By J.B. Hillard
The Fitzhugh Carter Tract was established many moons ago and only 45 miles from my door to the gate…yet, I had never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago when a snowbird bass fishing friend gave me a tip. The Carter Tract is part of the Econfina Creek Wildlife Management Area and is managed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
What an amazing 2,175 acre pristine tract of land that is tightly controlled, yet the public is allowed access on a limited basis. Also amazingly, it’s all free, including use of boats for fishing and hunting.
You don’t just go and use the Tract willy nilly….there are strict rules to follow and there are no exceptions. For instance no boats or trailers are allowed. A canoe or kayak is o.k. but must be inspected before they are allowed to proceed. No electric motors, you paddle using provided oars or scull. Boats are provided on several lakes and are nice big Jon boats. Seats do not have a backrest, so if you want one, better bring you own that will clamp to the seat. They come with anchor, life preserver, and a creel kit that includes a first aid kit.
Bass are catch and release only, bream min. size 8 inches limit 20, crappie min. size 10 inches limit 10. Aggregate limit 20. Catfish no limit or size. Limited catch but still a lot of fish if there are two in a boat. You record every fish you catch by length and whether or not you kept the fish.
Travel is restricted to roads marked on the map. There are many roads and trails for foot traffic only. Each day, there no more than 20 folks on all the lakes at any one time.
I was lucky to catch a fisherman just coming in at Dry Pond. We talked for a long time and he gave me a wealth of information on how to fish the lakes. He’s a regular and you can tell by just watching how he maneuvered and all he had for tackle and gear. For instance he had a huge battery he put in the front of the Jon boat to hold the bow down for easier paddling and bucking the wind. I would never have thought of that. Of course the ideal boat for these lakes is a canoe or yak.
The second trip to the Carter Tract paid off for my friend Charles and myself. We caught 36 crappie and 1 bull bream. We got the 20 crappie limit but the last 3 took a while. We fished from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., longer than we usually fish.
I got the bull bream on a cricket but we could not get the bream bite going. Minnows didn’t work on crappie very well either. Jigs were the name of the game. Charles was using his 10 ft. Whitey Outlaw bream buster he won last October at the Crappiefest we attended at Lake Talquin, and some cheap Wal-mart tube jigs. He had the MOJO today catching 25 to 30 of the day total.
About Fitzhugh Carter Tract
An independent parcel of Econfina Creek WMA lies just west of Highway 77, 5 miles north of Highway 20 in the Greenhead community. The tract contains a wide variety of habitat types, including xeric sandhill uplands, portions of upper Pine Log Creek, various wetland habitats, and clear, sand-bottomed lakes.
Hours are Friday – Monday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. (8 p.m. in the summer months). Reservations are required. Call 850-773-2631.
Click here to learn more.
J. B. Hillard is a member of the Bent Rod Fishing Club. The group meets the 2nd Thursday each month, at 1p.m., at the Life Enrichment Senior Center, 312 College Ave. DeFuniak Springs.
The club is a component of the Enrichment Center, which provides a wide range of activities for active members age 50 and over. Visitors and invited guests are always welcome.
Club members primarily fish the Choctawhatchee River and Bay as well as numerous other creeks and small ponds in the area. Members practice conservation and the protection of our water and fishery resources. Programs consist of field trips, guest speakers, fishing industry presentations, tackle and terminal gear demonstrations, and good conversation and exchange of fishing information between members.
For more information, contact J. B. Hillard at firstname.lastname@example.org