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Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers

Columbia, Hamilton, Madison, Lafayette, Gilchrist, Alachua, Suwannee, Levy and Dixie counties

Suwannee river

The Suwannee drains from the Okeefenokee Swamp through limestone shoals stretches to become a large flood plain river in the lower reaches. Drastic water level fluctuations characterize the river and keep the fishery dynamic. The Santa Fe is the major tributary, heavily influenced by springs and unlike the Suwannee, has vast areas of submerged vegetation in the middle and upper reaches. These areas harbor abundant freshwater shrimp, waterscuds and aquatic insects, thus producing excellent growth rates for fish, particularly abundant redbreast sunfish and pugnacious spotted sunfish (stumpknockers). The upper Suwannee has only tree roots and rocky shelves for fish structure. The lower Suwannee has a band of waterlilies and eventually in the tidal portion, numerous wooded and marsh-lined feeder creeks. High tide fishing is always slow with best fishing during lower tides. It is also helpful to remember that the outer bends are always deeper, sand bars are on inside curves and lilies on outer bend means the current has left the bank and panfish like to spawn here. Both Suwannee and largemouth bass occur. Large fish are not the rule and remember that all bass in the river, especially Suwannees, prefer to feed on crawfish, so crawfish-colored lures prevail.

Local upper Suwannee contacts: Suwannee River State Park 386-362-2746, Canoe Outpost 1-800-428-4147, Spirit of Suwannee Park 386-364-1683.

Local middle Suwannee and Santa Fe contacts: Sandy Point Marina 386-935-0615.

Local lower Suwannee contacts: Sid's Treasure Camp at Fowler's Bluff 352-493-2950.

The enacted "No Wake" zones from Dowling Park downstream to the upper estuary have been lifted.

Note: Boaters should be extremely cautious on both rivers, as low water has made clearance over sand bars and other underwater hazards less certain.  Use low water periods to develop better understanding of what exposed areas look like under normal river levels.  Also available are current water levels throughout Florida on the Internet at

Water levels can be monitored on the Suwannee River Water Management District’s web page.

In this beautiful river, Suwannee Bass are more plentiful than Largemouth. These fish seek out cutbanks, boulders, shoals, and downed trees for cover. Having at least moderate current is crucial to finding these fish. Keep in mind a two-to-three-pound Suwannee Bass is an exceptional fish so use an appropriately sized lure, they have small mouths compared to the more common largemouth bass. Spotted sunfish, redbreast sunfish, and catfish can also be caught here. Using live/dead bait will be the most productive tactic to catch these fish. Crickets are a favorite bait for panfish, and stink bait or chicken gizzards and livers work well for catfish. Worms can catch just about anything here. When water is low, concentrate on the structure that’s still submersed to find the fish. Use caution around the shoals as they can damage a motor very easily. Summertime water temperatures can vary quite a bit depending on how far from a spring you are. Fishing near a spring in the summer means the fish will be more likely to feed later into the morning when fish in hot water shut off.

Please be aware that as the river water warms Gulf Sturgeon will be making their annual migration up the river and will be jumping. They are thought to jump to fill their air bladders and communicate with other sturgeon, but they can be a hazard to boaters. Go slow, keep riders off the bow of the boat, and stay aware to avoid running into a jumping sturgeon which could cause serious injuries.

Suwannee River scenic photo

A Trip Down the Suwannee

Join us for an imaginary trip down the Suwannee River that captures the mystery and adventure of one of Florida's most unique natural resources! Grab your paddle and check this link to read the story:

A Trip Down the Suwannee River

Popular Species

Popular Sport Fish Species

Fish graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.

More species information is available for:

Largemouth bass, Suwannee bassBluegill, Redear sunfishChannel catfish, Redbreast sunfish

FWC Trophy Catch Logo

TrophyCatch Tracker

TrophyCatch is FWC's citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger. The following TrophyCatch bass have been submitted from the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers:

Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 17

Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 3