Top Spots for Crappie

 Crappie Top Spots

Florida Freshwater Top Fishing Spots MapThe following areas were selected by Florida's freshwater fisheries biologists as being the most likely to be highly productive for black crappie during 2018. You can review these and the other "Sport Fish Top Spots" on our Top Spots Map.

 

Lake Monroe

(Seminole and Volusia counties)

The nearly 10,000-acre Lake Monroe is part of the St. Johns River chain and is located just off of I-4 about half way between Orlando and Daytona Beach. This lake is known for quality size fish and black crappie angling is popular during the cooler months. Flooding in the area from Hurricane Irma has made launching difficult, but early reports by anglers indicate good catches are possible if you can locate the schools. Crappie over 12” and two pounds are not uncommon. Drifting and trolling near the river channel and offshore from the power plant on the northwest shore are popular on this lake, but schools may be located all over the lake. Crappie move inshore in late winter/early spring for spawning and appear to prefer bulrush if available in the right water depths.

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Lake Talquin

(Gadsden and Leon counties)

The 8,800-acre Lake Talquin reservoir is located just outside Tallahassee and is home to the 3-pound, 13 ¼-ounce state record. A 10-inch minimum size limit helps maintain the crappie fishery and 12-14 inch fish are common. This lake has a lot of submerged stumps and snags, so proceed with caution, particularly in the eastern half of the lake. Anglers typically long-line troll in summer, late fall, and winter using jigs or minnows in creek channels. In late February through April, anglers fish shallow pads as fish move up to spawn.

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Lochloosa Lake

(Alachua County)

Following declining water levels in 2016 and early 2017, heavy summer rain and Hurricane Irma brought water levels in Lochloosa Lake way up along with a good fish bite. There aren’t currently as many of the slabs that Lochloosa has produced in the past, but there are lots of fish from 9 to 12 inches and anglers are catching their limits. Most anglers fish open water during the summer and fall, but move closer to shore and fish vegetated areas in the spring. There are large pad fields on the southeast, north, and west sides of the lake that are known to hold Black Crappie during the spawn. Dropping a line near a small patch of Hydrilla may also produce good bites. Preferred baits include jigs and minnows or a combination of jigs tipped with minnows. Some anglers also use grass shrimp, which can increase the chance of catching some large Bluegill. The lake can be accessed using the county ramp near the post office, Lochloosa Harbor Fish Camp, and Twin Lakes Fish Camp. Anglers should be aware of tagged Black Crappie. If you catch a tagged fish, call the number on the tag to claim a reward.

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Newnans Lake

(Alachua County)

After Newnans Lake was almost inaccessible due to low water levels in spring 2017, heavy summer rains and Hurricane Irma brought the water up to near historic levels and turned the Black Crappie bite on. The lake is full of fish, with some nice slabs from 14 to 16”, and anglers are tightening their lines and filling their coolers. Biologists have also seen a large amount of small fish in their samples this year, suggesting that Newnans Lake will continue to provide fish in the near future. Most anglers fish in the open water during the fall and winter, but start to move up closer to shore in the spring. Preferred baits include minnows, jigs, and grass shrimp. Earl P. Powers Park off of SR 20 (closer to Gainesville) had some damage during Hurricane Irma and is temporarily closed until work can be completed, hopefully by March of 2018. Until then, the lake can still be accessed through Owen-Illinois Park off of CR 234. Anglers should be aware of tagged Black Crappie. If you catch a tagged fish, call the number on the tag to claim a reward.

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Lake Weohyakapka / Walk-in-Water

(Polk County)

Hydrilla has not returned to 7,800-acre Lake Weohyakapka (Walk-in-Water) since the hurricanes of 2004, leaving plenty of open water to troll and drift shiners or artificials for crappie. Good numbers and some quality fish are caught in deeper (10 ft) areas of the lake during the cooler months and in shoreline vegetation (bulrush, knotgrass, and maidencane) during the spring spawning season. Missouri minnows fished under corks or on small jig heads, as well as Hal-Flies and small spinners, are excellent for catching your share of crappie. Seven brush-type fish attractors were installed in December 2010 and refurbished in winter 2014, and should concentrate fish for anglers offshore. Fish attractors are about ¼ acre in size and marked with a white and orange buoy. Use caution if you plan to anchor when fishing around the buoys to avoid getting hung up. GPS coordinates for fish attractor locations can are provided in FWC's Fish Attractor List. There is one public boat ramp located on the western shoreline of the lake off of Lake Walk-in-Water Road. For more detailed information, please contact a FWC fisheries biologist at 863-648-3200.

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Lake Griffin

(Lake County)

Part of the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, this 10,000-acre lake is known primarily as a numbers lake, but it also produces some good sized crappie. A 10-inch minimum size limit for crappie has been in place for five years and we have seen an increasing trend in anglers targeting crappie as they have to opportunity to harvest larger-sized fish. There were a lot of young crappie born in 2014, so those fish should be reaching keeper-size this year. In addition, FWC biologists have installed several marked fish attractors in the central and southern portions of the lake; easily accessible from ramps at Herlong Park or Lake Griffin State Park on Highway 441. Given crappie’s preference for congregating around structure, these fish attractors should be excellent fishing spots.

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Lake Arbuckle

(Polk County)

This 3,800-acre lake produces quality crappie year after year. Previous FWC sampling has indicated that Lake Arbuckle is arguably one of the best crappie fisheries in the region. Crappie can be found in each of the three basins that make up the lake. During the cooler months, crappie are caught by drifting or trolling in the deep water in the middle of the basins, and in spring the fish move to the grass patches and the lily pads on the edges to spawn. Live Missouri minnows and small spinners are the baits of choice on the lake. Lake Arbuckle offers a park, camp ground, and boat ramp. Access is controlled by a gate, so anglers planning on an early morning or late evening fishing trip should contact Polk County Parks and Recreation (863-534-4340) for park hours and reservations.

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Lake Marian

(Osceola County)

Although it is smaller and doesn’t have the notoriety of lakes Kissimmee and Tohopekaliga, Lake Marian (5,742 acres) is arguably one of the most consistent black crappie fisheries on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Anglers routinely catch limits of crappie trolling or drifting minnows in open water off of Whiskey Point, Jordan Slough, and Four-Mile Point. In summer 2016, artificial fish attractors were installed in various open-water locations within the lake, which will benefit both fish species and anglers alike. When crappie are inshore during the winter spawning season, jig fishing can be outstanding in and around native grasses, bulrush and lily-pads. There is a public ramp at the lake (just west of US 441), and a fish camp (Lake Marian Paradise 407-436-2021) conveniently located nearby.

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West Lake Tohopekaliga / Toho

(Osceola County)

While well known for bass fishing, Lake Toho (18,810 acres) has also gained a reputation in central Florida as a prime location for black crappie. Good numbers of fish are caught by drifting minnows in open water between Makinson and Paradise Islands, the mouth of Shingle Creek and around channel marker 24. Anglers also have success jig fishing in and around hydrilla patches within these areas. Each year many large crappie are mixed in with anglers’ limits for those who put the time in to locate concentrations of fish.

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Lake Kissimmee

(Osceola and Polk counties)

Classified by many as a stellar bass fishing lake, Lake Kissimmee (34,976 acres) also ranks high on the list of popular black crappie destinations. Anglers consistently catch limits of fish drifting minnows in open water near the mouth of the C-37 canal, the north end of North Cove, between Brahma and Bird Islands and around channel markers 7 and 8. Anglers also have success jig fishing in and around patches of lily pads and native grasses in these areas.

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Mosaic Fish Management Area

(Polk County)

Lakes within the 1,000-acre Mosaic Fish Management Area (FMA) near the town of Ft. Meade in southern Polk County have some mighty fine crappie populations. The twelve FMA lakes range in size from 10 to 200 acres with depths to 30 feet and irregular bottom contours. Several lakes have shorelines with an abundant supply of woody brush, tree tops, and vegetation that are perfect targets for placing a well-hooked minnow under a float. Trolling deeper areas in open water to locate schools of crappie with this rig can also be productive, especially during winter. Casting a small Beetlespin or jig into deeper areas can also produce fish. Lakes SP12 North, SP12 South and Haul Road are an angler’s best bet for catching crappie. Haul Road and SP12 South lakes both had catch rates greater than 2 crappie/hour during the past year.

Crappie in Mosaic lakes are managed with a minimum size limit and reduced harvest regulation. Anglers may harvest 10 crappie per person per day and harvested fish must be at least 10 inches in total length.

The FMA is open to fishing four days a week (Friday - Monday) from 6 AM until 2 PM daily. There are no reservations, so it’s first come-first served, but don’t worry, you’ll always have a spot somewhere. For more information, please call (863) 648-3200

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Tenoroc Fish Management Area

(Polk County)

Fishing for crappie at Tenoroc can be a rewarding experience, especially during cooler months. The 8,300-acre Fish Management Area near Lakeland has 23 lakes ranging from seven to 227 acres, so anglers have plenty of areas to dunk a bobber with a minnow or jig. Schooling fish can often be caught using this rig near deep drop-offs and underwater humps. Casting a small Beetlespin type lure or jig tipped with a minnow can also produce some nice stringers of fish. Try Lakes 3, B, Fish Hook, Horseshoe, and Legs for some of the best action.

Crappie in Tenoroc lakes are managed with a minimum size limit and reduced harvest regulation. Anglers may harvest 10 crappie per person per day and harvested fish must be at least 10 inches in total length.

Tenoroc is located just two miles northeast of Lakeland off Highway 659 (Combee Road) which can be accessed from Highway 33 just south of Interstate 4. Call the Tenoroc Headquarters at (863) 499-2422 for more information or to make reservations. The area is open to public fishing four days a week, Friday through Monday. All anglers must check in and out at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area Headquarters (located at 3829 Tenoroc Mine Road), deposit their valid fishing license and pay $3 for a daily fishing permit unless exempt.

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Lake Istokpoga

(Highlands County)

Lake Istokpoga may be known best for its largemouth bass fishing, but others know that winter is prime time to catch crappie in this 28,000-acre fishing wonder. Black crappie are fast growing in this productive Florida lake, reaching 10 inches by age three. Angler surveys on the lake from fall 2016 through spring 2017 showed that anglers caught crappie at a rate of 1.5 fish per hour. Additionally, recent crappie population surveys have shown several good year classes of younger fish, which will likely sustain this quality fishery for several years to come. Anglers have the best success in deep water areas north and east of Big Island and west of Long Island. From November through April, Lake Istokpoga anglers troll open water with Hal-Flies, doll flies, spinner jigs and Napier jigs to locate schools of crappie and then rack up the numbers. When the spring water temperature stabilizes around 65 degrees, crappie move into bulrush and spatterdock along the shoreline to spawn. The trick to catching these spawning crappie is to move slowly through the vegetation in three to six feet of water and use a crappie jig to thoroughly fish the vegetation patches. Public boat ramps can be found on the north end of the lake off Hwy 98 (Lake Istokpoga Park), east side off Cowhouse Rd in Lorida (Cowhouse boat ramp) and on the Southwest side off of SR 621 near Windy Point Road (Windy Point ramp). For more information, please contact a FWC fisheries biologist at 863-648-3200.

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Lake Okeechobee

(Palm Beach, Martin, Glades, Okeechobee and Hendry counties)

In the early 1990s, the Lake Okeechobee crappie fishery suffered a drastic decline. Hurricanes in the early 2000s, particularly Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, devastated the plant communities that support the crappie and led to another decline in the fishery. Since then, vegetation and habitat in the lake has been recovering, and the black crappie have rebounded. Despite the declines of the past decades, local and out-of-state anglers continued to fish Lake Okeechobee and are witnesses to the recovery. Annual surveys by FWC biologists show that black crappie populations have increased in the last decade and have remained stable since 2011. Angler surveys have also shown a healthy fishery and catch rates have steadily increased from 2 fish per hour in 2010 to over 3 fish per hour in 2017. Black crappie fishing is usually best during the winter, and the best fishing occurs early and late in the day. Early in the year, when water temperatures begin to reach 65 degrees, crappie move out of the deeper, open water and into shallower water along the marsh edge. Most anglers fish the Kissimmee River when it’s flowing, but many head outside the mouth of the river and report good fishing too. Regardless of where you fish, angling should be concentrated near the edges of vegetation stands. Use the usual fishing techniques for crappie, moving slowly and often through the vegetation. Minnows should be suspended at different depths until you find a school, but using a jig is more productive since you can cover more area. Black crappie in Lake Okeechobee under 10 inches in total length must be released. The bag limit is 25.

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Lake Trafford

(Collier County)

Located about 30 miles southeast of Fort Myers in Immokalee, 1,500-acre Lake Trafford is a good “numbers” lake for black crappie. Crappie fishing was a bit slow in November as water temperatures remained stubbornly high, but anglers did report good catches of crappie throughout the summer by fishing deep. As temperatures cool we should see peak catch rates during January and February as crappie reach peak spawning condition. Anglers may catch the occasional largemouth bass while crappie fishing and should note that the regulation for bass is the new statewide regulation for largemouth bass with a 5 fish per day limit and only one bass 16 inches or larger. Biologist Ralph LaPrairie (561-625-5122) recommends drifting minnows early or late in the day and, if you can’t locate schooling crappie in the middle, try jigs and minnows along the vegetated shoreline. The crappie are always moving in Trafford.

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Sailfish live for about 5 years.

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