Lake Okeechobee Fishing Report & Forecast: Dec. 2014

Pat Vance from Illinois with a big Okeechobee hog! Photo credit: Capt. Mike Shellen.
Pat Vance from Illinois with a big Okeechobee hog! Photo credit: Capt. Mike Shellen.

The water level in Lake Okeechobee is 6 to 7 inches higher this year than at this time last year, around 15.6 feet. The lack of storms/hurricanes this summer enabled the native vegetation to thrive in spite of the relatively high water. The water depth on the outside grass lines varies from 6 to 8 feet deep in most areas, and the quantity of native grasses such as pepper grass, eel grass, spike rush and Kissimmee grass are flourishing. With generally good water quality in the littoral zones of the lake the bass population may be at an all time high.

Big bass are in the mix and artificial bait anglers are finding bass willing to rise to the top and strike on top water offerings. Popping frogs and other baitfish imitating lures were the choice of those that had the best success. Jigs and other flipping and pitching baits are providing big bites too, try a swim jig or a flipping jig tipped with a blue/black craw imitating trailer. A flipping/pitching approach is very methodical and is basically a system for dissecting the vegetative cover one piece at a time. Although known for producing big bass, you will catch fish of all sizes using this approach. When employing this style your bait drops nearly straight down into an area and is allowed to sit or (soak) as seasoned anglers call it for longer periods of time. There are times when the fish will inhale the bait as it crashes into their environment, but more often than not, the fish will inspect the bait well before eating it. Heavy braided line and a very strong rod are necessary to wrestle the fish from the thick gnarly cover once you have hooked them.

The water temperatures in the lake have dropped considerably in the past month with temps in the high 60s to low 70s being the norm. At these water temps, the fish are quite active and can be found biting somewhere in the lake throughout the entire day. Specks are starting to show up in greater numbers each week, but also are in direct proportion to the number of anglers pursuing them. Nighttime anglers will fare the best with small jigs and minnows fished in the Kissimmee River. Fish are being caught well out of the mouth of the river as they move from the lake toward the river and or shoreline grasses to prepare to spawn.

Everyone is looking for the ideal time to catch fish, particularly big bass, October through May would be that time. As far as the best bait to use for those big bass, nothing outperforms a live wild shiner. In addition to catching fish the sheer beauty of Lake Okeechobee is a sight everyone should experience. There is nothing like a sunrise on Lake Okeechobee, the majestic beauty of the huge lake awakening is awe inspiring.