BY: CAM Okeechobee Staff
For those regular readers of this column you’re probably expecting to see a report from Capt. Ed Perry. Well he’s a bit under the weather so we’re filling his shoes for this issue.
The main topic of conversation around the lake has been the high-water levels we have been experiencing all summer long and now into the fall. This past winter’s El Nino event set the stage for a high-water summer and the rains kept coming all summer long. Hopefully NOAA’s long term forecast of below average rainfall for the next few months will moderate lake levels and produce good fishing this winter. Being last season’s spawn was lighter than expected due to lake conditions and inconsistent weather patterns, everyone is anticipating Mother Nature to rebound with a strong spawn this season. The one bad thing about fishing in high water during the spawn is that it pushes the spawn deeper into the back trails, making them harder to reach.
Typically, November marks the beginning of the pre-spawn stage for bass in Lake Okeechobee. Though the marsh holds bass all year long, there are large numbers of fish that cruise the open waters of the lake following the schools of baitfish. As fall approaches, the light-dark cycle shortens up and cold weather fronts from the north work in concert to reduce lake temperatures, which in turn trigger bass to head to the shorelines to prepare for the winter spawn. Prior to entering the spawning grounds, these bass hold up along the outside edges to fatten themselves up and this is referred to as the pre-spawn stage. During this time the bass are feeding aggressively and the fishing is awesome.
Areas you can expect to be active in November are the passes that lead to the back trails that take breeding females to the spawning grounds. Areas like Tin House Cove, Indian Prairie, North Shore and Harney Pond will all be holding staging bass. In the south, areas like Ritta Island, South Bay, Kreamer Island and Pelican Bay will be seeing plenty of staging bass. Staging bass generally don’t move deep into the vegetation so look for clean edges around hydrilla patches, reed lines, points jutting out from reed islands, and any open area with multiple trails radiating out. In general, the bass will be holding around good structure with easy access to the spawning grounds and to the open water of the lake. Also, keep an eye out for any current, whether wind-blown or naturally flowing, current attracts fish.
Being we’re still pretty warm here in early November, the morning bite will still be the best. Top water frogs, spinner baits, Big EZs, Skinny Dippers and Horny Toads will be good for shallow water areas. After the morning bite is over switching to swim jigs, soft plastic swim baits, and shallow running crank baits dragged above submerged grasses will be productive. If the day gets hot and sunny then flipping and pitching along weed and reed lines will produce fish. Then again, you could just simply things and toss the bass a wild shiner, just bring a lot for the fish will be hungry.
In addition to pre-staging bass, November brings the return of schooling crappie. Though most will still be scattered in the open water, they’ll soon begin to school up along the grass lines. Set your calendars for the weekend of Friday Nov 11th for the Full Beaver Moon arrives on Monday the 14th. Jigs and live minnows will be the best baits for these slabs.
November and December are great months to fish Lake Okeechobee. The days are warm but not hot, the afternoon thunderstorms are all about gone, the bulk of the snowbirds have yet to arrive and the fishing will be fantastic. So, pack up the boat, or call a local guide and get a taste of the best bass fishing in the world. See you on the lake.