Welcome to the Okeechobee edition of Coastal Angler Magazine. With winter in full swing in the northern reaches of our country, it sure feels good to be here in south central Florida.
For us Floridians, February is chockful of outdoor activities. From county fairs and art and craft festivals, to elite professional bass tournaments there is something for just about everyone. The key to enjoying Florida during this time of year is to just set aside some time in our busy lives to get outside and enjoy the best of what Florida has to offer.
For those fishing the local waters, February should provide consistent fishing both for specks and bass. December and January were warm months and it took some time for the water temperatures to drop but by February temperatures should be cooler and the fish should be behaving in a more seasonal pattern. Successful fishermen will be paying particular attention to the lunar cycles as well as passing cold fronts. Though cold fronts can energize the crappy bite but can give our local bass population a case of lock jaw. When this happens patience, persistence, and accurate casting is required for the metabolism of our local bass slows down in cold water and you’ll need to present your baits right in front of the bass’s nose to get then to strike. Also sight fishing in the shallows for spawning bass will be weather dependent but provide good opportunities for trophy bass when they are in.
For inshore fishermen, February 1st marks the opening of Snook season in the Atlantic Zone and Lake Okeechobee falls within the Atlantic Zone. The Atlantic slot remains not less than 28-inches in total length, tail pinched, or more than 32-inches in total length with a daily bag limit of one fish per day. You’ll also need a saltwater license and a Snook stamp to harvest a Snook. For west coasters, and that includes the spillways west of Lake Okeechobee, you’ll have to wait for the March 1st opening.
Local hunters will find deer season closed throughout the state with the exception of Zone B, which is a section of Polk County and neighboring counties bordered by State Road 60 to the south and State Road 50 to the north, State Rd 441 to the east and I-75 to the west, and Zone D which is in the NW panhandle area. The good news is that Spring Turkey is just around the corner and will begin in early March and then there is always hog hunting.
February brings fair-goers ample opportunity for exciting rides and plenty of fair foods to sample. There are no less than eight county fairs in our area along with a handful of local festivals so now is the time to get your fill of cotton candy and taste the latest in deep fried creations.
February also marks the peak of birding season so hikers, campers, canoeists and kayakers keep your binoculars and cameras at the ready for a glimpse of the many birds wintering in our area.
Winter in south central Florida is the time of year to enjoy the great outdoors, so take advantage of this time and build some memories your family and yourself.