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Top Spots Crappie

The following areas were selected by Florida's freshwater fisheries biologists as being the most likely to be highly productive for black crappie during 2020.

Lake Talquin
(Gadsden and Leon counties)

This 8,800-acre 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.


Lochloosa Lake
(Alachua County)

Lochloosa Lake is known for producing great crappie fishing and has provided the most consistent catches of crappie in North Central Florida over the past 20 years. FWC biologist did not catch as many crappie in their samples this past year, suggesting that the catch rates may not be as high as more recent times, but there are still a good number of big crappie over 14” ready to be caught. Those who are able to find fish, and stay on them, are having success. 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 crappie during the spawn. Hydrilla has been hard to find on the lake this past year, but if you see any, try dropping a line near a small patch for a chance for some 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 and help us with our crappie research.


Orange Lake
(Alachua County)

Orange Lake has produced a dependable crappie bite for the past four seasons!! There are a lot of fish and some nice size speckled perch too. The lake has had its share of past troubles with extremely low water and floating islands impeding access, but the water is back. In fact, the habitat in Orange Lake is the prettiest it has been in a long time and the bite is on. Anglers are starting to fill up parking lots at the ramps this year and catching good numbers of really nice black crappie measuring between 10 and 14 inches, with some fish even larger. 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 US 441 just south of McIntosh. There are also several private boat ramps on the lake that anglers can use.

 

Lake Dias
(Volusia County)

Lake Dias is a 711-acre lake located approximately 5 miles northeast of DeLeon Springs in Volusia County This lake could be considered a sleeper for crappie fishing, since it is often overlooked due to the St. John’s River located nearby. Crappie anglers looking to avoid the crowds will find a lake with quality size crappie that is perfect for smaller boats. Previous creel surveys indicate that the majority of crappie harvested by anglers are 11 to 13 inches in length. Fall electrofishing also produces crappie consistently over 10 inches in length. While Dias is not a numbers lake, quality crappie can be caught fishing around laydowns and pads near deep holes, as well as out in the middle of the lake around FWC fish attractors. A two-lane boat ramp is located on County Road 11.


Lake Monroe
(Seminole and Volusia counties)

At approximately 10,000-acre, this lake is part of the St. Johns River chain and is located just off of I-4 about half way between Orlando and Daytona Beach. The lake is known for quality size fish and black crappie angling is popular during the cooler months. Flooding in the area from Hurricane Irma negatively impacted much of the fishery, but early reports by black crappie anglers indicate good catches are still possible if you 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, 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.


Lake Weohyakapka / Walk-in-Water
(Polk County)

Hydrilla has not returned to this 7,800-acre lake since the hurricanes of 2004, leaving plenty of open water to troll and drift minnows, jigs, and spinners 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 are available. There is a public boat ramp on the western shoreline of the lake off Lake Walk-in-Water Road which makes for easy access to this awesome crappie fishery. For more detailed information, please contact an FWC fisheries biologist at 863-648-3200.


Lakes Dora / Beauclair
(Lake County)

Located near Mount Dora, these lakes are connected by a short canal and both have long been among the best crappie lakes on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Sampling data from the fall of 2018 showed that crappie on Lake Dora reach 10” in two years, and 11” in three. Anglers troll the open water during the fall and winter and move to the bulrush and cypress near the shore as the water begins to warm around February. FWC has installed eleven fish attractors at various points in Lake Dora and marked with an orange and white buoy. If trolling over/near the attractors make to set your bait high enough to not get snagged. For access to the lakes there is one public boat ramp on Lake Beauclair in Trimble Park off 441 south of Mount Dora, and two public boat ramps on Lake Dora at Gilbert Park in Mount Dora on the east end and at Wooten Park in downtown Tavares on the west end. Shore anglers find crappie along the boardwalk and in the boat basin near the Gilbert Park ramp.


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 deep waters of the middle of the lake, while during the Spring, fish move to the grass patches and 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.


Lake Marian
(Osceola County)

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 Whiskey Point, Jordan Slough, and Four-Mile Point. In summer 2016, artificial fish attractors were installed in the lake, which will benefit both fish 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. Crappie in the lake reach 10” in two years and angler surveys from January through April 2019 indicated that anglers caught crappie at a rate of 1.5 fish per hour and 75% of the fish kept were 10 inches or larger. 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.


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 due to its consistent catch rates. During the 2019 angler survey, anglers harvested 1.7 fish per hour. 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.


Winter Haven Chain of Lakes
(Polk County)

Tucked in among the city streets of Winter Haven in north-central Polk County, the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes offers some of the finest and most easily accessible crappie (speck) fishing in central Florida. Polk County is home to 554 named lakes and typically sells more freshwater fishing licenses annually than any other county in the state. That's because residents take their crappie fishing seriously! The Winter Haven chain is comprised of 26 lakes ranging in size from 25 to 2,654 acres and totals just over 9,000 acres of fishable waters that offer a wide variety of opportunities for crappie angling. FWC fisheries biologists sample the chain's sportfish twice a year and routinely observe crappie over a half-pound. Standard state regulations apply to the entire chain - 25 crappie per person per day with a possession limit of no more than a two days’ bag limit (50). Ample public access is available in the form of 14 boat ramps, 5 fishing piers, bank fishing at a half-dozen city parks, and public easements alongside the numerous canals that connect the lakes. Lake Eloise and Lake Shipp are excellent spots for crappie on the south part of the chain while lakes Rochelle, Haines and Hartridge are good locations on the north section of the chain. During cooler months, crappie are taken by drifting or trolling bladed jigs tipped with minnows around offshore submersed vegetation. When waters start to warm, crappie migrate to shallow water to spawn and can be targeted by dropping jigs tipped with minnows near bulrush, cattails and lily pads. Guide services, fishing forecasts, and lodging information may be found through Polk County's Outpost 27 Visitor Center.


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

Lake Okeechobee, located in south-central Florida, is known world-wide for quality largemouth bass fishing, but it has also historically been known for a quality black crappie fishery. Its surface area of 730 square miles makes it the largest lake in Florida, and the second largest fresh water lake entirely in the contiguous United States. During the 1980s, the lake produced exceptional numbers of crappie which brought anglers from across the nation and the world to catch the famous Lake Okeechobee “speckled perch” or “speck”. Crappie anglers have continued to fish Lake Okeechobee and have witnessed the resiliency of this fishery. We expect continued catches of larger than average fish and catch rates higher than statewide average. A strong spawn last year bodes well for the future too.Black crappie fishing is usually best during the winter, and the best fishing occurs early and late in the day. When spring water temperatures reach 65 degrees crappie move from the deeper, open water and into shallower water along the marsh edge. Most anglers fish the Kissimmee River when it’s flowing, and many report good fishing outside the mouth of the river. 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.


Lake Trafford
(Collier County)

Lake Trafford has traditionally been known as a “numbers” lake with about a 60% higher catch rate for black crappie than the statewide average. Lake Trafford dominates the state year after year for crappie catch rates in both sampling gear and angling gear. However, currently the lake is even more than a numbers lake. Anglers are consistently catching fish larger than 10 inches, with larger fish up to 16 inches mixed in. Crappie fishing was decent in November and as water temperatures have begun to cool, angler catches are really taking off. As temperatures continue to cool we should see peak catch rates during January and February as crappie reach peak spawning condition. Biologist Lee Grove (561-882-5722) recommends drifting minnows or jigs 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. Crappie are always moving in Trafford. Public boats ramps are located at Lake Trafford Marina (239-657-2401) and Ann Olesky Park.

Black Crappie

Black Crappie Management Plan

Thank you to those who provided input that has been incorporated in the FWC Black Crappie Management Plan. Details are available at the Black Crappie Management Plan website.