Originally published at https://myfwc.com/fishing/freshwater/sites-forecasts/ne/ on January 1, 2020.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) has released the latest fishing forecast for some of the more popular fishing destinations. Check out their thoughts and get on the water! Visit LakeBIGBass.com for more information on fishing in Lake County, Florida.
Harris Chain of Lakes
Depending on the weather, Bass should be in pre-spawn locations (e.g. points or drop-offs). During these winter cold fronts, make sure to slow down your retrieve. Try a soft plastic jerk bait (e.g. Fluke) or weightless worm near heavy vegetation. The bass will hold tight to this vegetation, and slight twitches can often trigger a bite. Bass in the Harris Chain will be spawning throughout the late winter and spring. As the water begins to warm up, try heading into one the many canals in the Harris Chain. These canals warm up faster and are protected by wind, and bass will likely be staging and spawning in these canals during the springtime. A popular tactic year-round on the Harris Chain is flipping and pitching Texas-rigged worm (e.g., trick, speed, senko) or creature bait in and around shoreline vegetation. Popular soft plastic colors on the Harris Chain include Redbug and Junebug.
The winter and early spring are prime time for crappie fishing on the Harris Chain. Anglers usually troll or drift the open water using live crappie minnows or small crappie jigs. Try trolling at different depths to find where the crappie are holding. Lakes Dora, Beauclair, Carlton, and Yale are all popular crappie lakes on the chain. For shoreline crappie anglers, try the underwater dock lights at Hickory Point Park at Lake Harris. These underwater lights should attract crappie for a nighttime bite.
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 102 | Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 19
Lower St. Johns River and Lakes
Bass anglers can expect to find bass hiding in and around docks and pilings. Anglers can also target edges of river banks, sharp bends and drop-offs near shallow bars. Traditional methods for taking bass will work. Swimming plastic worms/jerk baits and twitching shallow-running minnow imitations are the choice among many bass fishermen. Fish deep in colder waters for bass and panfish.
Cooling water temperatures should turn on striper movement and the striper bite. The Osteen Bridge, deep bends near Mullet Lake and the Wekiva River should all be good producers. Sunshine bass should become more common as that stocking program has resumed.
Crappie anglers should take fair numbers of fish by slow trolling artificials (small jigs and beetle spins) or by drifting with live minnows in the deeper, open water areas of the river and in lakes Monroe, Jesup, Harney, Woodruff, Dexter, and Beresford early in the season. Move closer to shore as the crappie begin to spawn.
American Shad should provide new opportunities for anglers as January approaches. Slow trolling or casting with shad darts and flies should be as productive, with shad being caught from Lemon Bluff to Mullet Lake near Osteen, in Shad Alley upstream of Lake Jesup, and near Puzzle Lakes.
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 393 | Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 73
Impacts from Hurricane Irma will be felt on Lake George for quite some time. The eelgrass, which was fairly thick on the eastern and western shores and sparse on the southeastern shore, is still gone, a situation very similar to what happened after the three hurricanes hit Lake George in 2004. There is some sparse eelgrass north of Lisk Point, which is on the south end of Salt Cove, and more eelgrass on the south end of Willow Cove. Largemouth bass anglers may find success using live shiners and artificial baits fished near pilings, docks and around scattered vegetation. The mouths of the various creeks on Lake George might also prove productive. Cold water temperatures might drive the fish deep, with fish coming in shallow at the end of the day as the shallows warm up. Live shad and grass shrimp fished near the jetties when the river is flowing should produce catches of largemouth bass and stripers. Cooling waters this quarter should bring success to black crappie (speckled perch) anglers fishing the sunken barge at the center bombing target and Willow Cove on the east shore. These cool waters should also bring more success to striper anglers, especially near the bombing targets and the jetties.
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 150 | Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 29
Ocala National Forest Lakes
As we move into February and March, largemouth bass fishing should begin to peak. Fish will begin spawning when water temperatures reach 65 degrees. Fishing in the shallows where fish spawn can produce good results. Lake Kerr is a sure bet to catch lots of small fish, with the possibility of some giant bass. For more consistent catches of moderate to large-size bass, Lake Bryant or Wildcat Lake would be a good bet. Targeting areas of moderate vegetation with soft plastics or weedless spinnerbaits can produce well. Lake Bryant was at one time a very productive crappie lake but, has not been very productive for crappie fishing as of late.
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 42 | Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 12 | Hall of Fame Club (13+ pounds): 2
TrophyCatch is FWC’s citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger.