FWC PICKS TOP 10 BLACK CRAPPIE
January 15, 2004
Black crappie (a.k.a. speckled perch, speck or papermouth)
is a favorite fish throughout Florida. It is a tasty panfish,
and has a generous daily bag limit of 25 fish to provide a healthy
mess of fish for the dinner table.
During warmer months, anglers can locate schools
of crappie on or around deep underwater structures that show up
on electronic fish finders. Other anglers have success by slow
trolling or drifting over open water with live bait or small jigs,
either singly or in tandem.
Locating a proper depth at which crappie are feeding
is a key to success. Sometimes theyll be just a foot or
two from the surface, while at other times, they may be a foot
or two from the bottom.
There is no telling when or where these prized game
fish might show up, as theyre apt to be just about anywhere
in Floridas lakes and rivers. For an overview, noted Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) fisheries biologists
have come up with what, collectively, they feel is a Top
10 list, in no particular order.
For more information on Floridas freshwater
fisheries, visit the Freshwater
Fishing section of the FWC Web site.
While conducting the annual Top 10 crappie survey,
FWC biologists said many other Florida lakes and rivers received
enough votes to make honorable mention. These lakes includes:
Lake Harris, Lake Griffin and Lake Beauclair in the Oklawaha Chain,
Lake George, Lake Marion (Polk County), Crescent Lake, Lake Hampton
and the Holly Chain (Lake County).
LAKE MARIAN: For those in the know,
this 5,739-acre lake east of Lake Kissimmee appears on most lists
of Top 10 speck sites. While not known for producing large crappie,
Marian is widely regarded as one of the better numbers
lakes. Catch rates of crappie nine inches and longer in FWC samples
were the highest on record during the past two fall seasons.
LAKE TRAFFORD: About 30 miles southwest of
Fort Myers, in Immokalee, this 1,500-acre lake also is regarded
as a good numbers lake for black crappie. Reports
indicate that the 2003-04 season will be just as good as the previous
two seasons, when Trafford posted some of the best catch rates
in the state. Try drifting minnows early or late in the day, and
if you cant locate schooling crappie in the middle, try
jigs and minnows along the vegetated shoreline.
LAKE MONROE: Due to an ongoing FWC habitat-restoration
project begun in the late 1980s, this 9,400-acre water body near
Sanford is regaining its reputation as a quality crappie lake.
With a 12-inch minimum size limit still in effect, anglers here
will have an opportunity to collect some real slabs
by using small jigs, Bream Killers, Hal-Flies or Beetlespins,
along with earthworms, crickets, Missouri minnows and grass shrimp.
LAKE TALQUIN: West of Tallahassee, this 8,800-acre
reservoir, which produced the current Florida record for crappie
(a fish weighing 3 pounds, 13 ¼ ounces), is always high
on any speck anglers list. Due to submerged stumps and standing
timber, boaters are urged to use caution when venturing out in
search of another record crappie. Immediately release all crappie
less than 10 inches long caught in Talquin. Numerous fish camps
off S.R. 267, south of Quincy, have launching sites, and many
are reporting good catches of quality-size fish.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Reports are that crappie
should be large and plentiful again this season in Lake Okeechobee.
Last fall, biologists found good numbers of slab-size crappie
in the lake. Most of the fishing effort has been in the Kissimmee
River/Fisheating Bay/Taylor Creek areas on the north end of the
lake. Jigging along grass lines and dropping minnows in holes
in the vegetation is productive. If offshore drift-fishing is
more your style, check out the areas near Little Grassy, Eagle
Bay Island and Kings Bar.
TENOROC FISH MANAGEMENT AREA: Think quality
when venturing here for crappie, especially in the facilitys
unreclaimed lakes. With its more than 13 intensely managed lakes,
Tenoroc, near Lakeland, has earned a reputation as being one of
the worlds leading all-around fishing sites for bass, bream
and specks. Tenoroc is open to the public four days a week, so
its advisable to call ahead for a reservation before planning
a mini-safari to this popular place. Productive methods include
using Missouri minnows, Beetlespins, 1/8-ounce Cotee Jigs or Hal-Flies
for best results. Tenoroc has a 10-fish bag limit and a 10-inch
minimum length for crappie.
LAKE LOCHLOOSA: Just southeast of Gainesville
on U.S. 301, this 5,500-acre lake is the newest addition to the
Top 10 List. Intensive FWC management efforts, combined with higher
water levels have brought new life into Lochloosas crappie
fishery. Fish the lily pads at the southeast and northwest parts
of the lake, as well as the narrow connection to Little Lake Lochloosa.
The lake offers anglers ample areas of maidencane and panicum
grasses to fish when crappie get ready to spawn.
LAKE ISTOKPOGA: In Highlands County, between
U.S. 27 and U.S. 98 south of Sebring, Istokpoga is the fifth-largest
natural lake in Florida at 28,000 acres. Winter is the best time
for black crappie fishing. Anglers troll open water using small
jigs (Hal-Flies, doll flies, spinner jigs, Napier
jigs, etc.) to locate schools of crappie from November through
April. As water temperatures stabilize around 65 degrees, crappie
will move into bulrush and spatterdock along the shoreline to
spawn. The trick to catching these fish is to move slowly through
the vegetation in three to six feet of water and fish a crappie
jig (with or without a minnow) around the vegetation.
LAKE KISSIMMEE: While Lake Kissimmee (35,000
acres) has always been regarded as one of the states top
bass destinations, it is also gaining a reputation as one of our
better speck lakes. The last two years crappie seasons have
rated excellent, with some anglers throwing back 10-inch crappie,
and this year should be as good. Fish with minnows and jigs along
the grass line and offshore. The deeper holes off of the grass
lines were especially productive last season.
LAKE JESSUP: This 10,000-acre lake, in Seminole
County between lakes Monroe and Harney, historically produces
the highest crappie catch rates in the area. While the fish are
plentiful, they do run a little smaller than crappie from Lake
Monroe. Use minnows and drift in mid-lake and near Bird Island.
Other popular fishing spots include the Soldier Creek area and
the north end of the lake that connects to the St. Johns River.
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