Citrus, Marion, Sumter, Levy, Hernando counties
This 157-mile stream originates in Green Swamp in Hernando County and flows north to the Gulf at Yankeetown. The stream has many limerock areas and associated swamps. Water levels fluctuate except in Lake Rousseau and the area just above the influence of Rainbow River. Water color is dark during the rainy season and clear during low water. Public ramps are located at S.R. 44 in Rutland, C.R. 470 north of Lake Panasofkee, the Outlet River west of Lake Panasofkee on C.R. 470 in Sumter County, C.R. 39 north of SR 200 in Citrus County, U.S. Highway 41 at Dunnellon and SR 40 at Yankeetown.
Local contacts: Anglers Resort Dunnellon 352-489-2397.
Interested anglers should visit the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) recorded water level and rainfall webpage for up-to-date information on river levels.
The Withlacoochee River can produce quality fish for interested anglers. Continued reports point to the upper river (from SR 44 south to the county line) as being a great place for panfish. Here, anglers should expect to find Redbreast and Spotted Sunfish in higher numbers than Bluegill or Redear Sunfish. Earthworms and crickets are excellent baits for Redbreast Sunfish. The Spotted Sunfish (commonly referred to as “Stumpknockers”) are hardy, aggressive feeders that can be caught using grubs, insects, shrimp, and crickets. Those who prefer artificial baits should use a 1/16 oz or smaller beetle spin with a colorful grub trailer. Anglers would be wise to bring their ultra-light tackle to feel the aggressive fight of these fish. Largemouth Bass can be found throughout the river, though are most abundant in the stretch of river between Lake Rousseau south to SR 200. Most artificial lures will work well. Target areas with vegetation or woody structure. Look for areas in the river that are slowed by eddies or blocked by woody debris; these slack water areas can provide good resting spots for bass as they wait for their next meal to swim by. Catfish are present in the river and reported to be of excellent size. Fish stinky baits upriver of log jams, rock piles, or slack water eddies and let the scent drift down to any hungry catfish. In the tailwaters below the Inglis Dam, catfish are reported to be abundant. Stink baits are the go-to baits, of course, and look for any structures to anchor upriver from. Below the dam, anglers can have the chance to add saltwater species, including redfish, spotted sea trout and sheepshead. During cold weather, anglers should try fishing up the Rainbow River. This spring run system can provide a warm water refuge during prolonged cold spells. The habitat is abundant, and fish are plentiful. Bass and panfish anglers would be wise to give this beautiful, scenic river a chance. Remember to obey all posted navigation signage.
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 Withlacoochee River:
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 74
Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 18
Hall of Fame Club (13+ pounds): 1