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Chipola River

Calhoun County

Chipola

This river is home to the unique shoal bass. Note that shoal bass regulations changed this past year and are detailed below. The Chipola River is accessible in Marianna off CR 280 (Magnolia Rd), Peacock Bridge Rd (located north of Sink Creek), SR 274 west of Altha on Hamilton Spring Rd, and SR 20 at Clarksville. This very scenic, spring-fed coldwater river stretches about 95 miles starting just north of Marianna and running south through the Dead Lake and into the Apalachicola River. The Chipola River has fast water shoals and provides excellent sunfish (redbreast, redear and bluegill) fishing in the spring depending on the water level. Boat operators should be cautious of these shallow limestone shoals while running your boat in this river during low water.

Local information on these rivers and their fishes may be obtained from the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, Northwest Regional Office (850-265-3676). Information regarding canoe, kayak, and tube float trips on the Chipola River can be obtained from Chipola River Outfitters (850-762-2800 or 850-381-6062) or Bear Paw Adventures (850-482-4948). Bear Paw Adventures is closed during the winter but will reopen March 1st.

Statewide bag and length limits for black bass are: 5 Black bass (including largemouth, Suwannee, spotted, Choctaw, and shoal bass, individually or in total), only one of which may be 16 inches or longer in total length. There is no statewide minimum length limit for largemouth bass. There is a 12 inch minimum length limit for shoal bass, Choctaw bass, and spotted bass. Anglers should also note that there is a catch and release only conservation zone for shoal bass between Peacock Bridge and Johnny Boy Landing. Anglers may possess largemouth bass in this section.

Anglers should always be mindful of the rocky limestone shoals and snags in the river. During low river levels travel upstream through shallow, swift shoals may be impossible so anglers should plan accordingly. View daily river levels and flow.

Local information on these rivers and their fishes may be obtained from the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, Northwest Regional Office (850-265-3676).

Effective June 2019, harvest and possession of shoal bass in the Chipola River and tributaries of the Chipola River is temporarily suspended. Anglers may fish for shoal bass, but all caught shoal bass must be immediately released. The shoal bass population in the Chipola River and its tributaries has potentially been affected due to the impacts of Hurricane Michael. Recent sampling efforts have produced significantly lower catches of shoal bass. Anglers may still possess largemouth bass.

Anglers should be mindful of the rocky limestone shoals and snags in the river. Anglers should note that a float trip and vehicle shuttle may be needed at low flows (the river becomes too low to motor back above shoals once a boat has floated downstream). Much of the debris and log jams from Hurricane Michael have been removed from the Chipola River and the river is navigable from Spring Creek through Highway 20. Current water levels throughout Florida may be found at USGS daily river levels and flow.

Anglers should always be mindful of fallen trees and other debris, especially in the reaches above the shoals. For those anglers targeting shoal bass try fishing in, above, and below shoal areas between Magnolia Bridge and Johnny Boy landing. Largemouth bass can be found in these areas but are more concentrated below Highway 20. Shoal bass are typically found in rocky areas with fast moving water while largemouth bass are often found in slower moving water and near woody structures. Shoal bass often move to deep holes below or above shoals containing limestone shelves during the hotter months. Best baits for shoal bass include broken-back minnow lure or artificial baits that mimic crayfish. Catch-and-release is recommended for this unique fish species. Largemouth bass can be caught using the same baits as shoal bass including live shiners.

There are plenty of redbreast and stumpknockers (spotted sunfish) in the river around shallow water snags and stumps. Try fishing with an unweighted worm or using 1/16 oz. beetle spins. Redbreast sunfish may also be caught using crayfish lures. Fly fishermen should fish early morning or late afternoon for bass and bream (bluegill, spotted sunfish, and redear sunfish). Boat ramps, particularly Johnny Boy and Magnolia Bridge, are often crowded on weekend afternoons with swimmers and tubers. The best fishing on the Chipola River has been reported near Highway 20.

Popular Species

Popular Sport Fish Species

Fish graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.

More species information is available for:

Largemouth bass, Shoal bassSpotted bassBluegill, Redear sunfish, Redbreast sunfishSunshine bassStriped bassBlack crappie, Channel catfish

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TrophyCatch Tracker

TrophyCatch is FWC's citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger.

Be the first to submit a trophy bass from the Chipola River!