Water levels have dropped, and the water flow has slowed. Largemouth bass, black crappie and American shad are February target species. The spawn is on! Shallow beds during full and new moon phases will produce the biggest bass all year. Bass and shiners are synonymous in February. Slow trolling large wild shiners in pre-spawn areas (not more than 500ft. from the beds), can yield the monster bass you’re looking for. Catch, photo, and release these large female fish for the reproductive cycle to complete. Choose artificial baits that mimic predators of eggs, namely: lizards, shiners, and bream. Lipless Rattle Trap style crank baits, plastic lizards, and shallow surface lures work great. Look for sunshine bass feeding at first light near the mouth of the lakes, especially the west side of Lake Monroe near Interstate 4.
Speckled perch (crappie) are feasting every chance they get during the
spawn. Minnows are plentiful in the river system and grass shrimp round out their diet. Jigs slowly trolled (tipped with minnows) along channel edges is a sure bet. Watch your depth recorder in the river bends while trolling and you will learn to see them before they strike the lures. Crappie spawn in colonies and bunch up – locate them and troll many passes for a bucketful of good eating. Florida limit is 25 per person. Check local regulations if you fish in lakes.
Shad are in full swing; go get them while they last. Small tandem jigs trolled against the current at 1.5 to 2.0 mph should get a strike in shad alley – between Mullet Lake Park and Puzzle Lake. If the minnow hatch continues like it did in January, make sure to choose small baits, 1.0 to 1.25 inches long. Use your pocket knife or small scissors to trim the tail off small jigs.
15th Annual Shad and Crappie Derby – Derby ends February 29, 2024, at sunset. Hurry, there is still time to win! Visit www.coastalanglermag. com/orlando to learn how to register. While you’re there check out the Derby photo gallery and see the competition.