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.
Escambia River Marsh
(Santa Rosa and Escambia counties)
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.
Ochlockonee River / Lake Talquin
(Leon, Gadsden and Liberty counties)
A hot spot destination for Striped Bass, especially below the dam, as well as, a numbers destination for Channel Catfish and 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)
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
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 produce a lot of big fish. Another thing that makes Eagle Lake special is its abundant Sunshine Bass (Striped Bass x White Bass hybrid), stocked yearly. 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)
Over the past four years, Lake Harris has been stocked with more than 655,000 sunshine bass. Lake Harris offers quality fishing for sunshine bass during the spring and anglers consistently report good catches. Sunshine bass like moving water, so fishing after rain events could improve catch rates. 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 around artificial fish attractors installed by FWC. Recently, the Lake County Water Authority and FWC installed an underwater fishing light at Hickory Point Park fishing pier in Tavares. Underwater lights are known to attract baitfish, which attracts predators such as sunshine bass. This provides an excellent shoreline fishing opportunity to target sunshine bass at Lake Harris.
Tampa Bypass Canal
The Tampa Bypass Canal is a 14-mile waterway that connects the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve with McKay Bay. The canal provides flood protection for the cities of Tampa and Temple Terrace by diverting floodwaters from the Hillsborough River. The canal includes several concrete water control structures which are managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The canal also provides a source of drinking water for the city of Tampa. 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 this canal receives is limited, making it perfect for canoe or kayak anglers. The straight canals offer a good amount of depth with rock piles in deeper water and shallower rip rap banks. Although anglers can catch a variety of fish species in the canal, FWC regularly stocks sunshine bass to provide anglers an 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 several 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.
Edward Medard Reservoir
Edward Medard Reservoir (770 acres) is a series of former phosphate mining created lakes which have been flooded. The reservoir is located inside a Hillsborough County Park off Highway 60 between Plant City and Brandon, Florida along Turkey Creek Road. A water control structure was placed on the lakes by the Southwest Florida Water Management District in 1970 to provide flood protection along the Alafia River, which resulted in the creation of a reservoir. The reservoir has very irregular bottom contours with plenty of underwater humps and drop offs up to 30 feet deep. The reservoir was dewatered in 2010 to repair an aging dam and refilled in 2011. Since then, the reservoir has been stocked frequently with largemouth bass, sunshine bass and channel catfish.
Anglers fishing for largemouth bass should try two basic strategies depending on water temperatures and time of year. During late winter/early spring, bass will begin migrating towards warmer, shallow water in preparation for spawning. Anglers should target bass in these areas along the shoreline with spinnerbaits, crank baits, jigs and soft plastic baits such as worms. While bass can still be caught in these areas early and late in the day during summer months, anglers should also try fishing drop offs and humps in deep water using crank baits, jigs and plastic worms. These same deep areas should also be productive for bass during winter months but anglers should definitely try fishing the rocks along the dam with crank baits and jigs.
The sunshine bass fishery on Medard Reservoir is also great for anglers who want to try something different. Sunshine bass are regularly stocked and their growth rates are extremely fast in Medard due to the abundance of their preferred food supply, shad. Most fish caught by anglers are around 1-2 pounds but there are several fish anywhere from 2-3 pounds lurking around the reservoir. Schooling sunshine bass are typically found in open water; however, anglers have had success catching them off the footbridge on the east side of the reservoir. The most productive time to fish for sunshines is fall through early spring when water temperatures are cooler. Best natural baits are live shiners or shad but fish will sometimes take cut bait and worms fished on float with a 1-2 foot leader. If fishing with artificial baits, try using jerkbaits, Rat-L-Traps or shad-imitation crankbaits retrieved quickly. Use a depth finder to find large schools of bait in deeper areas and then drop some baits below the boat or slow troll them in the vicinity. Anglers should also fish the rip rap dam area in deeper waters for a good chance of encountering a large school of these scrappy predators.
Channel catfish are also abundant in Medard Reservoir thanks to frequent stocking by FWC. Anglers who wish to catch this tasty freshwater fish can target them from the shoreline or by boat. Shoreline fishing can be productive for catfish anywhere anglers can find a spot to set up and cast their poles around the reservoir. There are a few docks and a bridge to fish from as well. Boat anglers can either anchor up over deep holes or channels or slow drift over flat areas such as shallow coves. Whichever technique is used, the most productive baits to try are chicken livers, frozen shrimp, live worms or commercial stink baits that are fished on or near the bottom.
Lake Osborne-Ida Chain of Lakes
(Palm Beach County)
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 a strange 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 shat are also a top producer.