Trophy-sized largemouth bass, limits of crappie, and the shad run will keep anglers busy this February in Central Florida. Fishing is best when you can but working around the cold fronts will produce best catches. Don’t forget to sign up for the Shad and Crappie Derby, it only takes one fish to win and the Derby ends at sundown February 28.
Fish of the Month – American and Hickory shad are here. Look for them from Mullet Lake Park all the way upstream into the Econlockhatchee River, Puzzle Lake and beyond. If the minnow hatch continues like it did in January, make sure to choose small baits, 1.0 to 1.25 inches long. Try a one inch white or chartreuse curly tail bait on a 1/16-ounce jig- head (minnow tipped). Longline
troll a little faster than you would for specks, about 1.8 – 2.5 mph with plenty of line out so that the lure is near the bottom. Anglers’ bycatch might just be a large sunshine bass.
Crappie – Full and new moons will see spawning activity – specks bed in colonies. Males prep beds in shallow while larger females will stage in 6-10 feet of water where drop offs are close to the shore of the lake. February will see the river bends swell with staging females. Minnow tipped 1/8-ounce jigs tied 12 inches below a 3/4-ounce egg sinker fished a foot above the bottom is sure to catch a stringer full. Longline trolling improves when tipping with a live minnow. Focus on drop-offs.
February is the start of bluegill and shellcracker bedding sea- son. Large roe mullet should also start showing up in Lake Monroe soon. Shad and Crappie Derby ends February 28.