Located five miles northeast of Lake Placid, Highlands County, this 27,692-acre lake has quality fishing for black crappie (specks) and one of the highest largemouth bass catch rates in the state. The best speck fishing occurs during winter months drifting over open water, particularly in the northeast and southwest corners. Predominant aquatic vegetation includes spadderdock (bonnets), bulrush (buggy whips), cattail, and pondweed (pepper grass). Kissimmee grass on the south end is particularly productive when there is flow into the Istokpoga Canal. This canal, located off County Highway 621, provides excellent largemouth bass fishing from the bank when the gates are open. Arbuckle and Josephine Creek mouths are also good areas when there is flow. The island areas and associated grass can hold bass any time of year and the deepest portion of the lake (10 ft) is in the southwest corner. Public boat ramps are located on the north, northeast, and southwest shorelines off of U.S. Route 98, Lake Boulevard off Cow House Road, and Highland Lake Drive off of County Route 621, respectively. There are also six fish camps/resorts on the lake with various accommodations. Anglers can wade fish off of the Cow House Road boat ramp.
Bluegill (bream) and redear sunfish (shellcrackers) fishing has improved, with fish congregating in their usual spawning areas. Use crickets and grass shrimp under a cork for bream and red wigglers on or near the bottom for shellcrackers. Locate areas with bulrush, Kissimmee grass, or cattails for the best action. Speck (black crappie) fishing should remain good until the water warms dramatically. Drift live Missouri minnows and grass shrimp in open water, or troll with Napier deer hair jigs and Hal flies for schooling fish. Find areas with sandy bottoms around bulrush and cattails, and fish a grass shrimp under a cork for spawning fish. Henderson’s Cove and the north end of the lake usually produces good numbers of specks on the outside edge of the pads and grasses near deeper water. Lake Istokpoga is one of the best lakes in the state at a chance to get your hands on a fish of a lifetime. As of February 2021, there have been a whopping 556 approved TrophyCatch submissions of bass larger than 8 pounds since the program was launched in October 2012! A total of 465 fish have been entered into the Lunker Club (8-9.99 lb), 89 into the Trophy Club (10-12.99 lb) and 2 into the Hall of Fame Club (13 pounds or more). Remember, as part of the TrophyCatch program, all of these big bass have been released, so your trophy still swims in Lake Istokpoga. Largemouth bass fishing has been good this spring and should continue as the water temperatures rise. Slow working baits like plastic worms and “creature” baits in Junebug, black and blue, and red shad colors as well as suspending jerkbaits in shad colors can be beneficial during the colder fronts of late spring. Just remember you must have patience while working these baits. Live, wild shiners typically produce better than artificial baits during this time of year. Bass should be finished spawning by the end of April and will begin schooling up, chasing shad and bream along weed lines and open shallow water areas. Use shad-imitating baits and topwater lures for some fast action as summer approaches. Slow rolling speed-worm style soft plastics through thicker vegetation can also be productive for bass that should be ready for a big, easy meal. Tight lines!
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 Lake Istokpoga:
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 465
Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 89
Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 2