Top Spots for Crappie

 Crappie Top Spots

Compiled by: Cheree Steward

The following areas were selected by Florida's freshwater fisheries biologists as being the most likely to be highly productive for black crappie during 2017. All the sportfish Top Spots can be viewed on the 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. Fall temperatures were quite warm, so early reports by anglers this year have been mixed. 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 Harney

(Volusia and Seminole counties)

Located on the middle St. Johns River between Titusville and Sanford, this 6,000 acre lake is shallow (<7 feet) with variable habitat due to fluctuating water levels. It can be accessed from C.S. Lee Park off State Road 46, but anglers should be careful of a large sandbar upon entering the southern end of the lake. Mullet Lake Park and Lemon Bluff boat ramps are several miles downstream of the northern end of the lake. No public boat ramps are present on the lake itself. Most anglers drift or troll in open water. Jigs and minnows or a combination of jigs tipped with minnows are commonly used baits.

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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)

Lochloosa Lake is still holding water, although levels are starting to decline from a lack of rain. There are still a lot of fish available to be caught and biologists are also seeing a ton of smaller fish, which suggests that the lake should produce good numbers for at least the next two or three years. There aren’t quite as many of the monsters that Lochloosa has produced in the past, but there are lots of fish from 9 to 12 inches. Most anglers fish open water during the summer and fall, but move closer to shore and fish vegetated areas in the spring. 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.

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Orange Lake

(Alachua County)

Orange Lake is back! At least for the anglers seeking to catch a bunch of nice size speckled perch. The lake has had its share of past troubles with extremely low water conditions and floating islands impeding access, but the water is back and the bite is on. Anglers are already filling up the parking lots at the ramps this year and catching good numbers of really nice black crappie measuring between 11 and 14 inches, with some fish measuring bigger than that. Most of the anglers are fishing in the northern and southern ends of the lake with a lot of folks using minnows and grass shrimp as bait. Anglers are also reporting catches of monster bream while fishing for crappie. The lake can be accessed through public boat ramps at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in Cross Creek and at Heagy Burry Park off of US 441 just south of McIntosh. There are also a number of private boat ramps on the lake that anglers can use.

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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. Anglers caught crappie at a rate of 2.5 crappie per hour based on estimates from an angler survey conducted during spring 2014 with a good number of these fish between 10 and 13 inches. 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 four years. 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 reputation 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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Lake Marion

(Polk County)

For those “in the know”, this 2,990-acre lake appears on most lists of Top-10 speck sites. While not known for producing large crappie, Lake Marion is widely regarded as one of the better “numbers” lakes. During the cooler months, crappie move into the bulrushes, cattails and lily pads to spawn. In warmer months, they’re found by drifters and slow trollers in open water areas of the lake. Anglers using cane poles in the vegetation are likely to fish with Missouri minnows, while those using light spinning tackle claim nothing beats Hal-Flies or Beetle Spins. A public boat ramp is available off Jim Edwards Road in Lake Hamilton.

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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 County)

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 only 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 only 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)

This lake 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 2015 through spring 2016 showed that anglers caught crappie at a rate of over 2.5 fish per hour. 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)

Lake Okeechobee is back in the spotlight! In the early 1990s the 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 a another decline in the fishery. Since then, however, 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 almost 3 per hour in 2016. 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 changed in July to 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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FWC Facts:
Two crappie species exist in Florida. Black crappie occur throughout the state, but white crappie occur in just two Panhandle rivers.

Learn More at AskFWC