Striped bass are found primarily in the Apalachicola and the St. Johns rivers and their tributaries, and to a lesser extent in Lake Talquin and the Ochlockonee, Blackwater, Nassau and St. Marys rivers. Striped bass need long stretches of flowing water to reproduce successfully, and these conditions are rarely found in Florida. Stripers do not tolerate water temperatures over 75℉ for long; during Florida summers, striped bass become less active and must find cool water springs or canopied streams to survive. Because of this, striped bass populations are maintained only through annual stockings from Commission and federal hatcheries.
When to Fish
The best striper fishing occurs from fall through spring, when fish are actively feeding.
In the St. Johns River, the Croaker Hole and the jetties at the south end of Lake George are good fall and spring striper areas, and the first few miles of the Wekiva River have several locations where stripers congregate.
White bass are found in the Apalachicola River, Ochlockonee River and Lake Talquin.
Some of the best fishing is found in the Apalachicola and St. Johns rivers. The mouth of the Escambia River near Pensacola has good hybrid fishing, and sunshine bass feed around the fish attractors in Newnan's Lake near Gainesville.
Tackle and Bait
Live shad are very effective, particularly below Jim Woodruff Dam on the Apalachicola River. Live menhaden, golden shiners, croakers or eels are good choices as bait. Lures, like rattletraps, that resemble baitfish also produce impressive strikes, including heavy jigs, as well as sinking and floating lures in white, chrome or chartreuse. Use heavy tackle with 3- to 4-oz. weights in high flow areas.
Small crayfish or grass shrimp on #4 hooks fished in deep river bends or at the edge of sand bars are effective baits. Put a 1/4 oz. egg sinker above your swivel, with an 8- to 12-inch leader tied to your hook; use lighter line for the leader, so if you get snagged you don't have to replace the complete rig. Small jigs in white or brown are often productive.
In urban lakes, shrimp, squid and even cut-up pieces of hot dogs will attract sunshine bass. Sunshine bass readily concentrate around mechanical feeders that periodically dispense food pellets.
These are the sites most likely to be best for Florida striped bass fishing in 2023.
Escambia River Marsh
(Santa Rosa and Escambia counties)
Features: Bass numbers, striped bass numbers
A Largemouth Bass fishery for harvest and high catch rates of smaller size Largemouth Bass and a variety of fish species. The marsh area of the Escambia River is a hot spot for Largemouth Bass fishing and promises to yield high catches of harvestable size Largemouth Bass, as well as, many other species including being a hot spot destination for Hybrid Striped bass. The Escambia River also supports one of the richest assemblages of native North American freshwater fish of any Florida river with 85 know native freshwater species. The lower river and delta marshes may be accessed easily from numerous points between Pensacola and Pace along Highway 90.
(Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties)
Features: Bass special opportunity, striped bass size, bream numbers, catfish size and numbers
A Monster trophy catfish fishery for Flathead Catfish (State Record location for Flathead Catfish) and high catch rates of panfish and multiple species. The Yellow River is home to monster Flathead Catfish and currently boasts the location of the new Florida State Record Flathead Catfish caught in August 2020. This behemoth weighed in at 69.9 pounds. The upper Yellow River provides anglers an assortment of largemouth bass, spotted bass, quality sized striped bass, redear sunfish (shellcracker), bluegill, spotted sunfish, warmouth and shadow bass. Sixty-one miles of the Yellow River flows in a southwesterly direction into Blackwater Bay, an arm of Pensacola Bay, through Florida’s Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. The Yellow River’s one major tributary, the Shoal River, joins the Yellow near Crestview, Florida.
A hot spot destination for Striped Bass, especially below the dam, as well as quality-sized black bass, a numbers destination for Channel Catfish, and a top spot for Black Crappie fishing. The Ochlockonee River is a Top Spot destination for striped bass anglers! The Ochlockonee River is impounded to form Lake Talquin reservoir located between Gadsden and Leon counties Florida approximately 10 miles west of Tallahassee. Lake Talquin is bordered by State Road 20 on the east side and State Road 267 on the west and offers numerous access points. Both the river and the lake offer anglers multiple fishing choices. Lake Talquin is known for producing trophy Largemouth Bass but is also a Top Spot destination for Black Crappie anglers and Striped Bass anglers. Attention Striped Bass Anglers: There is an FWC Striped Bass tagging study currently on-going in the Ochlockonee River. If you catch a Striped Bass, please call the telephone number on the tag to claim your prize. Please do not pull the tag out of the fish. Cut the tag off the fish as close to the fish’s body as possible.
(Jackson, Gadsden, Calhoun, Gulf, Liberty, and Franklin counties)
Features: Bream numbers, striped bass numbers, catfish size and numbers
A Monster trophy catfish fishery for Flathead Catfish and high catch rates of panfish, multiple species and a hot spot destination for Striped Bass. The 160-mile Apalachicola River in Florida is a wide, winding river rolling down to Apalachicola Bay through nationally significant forests, with some of the highest biological diversity east of the Mississippi rivaling the Great Smoky Mountains. This river has the highest diversity of freshwater fish species in the state including both freshwater and saltwater species, leading to some of the best fishing in Florida's Panhandle. The numerous creeks and tributaries feeding into the Apalachicola offer scenic runs with deep, quiet pools. These pools are also home to monster Flathead Catfish. The Apalachicola was at one time the reigning home to the Florida State record for Flathead Catfish until recently broken by a fish caught in the Yellow River. The Apalachicola is still a monster Flathead Catfish destination for anglers, as well as, an assortment of fresh and saltwater species.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Features: Bass numbers, sunshine bass numbers
Eagle Lake is non-reclaimed phosphate pit located on Nutrien property in White Springs, designated as an FMA and open to the public. A gravel boat ramp is located on a dirt road off SE 78th Place. Please note that trolling motors are allowed in Eagle Lake but using gasoline motors is not. Eagle Lake is a unique Florida lake and a quiet escape from the world. Travelling through the lake is a journey through a maze of open water, narrow cuts and bends, secluded coves, and varying habitat. This lake is deeper than the average Florida lake, has steep drop-offs and produces a lot of big fish. Largemouth Bass are abundant throughout the lake and at good sizes. What the lake lacks in Trophy fish production (only one TrophyCatch Season 9 submission), it more than makes up for in 3, 4, and 5 lb. bass. Anglers should bring a variety of tackle and plan to target shallow and deep-water habitats. Target edges of coontail and hydrilla with spinnerbaits, soft plastics, topwater lures, and crankbaits.
Another thing that makes Eagle Lake special is its abundant Sunshine Bass (Striped Bass x White Bass hybrid), stocked every other year. Abundant forage and habitat help the Sunshine Bass in Eagle Lake experience the fastest growth in the region! Fishing for Sunshines is best in the fall and winter. These fish tend to school and inhabit the deep open water. You can also try fishing the faster flowing cuts. If you notice commotion on the surface or gatherings of birds, those would be good places to start. Trolling shad imitations or live shiners work well on these fish.
(Lake and Orange County)
Features: Special opportunity for unique species (Sunshine Bass)
Over the past six years (2017-2022) Lake Harris has been stocked with more than 835,000 sunshine bass. Lake Harris offers quality fishing for sunshine bass during spring and anglers continue to report good catch rates. Sunshine Bass like moving water, so fishing after rain events could yield some increased catches. Look for schools of shad and silversides as these are the primary forage for sunshine bass. Favorite local lures include the Little Cleo and a small Rat-L-Trap. Areas to target include where the spring flows into the lake on the south shore and artificial fish attractors installed by FWC. Recently, the Lake County Water Authority (LCWA) and FWC installed an underwater fishing light at Hickory Point Park fishing pier (27341 State Road 19 Tavares, FL 32778). Underwater lights are known to attractor bait fish (e.g. shad) and thus bring in predatory sportfish fish such as sunshine bass. This provides an excellent shoreline fishing opportunity to target sunshine bass at Lake Harris.
Tampa Bypass Canal
Features: Special opportunity for sunshine bass numbers
The Tampa Bypass Canal is a 14-mile waterway that connects the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve with McKay Bay. The canal includes several concrete water control structures which are managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. There are several parks along the waterway which provide shoreline fishing access and boat ramps. With an outboard motor restriction of 10hp or less, the amount of fishing pressure the Bypass canal receives is limited, making it perfect for canoe or kayak anglers. The straight canals offer a diversity of fishing spots with rock piles in deeper water and rip rap along the banks in shallower water. Although anglers can catch a variety of fish species in the canal, FWC regularly stocks sunshine bass to provide anglers a unique opportunity to target this hybrid fish species, which can only be produced in hatcheries. These fish grow fast in the canal but only live five or six years. Sunshine bass like moving water, so look for current near water control structures after heavy rains to increase your odds of catching these fish. Slow trolling baits while looking for schools of shad is another proven technique to locate sunshines. Shad are a major forage species for sunshines, so look for fish striking them on the surface and cast baits that imitate shad for better success. Rat-L-Traps, jerkbaits, surface plugs and jigs in silver, chrome or white colors are a popular choice. Sunshine bass will also occasionally take cut bait, chicken liver or some type of stink bait fished on the bottom just like a catfish would.
Tenoroc Fish Management Area
Features: Bass size and numbers, bream size and numbers, special opportunity for Sunshine Bass, special opportunity for catfish, catfish numbers
Tenoroc Fish Management Area is an 8,300-acre former phosphate mine in Lakeland, Florida which provides a special opportunity to catch several species of fish. Tenoroc is located on Highway 659 (Combee Road) and can be accessed from Highway 33, just south of Interstate 4. Call the Tenoroc Headquarters at 863-606-0093 for more information or to make fishing reservations. The area is open to public fishing four days a week, Fridays through Mondays. All anglers must check-in and out at the Tenoroc Entryway Building, deposit their valid fishing license if applicable and pay $3 for a daily fishing permit unless exempt.
With 30 lakes to choose from on the property, these lakes ranging from six to 242-acres were created years ago by draglines during phosphate surface mining operations. As a result, lake bottoms have irregular contours with depths up to 35 feet. Most Tenoroc lakes have ADA accessible boat ramps and facilities. Numerous bank fishing opportunities are also present for anglers who don’t have a boat and a few lakes even have picnic pavilions and restrooms.
Bass anglers who want to catch good numbers of fish should cover lots of area, probing deeper waters with chrome-colored lipless crankbaits and chartreuse ("Firetiger" color) diving crankbaits. Once anglers catch a few fish in a general area, it’s time to slow down and fish the area thoroughly. Plastic worms are often the best all-around lure for fishing slowly. Red shad and junebug are great worm colors. Anglers who fish submersed islands or sandbars off points will often find good concentrations of bass. In addition, many of the lakes are connected with water control structures. When in operation, bass are often concentrated in areas of flowing water and can be caught using crankbaits or plastic worms. During the spring, flipping plastic worms or crawfish imitation baits in thick cover will often produce some bigger largemouth bass.
Anglers who want to catch panfish (bluegill, shellcrackers) at Tenoroc will have several good lake choices to try. Anglers should look for shorelines with an abundant supply of woody brush, tree-tops or vegetation that are perfect locations for panfish to hide out. Anglers should also look for signs and buoys pointing out underwater gravel beds or other fish attractors on several Tenoroc lakes. Presenting natural baits (crickets, night crawlers, red wigglers, grass shrimp) under a cork and bobber or free lining them with a split shot weight on light tackle will entice a bite around structure, submerged timber, pockets in vegetation, underwater humps and deeper holes. Fishing artificial lures (rooster tails, road runners, beetle spins) can also be productive in deeper areas or near any type of structure.
Fishing for catfish in Tenoroc lakes is also popular and rewarding as channel catfish are stocked annually by FWC in several lakes. Some lakes have good naturally reproducing populations of brown bullhead as well. Fishing with a piece of chicken liver, cut bait with high oil content like gizzard shad, commercial stink baits, cheese balls and night crawlers around the deeper holes and fish feeders, if available, will produce the best action at the height of the day. Fishing with family or friends for catfish from one of the many lakes with open shorelines is a favorite pastime for many Tenoroc anglers.
FWC biologists have recently reintroduced sunshine bass to Tenoroc to provide anglers with more opportunities to catch different varieties of sport fish species. Stocked in both Derby & Picnic Lake, sunshine bass have fast growth rates and ravenous appetites, preferring to focus on small prey species such as threadfin & gizzard shad. Anglers looking to target this species with natural baits should use live shiners or minnows on a free line or under a bobber. If using artificial lures, try to use tackle that imitates the color of their favorite food items: silver or gold spoons, white and silver jerk baits, rooster-tails, jigs, and grubs that give off the “flash” of an evading baitfish. Sunshine bass like to school up and corral baitfish to the surface, so if you see feeding activity in the morning or evening hours, cast away and have fun!
Lake Osborne-Ida Chain of Lakes
(Palm Beach County)
Features: Unique opportunities for Peacock Bass and Sunshine Bass
Conveniently located in the heart of Palm Beach County, this system of smaller lakes interconnected by canals provides a number of excellent fishing opportunities. Bank fishing access is ample thanks to county parks, in particular, John Prince Park. Lakes Ida and Osborne, in particular, have been producing excellent catches of Butterfly Peacock bass in addition to good largemouth bass fishing. Regionally, this is the top spot to target Sunshine bass, and Clown Knifefish are an unusual surprise that are sometimes caught when targeting Sunshine bass. As a result, lipless crankbaits (Rat-L-Trap, for example) and hard jerk baits (Rapala, for example) can be a top choices here, producing all of the species mentioned. Locally caught live threadfin shad are also a top producer.