Florida Fish Busters’ Bulletin
By Bob Wattendorf, FWC
It is that time of year again when freshwater anglers are taking advantage of the last of the winter crappie fishery and really looking forward to the spring spawn of bass and bream. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists have completed their analyses of the 2009 fishing data from creel studies (angler reported catches), electrofishing studies, Big Catch records and various measures of young-of-the-year sportfish production. In addition, they have considered habitat trends and reports from local fishing guides and bait-and-tackle shop operators in order to come up with a list of top fishing sites for 2010.
These lists include bass, bream, crappie, catfish and striper fisheries and are summarized below. In addition, regional biologists check with local fishing guides and bait-and-tackle shops quarterly (January, April, July, and October) to get insights into how major fisheries are producing and what anglers are using to find success on a variety of lakes and rivers throughout the year. All of that information, along with fishing tips, is available to improve your fishing success at MyFWC.com/Fishing/ , and then click on “fishing sites and forecasts.”
January’s cold snap set several records and caused significant fish kills in fresh water areas. Fortunately for the resource and most users, those kills were primarily limited to nonnatve fishes such as tilapia and sucker mouth catfish. Thus with the possible exception of peacock bass in Southeast Florida, the cold snap should not have adversely impacted the overall freshwater fishing prognosis for 2010.
Panhandle area featured species
Site – Size and Counties – Featured species
Apalachicola River/Lake Seminole -106 miles/37,500 acres, Gulf, Liberty, Franklin, Jackson, Gadsden, Calhoun Striped bass, channel, flathead and blue catfish
Blackwater/Yellow Rivers – 58/ miles, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa
Striped bass, flathead catfish
Choctawhatchee River – 96 miles, Bay, Holmes, Walton, Washington
Striped bass, sunshine, bream, channel and flathead catfish
Deer Point Lake – 5,000 acres, Bay Bass
Escambia River – 231 miles, Escambia Striped bass, sunshine, channel, flathead and blue catfish
Ochlockonee River – 300 miles, Leon, Liberty, Franklin, Gadsden, Wakulla
Striped bass, white bass, channel, flathead and white catfish, bullheads
Suwannee River – 213 miles, Suwannee
The reality is that here in Florida, the Fishing Capital of the World, with more than 7,700 named lakes in Florida and 12,000 miles of fishable rivers, streams and canals, you’re never far from an opportunity to relax and wet a line. Your recreational time spent on the water communing with nature and relaxing is time well used. Studies have shown that both children and adults that take time out to enjoy active nature-based recreation lead healthier, happier and smarter lives (www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.org).
The above list simply points the way to some of the prime fishing areas that have facilities to support additional fishing pressure and provide some ideas for anglers looking for new fisheries to explore. However, if you have a chance to get outdoors and enjoy a few hours of fishing with your family and friends take advantage of whatever opportunity you find. Explore as many different types of water bodies as you can – from large lakes to small ponds, from flowing rivers to quietly ebbing streams, from deep reservoirs to shallow marshes – they all produce fish, and more importantly, smiles on the faces of the young and old anglers that take time to enjoy them.
Remember if you catch a big fish, it may be eligible for recognition in the “Big Catch” Angler Recognition Program. The FWC recognizes 33 different species of freshwater sportfish in the program, and has extra incentives for catching a variety of species. If you submit a photo with the application, you may also see yourself published in the Fish Busters’ Bulletin one day. Check out a copy of the Florida Fishing Regulations (2009-2010) – Freshwater Edition for a copy of a “Big Catch” application or go on line to MyFWC.com/fishing to learn all the details.
Also be on the look out for the 2010, 5-Year Freshwater Fishing License bonus program. The first 3,000 anglers to purchase a 5-year or lifetime license after March 1st automatically will receive a free bonus package in the mail. Not only do we have you covered “hook, line and sinker,” but we also have sample lures, other bonus gifts, coupons (including a free spincast reel worth over $100 with purchase of a bait casting reel) and literature. The value of the freebies and coupons is enough to more than offset your 5-year license cost. Plus, you don’t have to worry about renewing your license or any price increases for the next five years.
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or 888-404-3922. Visit http://www.myfwc.com/Fishing/ for more Fish Busters’ columns, fishing tips, rules and forecasts.