This 5850-acre lake has a "little" northern area and a "big" southern arm connected by "the pass" where shad school and fishing is usually good for schooling largemouth and stocked sunshine bass. Numerous homes surround the lake, most with docks and ski boats; fishing is always best early and late or at night and on weekdays. In spite of development, the fish habitat is outstanding with many areas of cypress and healthy maidencane grass beds.
Local contact: Chappini's Bait & Tackle 352-475-9496; Bald Eagle Bait and Tackle 352-473-6060.
Bluegill and redear can be found around docks and cypress trees scattered around the lake. Target those fish using crickets, earthworms, and grass shrimp. If you are targeting black crappie, focus your efforts near shore as the fish come in to spawn. Target floating pads and other nearshore structure. If you are looking for crappie offshore, slow troll or drift crappie jigs or minnows and try to cover as much water as possible. Don’t be afraid to fish deep (as in right near the bottom) in these open-water areas. Pay attention to water depth, lure depth, lure color and boat speed if you start to catch fish. Use this information to try to pattern these fish on a given day. Experiment with different combinations of speed, lure color, and lure depth to find what the fish want. Anglers should look for largemouth bass in near-shore maidencane beds, under docks, and around cypress trees as they prepare to spawn. Soft plastics either flipped, pitched, or dragged near structure should draw strikes. Don’t be afraid to look away from the shoreline when targeting bass also. As the water cools, anglers should try slow-trolling live golden shiners or casting crankbaits and spinnerbaits parallel to the outer grass edges. As with Lake Sampson, keep an eye open for roving schools of feeding sunshine bass offshore. Look for birds diving or surface commotion to find these feeding fish. Approach these feeding schools with stealth, and you should be able to catch multiple fish before the action stops. Effective lures include anything shiny, white, or minnow-shaped. Be prepared for either schooling largemouth bass or sunshine bass, as they can both display the same feeding behavior offshore. Look for the cooling water temperatures in the coming months to improve bass and crappie fishing as these fish move in closer to shore.
Note: These early spring months are an exciting time for freshwater anglers in Florida targeting largemouth bass and black crappie as both species move shallow in preparation for the spawn. Bass anglers should be sure to register with FWC’s TrophyCatch program if they haven’t already. Anglers fortunate enough to catch, document, and release bass eight pounds and over are eligible to win substantial prizes from program partners like Bass Pro Shops, Fitzgerald Rods, and more. Simply submit a photograph of the entire bass on a scale with a readable weight to the website (www.trophycatchflorida.com). Historically, March has been the month with the greatest number of TrophyCatch submissions.