WEEKLY OKEECHOBEE FISHING REPORT: APRIL 29 – 30

This weekend presents another great opportunity to get out on the water and catch a trophy bass, but where to start? See what the local experts say in this week’s Okeechobee fishing report

Mike Pudii, 10.187-lbs, Lake Okeechobee
Mike Pudii, 10.187-lbs, Lake Okeechobee

FISHING REPORT OVERVIEW

This weekend continues the streak of great boating and fishing weather. With steady eastwardly winds the fishing tip for this weekend is to look for clean water. Many of the shallower lakes have been stirred up so finding clear water will improve your odds of finding quality fish. To beat the heat and to find clean water in the shallows get on the water early. This past weekend while out on my kayak I notice some pockets of algae or green plankton forming in areas with poor circulation. These are probably areas where you’ll want to avoid if fishing for bass or other clear water fish.

WEATHER OUTLOOK

This coming weekend is shaping up to be another great weekend to get out on the water. High pressure has settled in and will bring sunny skies and hot temperatures. For those near the Gulf coast and in the central Florida heartland, it also marks the return of the battle between the Gulf sea breeze and the Atlantic sea breeze. For those unfamiliar with this battle, as the Gulf sea surface temperature (presently 79°F) matches or exceeds the Atlantic sea surface temperate (presently 79°F), the heated air masses move inland during the day and where they meet thunderstorms form. This clash of air masses is the main reason why the Tampa Bay area and central Florida become the lighting capital of the United States during the summer months. So as the summer season heats up, keep an eye out for these storms even though the weatherman might say otherwise.

For Friday in the Highlands the morning should start off in the upper 60’s and quite possibly in the low 70’s. Expect to have a humid start to the day. With few clouds and light winds the mid-day temperature will quickly rise to above 90°F. Depending on the sea breeze, you may experience a brief shower in the late afternoon. Winds will be light and variable through-out the day. Around Lake Okeechobee temperatures will be slightly cooler and winds will be out of the E to SE and slightly higher at 10-plus mph. The north end of the lake could experience late afternoon thunderstorms so keep an eye out for building storms. Saturday will be a repeat of Friday with the exception of increasing winds in the Highlands with sustained winds at 10mph out of the E to SE. Around Lake Okeechobee winds will remain out of the E to SE and again slightly higher with sustained winds in the 10-15mph range. The chance of rain throughout the area will be minimal. Sunday will be a carbon copy of Saturday with the exception of winds increasing from the ESE – E at 10-15 mph throughout the whole area. The sun will rise on Friday at 6:45am and set at 7:54pm. For anglers getting that ‘first light’ start, you’ve probably notice its getting light pretty early these days as we approach the start of summer. The moon will be on the wane at 54% reflectance and will rise at 1:26am and set at 7:28pm. The AM:Major occurs at 5:48am while the PM:Major occurs 6:14pm so the morning and evening twilight bites should be pretty active. In closing this should be a great weekend on the water and don’t forget to hydrate and use sunscreen this weekend.

Dorthy Sunday Bilegil, 10-in
Dorthy Sunday Bilegil, 10-in

WATER LEVELS: 04/27/2016

Lake Okeechobee: 14.38 ASL ↓ 0.18-ft Temp 78°
Lake Istokpoga: 38.76 ASL↓ 0.23-ft. Temp, am: 66°, pm: 80°
Istokpoga Canal S68: Head 38.76 ASL, Tail 31.69 ASL, Flow 0 CFS
Arbuckle Creek @ DeSoto: 3.2-ft ↓ 0.30-ft
Fisheating Creek @ US 27: 0.90-ft ↓ 0.21-ft
Fisheating Creek @ Lakeport: 14.74 ASL ↓ 0.05-ft
Peace River @ Zolfo Springs: 5.05-ft ↓ 0.45-ft
Kissimmee River @ S-65E: Head 20.92-ft, Tail 14.38-ft, Flow 2024 CFS

Caloosahatchee River
Moore Haven Locks S-77: Head 14.02-ft, Tail 11.22-ft, Flow 3679 CFS, 7-day avg 2,711 CFS
Ortona Locks S-78: Head 11.15-ft, Tail 3.14-ft, Flow 2351 CFS, 7-day avg. 2,296 CFS
W.P Franklin Lock S-79: Head 3.24-ft, Tail 1.53-ft, Flow 2946 CFS, 7-day avg. 2,608 CFS

Lake Okeechobee Locks
St Lucie Lock S-80: Head 14.01-ft, Tail 1.40-ft, Flow 1170 CFS, 7-day avg. 1,047 CFS
Port Mayaca Lock S-308: Head 14.31-ft, Tail 14.22-ft, Flow 781 CFS. 7-day avg. 894 CFS

Lake Okeechobee South End

Slim’s Fish Camp, Belle Glade; 561-996-3844: Jim reports very active fishing for all species from bass to blue gills, to shellcrackers and even specks. Whether you’re fishing from a canal bank, one of the spillways, along the rip-rap lining the Rim Canal or along the passes to the lake, all areas a reporting good fishing. For the panfish they don’t seem to be too fussy for they are taking crickets, red wigglers, night crawlers and lots and lots of minnows. Jim and all the local bait shops are experiencing an abundance of large sized minnows. These work well for big channel cats and large specks. Smaller mouthed panfish like Bluegill probably do better with small to mid-sized minnows or crickets. Lake Okeechobee bass fishing remains stable with plenty of smaller fish being taken on shiners and artificials. In the morning spinners, top water frogs, and chatter baits are all producing. In the afternoons swim baits and blue backed rattle traps dragged over submerged grasses are producing fish in the 4-6 lb class with a few 8’s in the mix. With the winds continuing to come out of the east to southeast there is plenty of clear water to be found which is holding plenty of fish.

Roland Martin Marine Center, Clewiston; 863-983-2128: Fishing in Coot Bay and along the west wall remains scattered. Most anglers are heading south towards the clear water at the south end of the lake and they’re finding lots of smaller fish though a few fish in the 5-7 pound class are being taken. Top water baits in the morning are doing well and switching to flipping and pitching the deeper pads are producing in the afternoons. Crank baits and swimbaits over submerged grass beds will usually find plenty of 1-3 lb bass.

The Bait Shop at Harney Pond, Lakeport; 863-946-0170: The folks at the Bait Shop report the east winds and some culvert replacement construction has kept the water dirty in many areas in Fisheating Bay. As a result the Bluegill have moved to cleaner water and the large bass have followed. What’s left is a bunch of 1-3 lb bass with an occasion 5-lb fish. The mornings remain the best time for catching quality bass with white and chartreuse color spinners, top water frogs and chatter baits being the preferred artificial baits. As the day gets longer switching to jerk baits and swimbaits over submerged grasses in clear water can continue the bite. As for soft plastics, you need to keep changing colors and presentation to find out what’s working on that particular day. As for shellcrackers they have yet to show up in force and are very scattered. Catfish remain a solid fishery with large minnows, night crawlers, and sink baits all producing nice sized cats. The trick is to keep the bait 1-foot or so off the bottom so the bullheads don’t pick up you bait. Unless you like eating fish that taste like mud, bullheads are probably one fish you should try to avoid eating.

John Szymialis, Bowfin 8.375 lbs, Lake Jackson
John Szymialis, Bowfin 8.375 lbs, Lake Jackson

Lake Okeechobee North End

Garrard’s Bait & Tackle, Okeechobee; 863-763-3416: Lief reports the fishing has been steady with the bass bite slowly shifting into summer mode which is an early morning bite. In the ‘Pass’ behind Kings Bar, the bass bite has been strong in the mornings with topwater frogs, Bang O Lure jerk baits, chatter baits, and spinners all producing. As the day progresses the bass move out into the outside grasses where Senko’s are working well. Though the size of the bass are small there are quite a few in the 3-5 lb class being taken. As for Specks, they are becoming scattered but Bluegills are taking their place. Bluegills are not on the beds yet but they are staging along the outside edges and can be found in the Rim Canal and the Kissimmee River. Crickets are the primary bait for these panfish. Mixed in with the Bluegill are Shellcrackers though still light in numbers.

No Bad Daze Bait & Tackle, Okeechobee; 863-484-8126: Tyler reports bass fishing in the northeast part of the lake has been pretty good as of late. Though not a lot of large fish are being reported, there have been quite a few fish in the 3-5 lb class taken. Senko’s seem to be the most productive baits as of late though the morning topwater bite remains active. Start the mornings along the grass lines by tossing a crank or jerk bait along the lakeside edge of the grass and then switch to pitching and flipping the grass with Senkos as the day gets longer. Don’t overlook the trails and especially the points inside the trails for these are the highways the fish use to move in and out of the backwaters. Bluegills remain active and Shellcrackers have yet to show up in force. Crickets and red wiggles seem to be the best bait for the panfish.

J&S Fish Camp, Okeechobee: Terri at J&S Fish Camp reports the fishing has been good in the Rim Canal and outside the locks. In the lake, fishing the grass edges in the morning and working your way in during the day seems to be the preferred program. Topwater frogs, chatter baits and spinners in the morning are producing well. As for colors and styles, anything in a bluegill color is a hot color. Terri reminds anglers that J&S now carries live bait including worms, crickets, and shiners. For those who are boat-less, she also rents boats for a day’s outing.

Highlands County

Admiral’s Cove. Laker Placid; 863-465-0982: The shallower lakes are heating up temperature wise so fish shallow areas early and deep water structure during the afternoons. With the fish on the move, look for sub-surface channels or depressions and use crankbaits, swim baits or plastic worms to catch the relocating fish. There are a lot of dinks, 1-2 pound bass being caught right now. Panfish such as Bluegill and sunfish are plentiful.

Performance Marine, Lake Placid, 863-465-2814: The deeper lakes of Highlands County are still in transition from the winter chill. Late spawners are still out there so you still need to check the shallows for a trophy fish. As the lake temperatures slowly rise, the transition to deeper offshore fishing will take place. There are a lot of small bass and chain pickerel in the shallows and as the vegetation grows more will follow. However as summer approaches there will be too much temptation to seek out cooler waters in the deeper parts of the lakes. So for now, hit the shallows in the morning with spinners, top water chatter baits and swim baits. Then switch to drop-shot, Carolina rigs, and deep diving crank bait presentations on the deeper brush piles and ledges during the afternoons.

Lorida Bait & Tackle, Lorida; 863-655-2323: Lake Istokpoga water temperatures are yo-yo-ing everyday. In the morning the temperatures can be in the mid 60’s and climb into the low 80’s by late afternoon. This means the bass are in the shallows in the morning and move to deeper water and-or cover during the latter part of the day. This is pretty much the beginning of the summer pattern. This creates a scattered fish report. Anglers not moving with the fish may find the morning great and then shut out as the day heats up while guys pitching and punching deep water vegetation may have a tough morning but a nice afternoon. In the morning spinners, topwater frogs and chatter baits are producing and crank baits over submersed grasses and jigs in the pads produce during the afternoons. As the hydrilla starts to fill in, look for open spots and go deep. As for specks, they are scattered and less frequent while Bluegills and catfish remain active. The 621 Spillway has limited water flow so fishing is less active as of late. The water conditions on the lake have been somewhat off with steady winds stirring up the bottom and making boating uncomfortable. Also the State continues to spray areas of the lake for weed control and that doesn’t help the fishing either.

Nick Tidwell, 7.5 lbs, Workhorse Trail, Lake Jackson
Nick Tidwell, 7.5 lbs, Workhorse Trail, Lake Jackson

Caloosahatchee River

Miller Bait & Tackle, LaBelle; 863-342-8264: Very little has changed since last week. The Corps continue to push water from Lake Okeechobee westward so Snook action remains good near the spillways and current eddies off the turns in the river. Crank baits like Bomber Long A’s and Rattle Traps continue to produce nice sized Snook. Switching from the Bomber Magnum series to the standard Long A series will increase your chances of hooking into a nice sized bass. Using the Bomber like a jerk bait is very productive for both bass and snook. As the flow of the river slows down, more vegetation is appearing along the river’s banks so don’t pass up these bass magnetics. Panfish like Bluegill and Shellcrackers are becoming more active with crickets the preferred bait for the Bluegill and red wrigglers for the Shellcrackers.

FISHING REPORT SUMMARY

Fishing throughout the area remains in an upward trend. Warm weather and little rain is helping water conditions improve. Lake Okeechobee is still too high for many die-hard anglers but with water levels continuing to fall, the bass in the backwaters will be forced to return to the more accessible areas. As summer approaches be on the look-out for late afternoon thunderstorms created by the sea breezes. You do not want to be the next lightning statistic.

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