CENTRAL FLORIDA INLAND
Spring has sprung and the yearly cycle is off to a great start. Water levels are low, but the fish are still hungry. Speckled perch (specs) filled our coolers through the winter and huge spawning bass kept us searching shorelines for the catch of a lifetime. Now it’s time for the rest of the freshwater crew to join in.
Warmouth and catfish are both great species to begin targeting this month, if you’re looking to have a fish fry. Warmouth like to stay close to fallen branches or cypress tree roots in 1 to 3 feet of water, while catfish usually stay along the outer edges of lily pad patches in 3 to 6 feet of water. Live worms will get the bite, and a cane pole will help reach further into pad fields without getting snagged. Sharpes Ferry bridge is loaded with both of these fish and has plenty of room for anglers to spread out along the Ocklawaha River’s edge.
Largemouth bass have finished their spawning process and are feeding heavily to fatten up. A weightless stickworm (senko) in watermelon red color will catch any hungry bass, it falls in front of right now. Cast into the middle of smaller, isolated lily pad patches, and give your rod tip a couple bumps. If you don’t get a bite within the first few seconds, reel in and cast to the next patch. The more water you cover, the more bass you will catch. Heavy braided line will help land big fish out of thicker weeds. Lake George and Rodman Reservoir are famous for producing giant bass, but the lesser known Halfmoon Lake is reporting some giant catches as well this year.
Sunfish and bluegill,(bream) spawn right after bass, so the biggest ones of the year will be caught in the next couple months. Use red worms or bread balls around the same lily pad patches you would expect bass to be in. Bream love to eat bass eggs, so if you find old bass beds, then you know lots of fat bream are close by. Lake Eaton and Moss Bluff are the best spots for shoreside anglers to fill a cooler.
Hybrid striped bass are one of the most fun and best eating fish of the forest. Rodman Dam and the St. John’s River have always been the go-to spots, but Lake Bryant is starting to prove itself as a worthy competitor. Small shiners or minnows are the preferred bait, and beetle spins or crappie jigs are the preferred lures. Stripers usually school up 100 yards or so from the water’s edge of Bryant in 6 to10 feet of water. One pounders are common, but many people have reported catching 3 to 5 pounders recently.
As the weather warms up into summer, more fish species will come out to play. Having multiple rods rigged up with different techniques will help ensure an exciting day of forest fun, and keep your bellies full of delicious fried fish! Please remember to practice conservation, and keep our woods clean of trash, so that generations to come may enjoy the beauty of nature as well.