Top Spots for Striper

Top Spots _Morones

Compiled by: Chris Paxton

The following areas were selected by Florida's freshwater fisheries biologists as being the most likely to be highly productive for stripers, striper hybrids (sunshine bass) and white bass during 2015. See the Top Spots Map Adobe PDF (1.6 MB) for all 2015 sportfish locations.

 

Apalachicola River / Lake Seminole

Location: From Florida/Georgia state line at Chattahoochee, flowing south to city of Apalachicola.

Species: Striped bass, sunshine bass, and white bass.

This is where the largestMoronespecies in the state are found.  The state record striped bass (42.25 pounds), sunshine bass (16.31 pounds), and white bass (4.69 pounds) were all caught in the Apalachicola River / Lake Seminole system.

Striped bass fingerlings (200,000 or six per acre) are stocked into Lake Seminole annually. Sunshine bass stocking into Lake Seminole also resumed in 2010.  Lake Seminole, a 35,000-acre reservoir located on the Florida-Georgia border in Gadsden and Jackson Counties, is the headwater of the Apalachicola River. Here, striped bass and sunshine bass aggregate along the old river channels and the lower lake near the dam during fall and winter, and migrate up the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers during the spring. Larger fish move to cool water springs, which are closed to fishing during the summer.

Fish are discharged downstream from upstream reservoirs and Lake Seminole through the Jim Woodruff Dam into the Apalachicola Riverduring high-water periods. Striped bass greater than 20 pounds and sunshine bass weighing from seven to ten pounds are common. Striped bass in the 40 to 60-pound range have also been caught or collected from the Apalachicola / Chattahoochee / Flint River system.

Stripers and sunshine bass move throughout the Apalachicola river system during the fall and winter, and can be caught from the dam to the coast. Larger fish migrate up the river and aggregate below the dam during spring. Bucktail jigs and crankbaits that resemble shad are popular lures around bridge pilings and along deep channels and drop-offs. Live shrimp are very productive in the lower river. Shad are most productive below the dam.

White bass have shown a small but steady increase over the past few years.  The white bass fishery occurs in the upper river during the spring spawning run, when adult fish aggregate along sand and gravel bars.   Live crayfish and freshwater shrimp produce consistently, although small jigs are also effective.

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Lake Talquin / Ochlockonee River

Location: West of Tallahassee.

Species: Striped bass and white bass.

Striped bass are stocked (10-20 per acre) annually into Lake Talquin and many are discharged downstream through the dam during high water. Striped bass in the 10 to 20-pound range are common, and fish over 30 pounds are possible.  Live shad, spoons, and jigs are favorite baits of local anglers.  White bass were introduced here during the 1980s.  This species was negatively impacted by drought conditions during recent years, but has been increasing recently, and small spawning runs have been observed both above and below Lake Talquin.  Historically, three to five-pound white bass were common.  Striped bass can be found throughout the reservoir during the fall and winter, particularly along the old river and creek channels. They migrate up the Ochlockonee River during spring and aggregate in creeks with coldwater discharge during summer.  Fish discharged into the lower Ochlockonee River through Jackson Bluff Dam travel throughout the system during fall and winter, and then migrate upstream to aggregate below the dam during spring.

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St. Johns River

Location: The Upper and Lower St. Johns River flows north more than 250 miles from Indian River County, but the best fishing is found from Deland north to Jacksonville.

Species: Striped bass and sunshine bass.

Sunshine bass are picking up steam!  After a hiatus of several years, FWC resumed stocking the St. Johns River with sunshine bass in 2009. Nearly two million Sunshine bass have been stocked from Palatka to Sanford in the last six years and have provided a lot of action for anglers. Sunshines grow quickly and usually reach a maximum of around ten pounds in the St. Johns River.   Although Striped bass are also stocked here each year, a shortage of broodfish has meant low stocking rates for the last four years.  Fish in the 8 to 12-pound range can still be caught, but stripers over 18 pounds are rare.

Striped bass and sunshine bass move throughout the system during fall and winter. Important areas include the jetties and the bombing ranges in Lake George, the lower Oklawaha River, Buffalo Bluff, Memorial Bridge (Hwy. 17) in Palatka, Shands Bridge (I-95) in Green Cove Springs, and Buckman (I-295) and other bridges in Jacksonville. Larger fish congregate in creeks with coldwater discharge and in large springs, such as the Croaker Hole, during summer. They have also been showing up in catches in the river from the outflow of Lake Jesup, SR415 Bridge and Lake Monroe.  Popular baits include freshwater “grass” shrimp, live shad, shiners, jigs, and shad-imitating crankbaits.

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Blackwater /Yellow Rivers

Location: Northeast of Pensacola.

Species: Striped bass.

Striped bass fingerlings are stocked into the Blackwater and Yellow rivers annually. The major fishery is in the upper Blackwater Bay (in Santa Rosa County) near the mouths of the rivers during fall and winter. Similar to other Morone fisheries in the state, fishing success is sometimes best at night. Striped bass migrate upstream during spring. Fish in the 10 to 20-pound range are common and stripers in the 20 to 30-pound range are now occurring more frequently. The lower stretches of this river provide some of the best fishing. Live mullet, menhaden, and shrimp are favorite baits, along with shad-imitating lures.

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Choctawhatchee River

Location: The Choctawhatchee River is northwest of Panama City.

Species: Striped bass and sunshine bass.

Either striped bass or sunshine bass are stocked annually in the Choctawhatchee River.  The main fishery is in the lower portion of the river, between State Road 20 and Choctawhatchee Bay in Walton and Washington counties, and occurs during fall and winter. Live finger mullet, shad and menhaden are locally favorite baits. During cold weather, anglers cast shad-imitating lures to surface-feeding schools. When summer arrives, striped bass aggregate in and around tributaries contributing coldwater discharge.

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Escambia River

Location: North of Pensacola.

Species: Striped bass and sunshine bass.

The Escambia River and Bay in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are stocked annually with sunshine bass, and in alternating years with striped bass. Fish in the 10 to 12-pound range are caught here.

Striped bass and sunshine bass are found in the lower 10 miles of the river and upper bay during the fall and winter. Sunshine bass will make a small run up river during the spring. Stocked striped bass also make a spring run upriver.  Dawn and dusk are prime times for striper fishing, and anglers should try to catch a falling tide for best results.  In the lower, tidal section of the river, points of land extending into the river are very productive. Live mullet and menhaden are popular baits, along with shad- or mullet-imitating lures. Live shrimp or twister-tail type jigs are also popular.

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St. Mary's / Nassau Rivers

Location: North of Jacksonville.

Species: Striped bass.

Striped bass are the principle sport fish in the St. Mary's and Nassau Rivers, which are interconnected via the Amelia and South Amelia Rivers (Intra-Coastal Waterway). The St. Mary's / Nassau system also connects to the St. Johns River through Sister Creek (Intra-Coastal Waterway). Fish are stocked into both rivers, although migration from the St. Johns River or natural reproduction is the main source of fish caught here.

Striped bass tend to overwinter in the lower portions of the system, and move upstream above U. S. Hwy. 17 during spring. On the St. Mary's River, look for stripers between I-95 and the town of St. Mary's near the mouths of larger tributaries, along the deeper banks, and the I-95 bridge pilings. On the Nassau River, stripers are most commonly found from the confluence with Thomas Creek to below U.S. Hwy. 17 in the vicinity of Pearson Island. In both rivers, striped bass congregate in or near tributaries with coldwater discharge during summer.

Check with the local fish camp where U.S. Hwy 17 crosses the Nassau River for updates on striper fishing in the river. Trolling along or casting to steep banks with Bucktail jigs or shad-imitating lures is productive, and fishing with live shrimp is also popular.

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Eagle Lake

Location: Northwest of Lake City.

Species: Sunshine bass.

Eagle Lake Fish Management Area is a 200-acre reclaimed phosphate pit located in Hamilton County. It is heavily stocked with 50 to 100 sunshine bass per acre. Spring sampling indicates that most sunshine bass average about 15 inches in length after one year. Sunshine bass grow rapidly because of abundant shad, and reach six to seven pounds in two years. The best angling occurs during fall and winter. Important habitats in Eagle Lake include deep or narrow cuts between the fingers, where sand bars drop off quickly into deep water. Rapidly retrieved crankbaits fished deep, as well as suspended shad-imitators, are productive lures.

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Lake Apopka

Location: West of Orlando.

Species: Sunshine bass.

Lake Apopka (30,600 acres) was restocked with 400,000 sunshine bass (13 per acre) in spring 2008 and again in 2009, after many years of no stocking. The 2008 year class fish are now approaching three pounds and growing fast. In spring of 2013, a requested 400,000 sunshine bass will be stocked to enhance the fishery. An abundant shad forage base in Lake Apopka promotes fast growth and also provides plenty of live bait. The best fishery is in the Gourd Neck Springs area, during warmer weather when the fish are attracted to the cooler spring water. Anglers should use the Winter Garden Boat Ramp for easier access to this part of the lake. Other areas include the new fish attractors located on the west shoreline, just south of Smith Island, both marked with FWC yellow and white buoys.

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Edward Medard Reservoir

Location: East of Tampa.

Species: Sunshine bass.

Edward Medard Reservoir (770 acres) is a former phosphate pit lake located south of Plant City. Since the 90’s the reservoir has gained a reputation as one of the top sunshine bass fisheries in the state. This popular reservoir was dewatered in 2010 to repair an aging dam and refilled in 2011. Over the course of the past two years, the reservoir was stocked with 135,000 sunshine bass produced at the FWC’s Bass Conservation Center at Richloam Hatchery. Sunshine bass will continue to be stocked annually to provide anglers with a unique fishing opportunity.

Sunshine bass stocked in 2013 started to show up in anglers catches this past year. There was an estimated 3,000 sunshine bass caught. Growth rates are extremely fast for sunshine bass in Medard do to the abundance of their preferred food supply, shad.  Most of the fish caught by anglers this past year were around a pound but with another year of growth these fish should be anywhere from 2-3 pounds this upcoming year. Schooling sunshine bass are typically found in open water; however, anglers have had success catching them off the footbridge on the east side of the reservoir. The most productive time to fish for sunshines is fall through early spring when water temperatures are cooler. Best baits are live shiners or shad but will sometimes take cut bait and worms fished on float with a 1-2 foot leader. If fishing with artificial baits try fishing with shad-imitation crankbaits retrieved quickly.

Days and hours of operation, park entrance and other user fees shall be designated by Hillsborough County and posted at the park main entrance. http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/Edward-Medard-Regional-Park-7933

 

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Osborne / Ida Chain-of-Lakes

Location: West Palm Beach and Boynton Beach.

Species: Sunshine bass.

Lake Osborne (356 acres) and Lake Ida (159 acres) are the largest bodies of water in the "Osborne Chain-of-Lakes," a series of inter-connected lakes located in eastern Palm Beach County. Sunshine bass were first introduced into Lake Osborne in 1974, and are currently stocked at a rate of 28 fish per acre annually in both lakes. Three smaller lakes in this chain, Clarke (35 acres), Pine (15 acres), and Catherine (10 acres), are stocked at a rate of 40 fish per acre each year.

The majority of sunshines caught average about one pound in weight, but fish over three pounds are available. An abundant shad forage base promotes rapid growth and also provides a good source of live bait. The best fishing takes place during winter and spring. Most sunshine bass are caught with live minnows and shad fished near the 6th Avenue Bridge and in the deeper holes found throughout the lake. Many are caught by bank anglers, particularly near canal salinity structures when waters are flowing rapidly. Stocking of this hybrid in highly urbanized south Florida has provided a popular and unique fishery for what is likely the extreme southern limit of its range.

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FWC Facts:
Today, smalltooth sawfish are found only in the western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to the Bahamas, including southwest Florida Gulf Coast.

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