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 is slow with the warmer water temperature in the lake, but they can still be caught. Drift live Missouri minnows and grass shrimp in open water, or troll with Napier deer hair jigs and Hal flies for schooling fish. 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 May 2019, there have been a whopping 519 TrophyCatch submissions of bass larger than 8 pounds since the program was launched in October 2012! A total of 434 fish have been entered into the Lunker Club (8-9.99 lbs.), 83 into Trophy Club (10-12.99 lbs.), and now we are thrilled to celebrate 2 Hall of Fame (13 pounds or more) catches submitted in season six. 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 slowed a bit with the water temperature rising in the lake, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be caught. Slow working baits like large plastic worms or crawfish style baits in Junebug, black and blue, and red shad colors have been the baits of choice during the “dog days of summer”. Just remember you need to have patience while working these baits to entice a bite! As the sun reaches its highest point in the middle of the day, begin flipping thick vegetation with deeper water nearby for bass seeking shade. Usually this technique is most effective when you pair a large weight (3/4 – 1.5oz depending on thickness of cover) with a crawfish style bait to produce a reaction strike from the pigs lurking below the vegetation mats. Braided line and a heavy action rod is critical in landing fish with this technique. The heat of the summer months is also a valuable time to rely on your electronics for finding fish “offshore”. Schools of larger bass tend to relate to contour changes and brush piles in deeper water as ambush points during the summer. Once you find a school, throw a buoy overboard or mark a waypoint (or both) on your fish finder as you drive over them. Make a few casts at the spot with “dragging” type presentations (i.e., Carolina rig, Texas rig, Ned rig, jig) and then move to some “reaction” type presentations (i.e., crankbaits, spinnerbaits, big swimbaits). Be sure to make multiple casts from all directions before giving up on your spot. If they won’t bite, move on to the next spot, but don’t be afraid to try the same spot multiple times throughout your day on the water as the school may turn on at any moment. Building confidence in using your electronics can make for memorable days on the water during the summer months. Also, bass can be caught shallow when bluegill spawn throughout the summer months. If you see colonies of bluegill beds don’t hesitate to throw bladed or swim style jigs in black and blue color to catch bass chasing the bluegill. 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): 433
Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 83
Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 2