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.
From Dunnellon, anglers can venture downriver into Lake Rousseau for some reservoir fishing, or head upriver to fish the slow, meandering river. The lower portion of the river (Dunnellon to SR 200) should be productive for bass as the quarter progresses. Target areas with vegetation. Fish plastic worms along the river bottom, or weedless-rigged worms overtop of pads and emergent grasses. If the current is strong, target eddies, letting your worm drift in and out of the current. Use your rod to “bounce” the worm as it drifts with the current. Anglers should have opportunities to find Bluegill, Redear, Redbreast, and Spotted Sunfish in the lower portion of the river. Find soft, sandy bottoms and fish worms or crickets on the bottom to target Redbreast Sunfish and Bluegill. Fish worms and small beetle spins around hard bottom and hard structures to target Redear and Spotted sunfish. Find slow-flowing, muddy bottom areas of the river to try and find warmouth; fish worms, shrimp, or crickets near vegetation and submersed stumps. Fishing with light or ultralight tackle is a must if you want to feel the full fight of these small but hardy fish. Catfish are plentiful throughout the river. Fish stinky baits such as shrimp, liver, gizzard, or cut mullet around stumps and other hard structures. Fishing upstream and letting the scent waft down to the fish should draw them out of hiding. Use larger #2 or #4 hooks when targeting catfish. The Rainbow River is a spring fed system that can provide thermal refuge when the Withlacoochee River is both hot and cold. On days following cold fronts, try fishing this crystal clear, scenic river. Focus on areas with dense vegetation and be mindful of shadows. Flip plastics over pads or live shiners along the edges of pads and emergent grasses. The panfish should be productive here as well.
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): 47
Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 5