With summer in full swing, anglers are taking advantage of some very good fishing on Lake Okeechobee. Bass fishing is in its typical summer pattern, which is working the outside edges early and then moving inside and working the reeds as the sun rises. However this year we’re a little spread out because of the lake level, which is around 14 ½ above sea level, some two feet higher than last year at this time. The predominate color has been just about anything with chartreuse on it. A chartreuse spinner bait early, or a swim jig with a chartreuse tail, a chartreuse top-water plug, just about anything with chartreuse on it has been deadly. Early morning, I mean watching the sun come up at your fishing hole, has been very good on Grassy Island, the east side of Kings Bar and the J & S area on the east side of the lake. Catches in the 25 to 35 range are common with most of your bass being in the two to three pound range, with a few in the five pound range. Tin House Cove, Indian Prairie, and Bird Island are also producing fish.
After the early bite is over, which lasts about an hour or two, pick up your flipping or pitching rod and start pounding the reeds. This is where a jig or soft plastic critter bait of some kind will pay off with a bigger strike. Pay attention to your surroundings this time of year. Bass are feeding on schooling shad and when a school swims by they will show where the bass are by either running from them or if they’re not fast enough you’ll see them get blasted by a trailing bass.
Shiner action is also strong with catches of 30 to 40 fish by 10:am being common place and bigger fish up to the 8-lb range are biting regularly. Tin House Cove, Eagle Bay, and Buckhead Ridge are producing great live bait action. When shiner fishing this time of year be sure to take plenty of bait, five or six dozen will not last long if you land on the right grass patch, and there is nothing worse than to run out of bait when the fish are biting. If you decide to take a lot of bait there are few things you need to do to make sure your bait stays fresh during your fishing day. First thing is to buy good bait. The second thing is be sure to cool the water in your livewell. Adding a bag of ice to your livewell will keep your bait calm and keep them from jumping out when you open the well. The third is very important, use an air bubbler to keep your bait alive, pumping air on them keeps them more active and it doesn’t beat up your bait.
What I mean by beating up your bait is that the current created by a recirculating pump is often too strong and knocks the scales off of your shiners and that will weaken them. Plus moving your livewell water through a pump will cause it to warmup faster. Last but not least, DO NOT PUMP LAKE WATER ON YOUR BAIT, this can kill every bait in your live well. It’s not that the bait can’t live in the lake water, the problem is when you move from spot to spot, you don’t know what kind of water you’re in and the water could be bad. By that I mean during the summer, pockets of stagnant water can form in the marshes and these are often depleted of oxygen. When the wind blows these stagnant pools can be pushed into the open areas, and if you happen to draw livewell water from one of these areas, you could be doing more harm to your bait then you realize. Not to mention that these pockets can also be super-heated by the summer sun and pumping this water into your livewell could put your cooled bait into shock. So pay attention to you bait and your fishing day will be much better.
Bluegills and Shellcrackers are still going strong on the North Shore and along the shoals, with a few specks being caught on jigs by Horse Island. Crickets and worms are best for bluegills and jigs and minnows work best for the specks.
Be sure to stop by Garrard’s Bait and Tackle for all your fishing needs, live bait and artificial they have it. Even if you are not going fishing, stop by and say hi and listen to the lies.
Capt. Eddie Perry