Compiled by: Cheree Steward
The following areas were selected by Florida's freshwater fisheries biologists as being the most likely to be highly productive for black crappie during 2014 (see Top Sites Map 5 MB).
Lake Monroe (Near Sanford)
This nearly 10,000 acre lake is part of the St. Johns River chain and is located just off of I-4 about half way between Orlando and Daytona Beach. This lake is known for quality size fish and black crappie angling is popular during the cooler months. Early reports by anglers this year indicated good fishing. Drifting and trolling near the river channel and offshore from the power plant on the northwest shore are popular on this lake, but schools may be located all over the lake. Crappie move inshore in late winter/early spring for spawning and appear to prefer bulrush if available in the right water depths.
Lake Talquin (West of Tallahassee)
This 8,800-acre reservoir is located just outside Tallahassee. The 10 inch minimum size limit on the lake helps maintain the crappie fishery. The state record, 3-pound, 13 ¼-ounce, black crappie was pulled out of Lake Talquin. This lake has a lot of submerged stumps and snags, so proceed with caution, particularly in the upper half of the lake. Concentrate in deep water early in the year with jigs or minnows. Fish in shallower water around the lily pads in late February thru April as fish move up to spawn.
Lochloosa Lake / Orange Lake (Between Gainesville and Ocala)
Water levels have been up for over a year and the anglers are making the best of it - catching good numbers of crappie measuring between 11 and 14 inches, with some weighing over 2 pounds. In 2014 the lake should continue to produce good results for anglers interested in catching all sizes of crappie. Most anglers fish open water during the summer and fall, but move closer to shore and fish vegetated areas in the spring. Preferred baits include jigs and minnows or a combination of jigs tipped with minnows. The lake can be accessed using the county ramp, Lochloosa Harbor Fish Camp, and Twin Lake Fish Camp.
Lake Weohyakapka / Walk-in-Water (East of Lake Wales)
Hydrilla has not returned to this 7,800 acres lake since the hurricanes of 2004, leaving plenty of open water to troll and drift for crappie. Good numbers and some quality fish are caught in deeper (10 ft.) areas of the lake during the cooler months and in shoreline vegetation (bulrush, knotgrass, and maidencane) during the spring spawning season. Missouri minnows fished under corks or on small jig heads, as well as Hal-Flies and small spinners are excellent for catching crappie. Seven brush-type fish attractors were installed in December 2010, and should concentrate fish for anglers offshore. A survey during spring 2011 estimated that anglers caught 1.6 crappie per hour in the lake. That estimate increased to 2.3 crappie per hour in spring 2012. Further, an impressive 2 lb 2 oz black crappie was entered into FWC’s BigCatch program during the past year. For more detailed information please contact one our fisheries biologists at 863-648-3200.
Lake Weir (South Marion County)
Located near Weirsdale, this 5,685-acre lake is different from most Florida lakes, with lots of depths exceeding 20 feet and an irregular bottom. Low water levels this year can make launching hazardous, so caution should be used. The FWC maintains 12 brush fish attractors on Lake Weir which are successfully utilized by many anglers. The attractors were refurbished with new brush in the January 2010 and can be easily spotted by looking for the large yellow buoys. Also, FWC is experimenting with Fish-in-a-Barrel attractors on Lake Weir. These attractors are PVC cubes surrounding halves of PVC barrels that were designed to provide structure without snagging tackle. These attractors are marked by yellow buoys with blue caps. For GPS coordinates of the attractors, contact our fisheries biologists at 352-732-1225. Most anglers use minnows and grass shrimp near the attractors, but some will drift the open waters too.
Lake Griffin (Lake County)
Part of the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, this 10,000 acre lake is known primarily as a numbers lake, but it also produces some good sized crappie. A 10-inch minimum size limit for crappie began on the lake in July 2012. Compliance seems good so far, giving those 9-inch fish another season to grow. In fact, trawl sampling this year saw double the catch rate of 10-inch and larger crappie, compared to recent years. Also, in January 2014 FWC biologists will be placing several marked fish attractors in the central and southern portions of the lake; easily accessible from ramps at Herlong Park or Lake Griffin State Park on Highway 441. Given crappie’s preference for congregating around structure, these fish attractors should be excellent fishing spots.
Lake Arbuckle (East of Frostproof)
This dark-water, 3,800 acre lake produces quality crappie year after year. They can be found in each of the three basins of the lake. During the cooler months, crappie are caught by drifting or trolling in the deep water in the middle of the basins. In spring the fish move to the grass patches and the lily pads on the edges to spawn. Live Missouri minnows and small spinners are the baits of choice on Arbuckle.
Lake Marian (Southeast Osceola County, east of Lake Kissimmee)
Although it is smaller and doesn’t have the notoriety of lakes Kissimmee and Tohopekaliga, Lake Marian (5,742 acres) is arguably one of the most consistent black crappie fisheries on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Anglers routinely catch limits of crappie trolling or drifting minnows in open water off of Whiskey Point, Jordan Slough, and Four-Mile Point. When crappie are inshore during the winter spawning season, jig fishing can be outstanding in and around native grasses, bulrush and lily-pads. In 2012 the average crappie caught was about 10 inches and anglers harvested an average of 2.4 fish per hour. There is a public ramp at the lake (just west of US 441), and a fish camp (Lake Marian Paradise 407-436-2021) conveniently located nearby.
Lake Marion (East of Haines City)
For those “in the know” this 2,990-acre lake appears on most lists of Top-10 speck sites. While not known for producing large crappie, Marion is widely regarded as one of the better “numbers” lakes. During the cooler months, crappie move in to the bulrushes, cattails and lily pads to spawn. In warmer months, they’re found by drifters and slow trollers in open water areas. Cane polers are likely to employ Missouri minnows here, while those using light spinning tackle claim nothing beats Hal-Flies or Beetle Spins.
West Lake Tohopekaliga (South of the city of Kissimmee)
While well known for bass fishing, Lake Toho (18,810 acres) has also gained a reputation in central Florida as a prime location for anglers to catch black crappie. Good numbers of fish are caught by anglers drifting minnows in open water between Makinson and Paradise Islands, the mouth of Shingle Creek and around channel marker 24. Anglers also have success jig fishing in and around hydrilla patches within these areas. Each year many large crappie are mixed in with anglers’ limits for those who put the time in to locate concentrations of fish.
Lake Kissimmee (East of the city of Lake Wales)
Classified by many as a stellar bass fishing lake, Lake Kissimmee (34,976 acres) also ranks high up on the list of popular destinations of many black crappie anglers. Anglers consistently catch limits of fish drifting minnows in open water near the mouth of the C-37 canal, the north end of North Cove, between Brahma and Bird Islands and around channel markers 7 and 8. Anglers also have success jig fishing in and around patches of lily pads and native grasses within these areas.
Mosaic Fish Management Area (Southern Polk County)
Lakes within the 1,000-acre Mosaic Fish Management area near Ft. Meade in southern Polk County have some mighty fine crappie populations. The dozen lakes in the area range in size from 10 to 200 acres and many have shorelines with an abundant supply of woody brush, tree tops, and vegetation that are perfect targets for placing a well-hooked minnow under a float. Trolling deeper areas in open water to locate schools of crappie with this rig can also be productive, especially during winter. Casting a small Beetlespin or jig into deeper areas can also produce fish at times. Lakes SP12 South and Haul Road Pit are an angler’s best bet for catching crappie, both with catch rates greater than 3 crappie/hour during the past year. The area is only open to fishing four days a week (Friday-Monday) and it’s first come-first served, but don’t worry, you’ll always have a spot somewhere. For more information, please call (863) 648-3200.
Tenoroc Fish Management Area (Polk County)
Fishing for crappie at Tenoroc, an 8,300-acre Fish Management Area near Lakeland, can be a rewarding experience, especially during cooler months. With lakes ranging in size from seven to 227 acres, anglers have plenty of areas to dunk a bobber with a minnow or jig. Schooling fish can often be caught using this rig near deep drop-offs and underwater humps. Casting a small Beetlespin lure or jig tipped with a minnow can also produce some nice stringers of fish. Try Lakes 4, 5, and B for some of the best action. Call the Tenoroc office at (863) 648-3200 for more information or the creel office at (863) 499-2422 (Friday-Monday) to make reservations, because these lakes are only open to fishing four days a week.
Lake Istokpoga (Near Sebring)
This lake may be known best for its largemouth bass fishing, but others know that winter is prime time to catch crappie in this 28,000-acre fishing wonder. From November through April, Lake Istokpoga anglers troll open water with Hal-Flies, doll flies, spinner jigs and Napier jigs to locate schools of crappie and then rack up the numbers. When the water temperature stabilizes around 65 degrees, crappie move into bulrush and spatterdock along the shoreline to spawn. There’s a trick to catching them when that happens. Move slowly through the vegetation in three to six feet of water and thoroughly cover the holes and pockets among the vegetation with a crappie jig.
Lake Trafford (Near Immokalee)
Located about 30 miles southeast of Fort Myers, in Immokalee, 1500-acre Lake Trafford is also regarded as a good “numbers” lake for black crappie. Recent sampling indicates that the record numbers of young crappie biologists collected three years ago are now 8-9 inches long and should provide additional keepers this year. Anglers may catch the occasional small bass while crappie fishing and should remember that the regulation for bass is 18 inches minimum to give stocked bass an opportunity to grow large enough to spawn. (Largemouth bass survival rates were very good from the restocking program in 2009/2010 and natural reproduction is occurring in the lake.) Biologist Ralph LaPrairie (561-625-5122) recommends drifting minnows early or late in the day and, if you can’t locate schooling crappie in the middle, try jigs and minnows along the vegetated shoreline. The crappie are always moving in Trafford.