As we move toward fall, the water temperatures will start to cool due to lower daytime temperatures. Already we are seeing water that is two to three degrees cooler than a month ago. Th e cooler water will trigger Lake Okeechobee’s many bass to go on a feeding spree, gorging themselves on shad, shiners and whatever else they can track down. More tepid water temperatures are conducive to a bite that will last all day as opposed to an early morning frenzy, such as when it is scalding hot. Already in the last few weeks we have started to see the larger bass in the lake become more active and they are showing up in angler’s daily catches. October can be one of the best times of the year to catch a true lunker bass and is also a great time to catch truly staggering numbers of fish per outing. During the fall last year, our guided bass fishing trips caught large bass almost every day, with numerous five fish catches that weighed over 35 pounds. Lake Okeechobee is in the middle of a bass population boom and each year there are more bass reaching trophy size. Very few anglers take bass from the lake anymore leaving the brood stock to proliferate and build a fishery like no other.
As the water level in Lake Okeechobee continues to rise, the canals surrounding the lake on the outside of the dike, particularly the rim canal on the east side of the lake, is at a level where water is being allowed to flow from the canals into the lake. Running water creates current situations where gamefish, such as bass, blue gill and speckled perch, can actively feed on minnows and other small food items swept along by the movement of the water. Moving water does have its drawbacks in some instances, red water as local anglers refer to it, is water that is very poorly oxygenated and in some instances is carrying suspended silt with it. The fish will not necessarily leave the area with the bad water, but it can definitely affect the bite. For months we have been catching bass at a rapid pace on the north shore of Okeechobee, but after the heavy rains from Isaac the runoff from Fisheating Creek carried red water into our fishing hole and all but ended our bite, forcing us to move to cleaner water so we could keep catching bass.
The more productive areas for bass fishing have been in the mouth of the Kissimmee River and around King’s Bar. Carolina rigs with plastic worms are drawing numerous strikes from small school sized bass, although occasionally a five to seven pound bass will be landed. There has been a shad hatch on the Lake and schooling bass and other gamefish in large schools can be seen actively crashing the bait on top. Lipless crankbaits are a great search bait for schoolies, a chrome rattle trap with a blue or black back has long been a fish producer for us when bass are schooling on bait. Other areas where water flow can be found are Harney Pond, Indian Prairie Canal and Henry Creek. Many times after heavy rain the water will flow out of the marsh on the west side of the Lake through the open boat trails, setting up a feeding situation
Many of the bass are still a long way from the reed or grass line. Hydrilla, pepper and eel grass are growing well out into the lake and the fish are holding there in large numbers. A few large bass have been showing up in our catches and are a good indicator that the big females will be moving very shallow to feed voraciously very shortly.
Anglers are always asking me “when is the best time to fish on Lake Okeechobee”? I can only say that there is never a bad time to go fishing, especially on the best bass fishing lake in the U.S. The next bite you get may be the fish of your lifetime.