North Central Florida Fishing

Every angler has his favorite fish, and every fish has its prime season. Few, if any, saltwater fans count February as their number one month but the army of freshwater fishers who claim bass and speckled perch as their chosen targets, are really fired up right now.  February is their month.

Although their spawn will last well into April, largemouth bass here in North Florida will get started in earnest throughout this month. Some notoriously early-spawning lakes and spring runs, saw a wave of baby bass-makers in January.  Lake George, for instance, has already produced in 2017 scores of trophy bass, ahead of the arrival of the majority of shallow bass casters.  As usual, George’s west side has yielded the biggest numbers of fish.

In February, the bass will head into the shallows farther north along the St. John’s River system, first in Little Lake George, Rodman Reservoir, and Crescent Lake; and then to the Palatka and Green Cove Springs stretches of the big river, proper.  Likewise, becoming top bets for big bass are Santa Fe Lake, Lochloosa, the Suwannee River, and a host of smaller lakes in the Starke and Keystone Heights areas.

The speckled perch spawn is more condensed than is the four-month-long bass spawn.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen it occur earlier than January’s Full Moon–and it sometimes peaks at March’s moon.  If you’re going with the odds, count on the heaviest crappie spawn here in North Central Florida around the full moon in February.  Our best speck lakes include Newnan’s, Lochloosa, Orange, and Rodman.

Crescent, George, and Dexter along the St. John’s are also usually stellar crappie producers. At present, Newnan’s is a good bit lower than fishers would prefer, making access to the specks tough when they’re in the shoreline spawning cover.  Folks in canoes, kayaks, and small johnboats will have the upper hand here.  Note too, that passage through Cross Creek between Lochloosa and Orange Lake has become ‘iffy’ at best, also thanks to the low water.  Still, Orange is in nice shape and accessible via Marjorie Rawlings and Heagy-Burry Parks.  And this season, Orange has been this area’s best producer of speckled perch.  Reliable reports of 25-fish crappie limits totaling 50 pounds have not been terribly uncommon.  A stringer full of slabs like that is one impressive thing to see.

Gary Simpson
Gary’s Tackle Box