers, and swimmers. Navigation upstream can be difficult to impossible when the river is low, therefore boaters should plan accordingly. When river levels are extremely low, the Look and Tremble shoal below Johnny Boy Landing becomes a steep, hazardous drop.
Shoal bass can be found in riffles and runs containing limestone or other rocky substrate. They may also be located in runs containing eel grass. Larger shoal bass may be caught in pool areas containing limestone outcropping immediately below or above shoals, particularly during the hot summer months. Crayfish are a major part of the shoal bass diet. Shoal bass may be targeted with the same type of lures used to target largemouth bass. Largemouth bass coexist with shoal bass in this section of the Chipola River although they are more associated with logs and woody debris and are often more abundant in the slower moving water with sandy substrate.
Catch and release is recommended for shoal bass since it is a unique species limited to a few rivers in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
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For more information about these lakes, contact the following FWC biologists:
Lake George and Lake Monroe - Jay Holder 352-732-1225
West Lake Tohopekaliga and Lake Kissimmee - Kevin McDaniel 407-846-5300
Rodman Reservoir - Eric Nagid 352-392-9617
Lake Tarpon - Jeff Willitzer 863-648-3200
Evers Reservoir - Jeff Willitzer 863-648-3200
Lake Istokpoga - Steve Gornack 863-462-5190
Winter Haven South Chain of Lakes - Paul Thomas 863-648-3200
Lake Talquin - Katie Woodside 850-265-3676
Suwannee River - Dan Dorosheff 386-758-0525
Lake Okeechobee - Corey Lee 863-462-5190
Everglades Water Conservation Areas 2 and 3 - Vance Crain 561-625-5122
Tenoroc Fish Management Areas - Danon Moxley 863-648-3200
Mosaic Fish Management Areas - Eric Johnson 863-648-3200