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Highlands County


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.

For more information contact Henderson's Fish Camp at 863-465-2101, or Cypress Isle RV Park & Marina at 863-465-5241.

Winter fishing in Florida, especially on Lake Istokpoga, can be challenging but can also be very fun and productive. Pitching, flipping, and punching heavy cover can increase the number of fish caught. In addition, you could run into a trophy bass if you stick with it long enough.

Lake Istokpoga is known for its wintertime Trophy Bass and Crappie fishing. Cooler nights and shorter days inspire the bass and Crappie to prepare for the spawn. Bigger females will stage themselves in deeper water outside the spawning areas. Fish areas with deep water nearby, such as buggy whips with a hard sandy bottom, and cattails offer a semi-hard sandy bottom. In contrast, lily pads offer mucky bottom, but fish sometimes spawn on the lily pad roots themselves.

Chatter baits or spinner baits are great for swimming along the outside edges of vegetation. Try a swim jig with a craw trailer swimming it through a lily pad patch with a slow retrieval.

With cold fronts moving through Florida, bass will prefer a slow-moving presentation. The colder the water, the slower the bait needs to move. Options include 1/8 oz or 1/4 oz sinker, Texas rigged with a wide gap hook in shallower water and sparse cover. Another option would be a more finesse technique with a slow-moving, weightless bait such as a Fluke or Trick worm. Again, work the bait very slowly to entice the bass to bite. Finally, try a "Wacky Rig" in a sparse cover using a weedless hook.

You may find the fish in heavier cover during the cold fronts. The bite might seem better in the afternoons. Continue to work the bait slowly. Add a heavier sinker and a more compact bait for flipping the vegetation, such as a "Big Stick" bait or a creature bait.

Once the weather stabilizes, try topwater baits such as a swimbait or hollow-body frog in shallow water. The bite might be tougher once the fish move in for spawning, but you could catch a fish of a lifetime.

Continue to troll and drift open water with spider rigging, long lining, and tight lining for Crappie during the early morning hours. With the water temperatures dipping, Crappie will begin transitioning from open water to vegetation in preparation for the spawn. Try using 10’-13’ pole for dipping minnows under a bobber along the outside edges of lily pads or buggy whips. Jigging for Crappie in heavier cover can be productive and fun.

The combination of deep water and lily pads around Henderson’s Fish Camp is always a favorite place to start crappie fishing. Tight Lines!

Popular Species

Popular Sport Fish Species

Fish graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.

More species information is available for:

Largemouth bass, Bluegill, Redear sunfishBlack crappie

FWC Trophy Catch Logo

TrophyCatch Tracker

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): 498

Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 96

Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 2