Seasonal reminder: Remember, shook season is closed to harvest along Florida's Atlantic Coast until Feb. 1 2021; spotted sea trout is closed to harvest until Dec. 31; shallow water grouper season will close Jan. 1 until April 30, 2021; and new flounder rules will go into effect March 1 creating a fall harvest closure from Oct. 15 through Nov 30. He is using live shrimp or cut mullet to catch the drum, fishing near channel edges and drop-offs.
Terry Wilda of Big Easy charters out of Capt Hiram's Resort and Marina in Sebastian said the fishing on the reefs this week was wonderful. His anglers caught king fish, trigger fish and mangrove snapper in 70-90 feet of water.
Melbourne Beach has been a good place to get bites from pompano, whiting and croaked during the last half of the incoming tide. Spoons fished here will catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks and blue runners, too.
Bluefish, lady fish, jacks, blue runners and Spanish mackerel are being caught on spoons and jigs. Pompano are along the beaches on both sides of the inlet taking Fish bites or sand fleas.
Inside the inlet, flounder can be caught on sliding sinker rigs with live mud minnows or shrimp. Then, as the temperature climbs above 72 degrees in the water, their feeding response turns back on again.
Trout and redfish will be on the flats during the middle parts of the day as the fish warm up. Cast into holes or channels and cuts to find fish which are seeking more stable water temperatures on cool days.
Crappie action is pretty good in most other lakes and in parts of the St. Johns River and canals. Fishermen in Arkansas are so impatient to catch Florida -strain large mouth bass -- which grow faster, live longer and outweigh our native fish -- that they can't even wait for them to grow up, according to Colton Dennis, the biologist in charge of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's statewide black bass program.
“Just last week an angler e-mailed me and said, 'Hey, we're going to have a tournament on Defray next summer and heard you all stocked Florida bass there,'” Dennis recalled. Telling the story with a good-natured chuckle, Dennis said that his reply confirmed that the Brush Creek arm of Defray does contain a healthy population of Florida bass, but the fish were just fingerlings when they'd been stocked only seven months earlier.
“On Defray, it takes two years for these fish to even reach 13 inches,” Dennis said, but he appreciated the impatient fisherman's enthusiasm for catching big bass. He also explained what the program can and cannot accomplish and gave us a roll call of lakes where you might tangle with a fish that carries those most-wanted genes from the Sunshine State.
In the 1930s, scientists identified the robust fish that evolved in peninsular Florida as a subspecies of the black bass family. Since then, Florida -strain bass have become an important part of stocking programs throughout the Gulf Coast states, southeastern U.S. and as far west as California.
When they're stocked appropriately, Florida bass “have the ability to grow larger and to also live longer,” Dennis said. “These days, a lot of our anglers travel to Oklahoma or Texas to catch trophy-sized fish,” Dennis said.
Has been in large part without guidelines on stocking suitability or follow-up studies to determine survival and impacts on the fishery.” However, the new plan, combined with a larger staff armed with modern training, equipment and facilities has the agency poised for a more effective approach now.
Growth rates between northern- and southern-strain fish are equal until the third year, when Florida genes begin to assert themselves. Since the state's early experiments with Florida bass years ago, the Andrew Tulsa State Fish Hatchery on Lake Hamilton has been improved with conservation tax dollars, and the staff has expanded and received countless hours of training -- the formal kind and lessons learned by trial and error.
The staff now maintains its own pure-bred Florida brood stock and produces each year's fingerlings from parents in their prime. District biologists request a half-million Florida fingerlings per year, but the hatchery has produced as many as a million, providing bonus fish that were stocked, used for research or traded to other agencies.
Hatchery technicians have also learned to raise Florida bass on pelleted feed, a significant accomplishment that saves money, Dennis said. AFC scientists verify fish genetics, general condition, age and growth trends and scour samples for large mouth bass virus and other diseases.
“We've got so many lakes with Florida bass that we're going to put them on a rotational basis and do complete testing on three or four every year,” Dennis said. Dennis knows that anglers dream of reservoirs brimming with 10-pounders, but said, “We're not trying to produce a lake full of pure Florida's.
For example, Texas researchers repeatedly caught captive, northern large mouths on a specific lure, but in a nearby pond, Florida's quickly learned to ignore it. Texas hatchery workers also observed that adding forage fish to holding tanks full of northern bass caused feeding sprees that ended only when the last bait fish was gone.
“In some cases, (fisheries managers in Texas) are reverting to northern because of angler complaints that Florida's are harder to catch,” Dennis said. The AFC's boldest Florida bass action to date is the eight-year plan for stocking part of Lake Defray.
Deep, clear, and rocky reservoirs such as Defray are the antithesis of the shallow, fertile and highly vegetated lakes where Florida's thrive. “However, some research shows you can possibly impact a larger system like our highland reservoirs if you stock a creek arm that's really productive and has good habitat,” Dennis said.
Defray was chosen for this experiment because it's the Corps' smallest and southernmost Arkansas reservoir and features ample aquatic vegetation. It may sound counter-intuitive at first, but harvesting Florida -strain bass is an important part of building trophy fisheries.
Slot limits protect bass during prime reproductive years, so they can replenish fisheries. This 752-acre Pope County reservoir is one of our northernmost Florida bass fisheries, and Dennis believes it'll become one of our best in a few years.
It's bounded by state highways 324 and 105, which run off Interstate 40, and offers eight AGFC-maintained public accesses. Deep in southwest Arkansas, this 650-acre Hempstead County lake features generous cover and forage for a growing Florida bass population.
Access it from roads off state Highway 355 in the Boys D'Arc Wildlife Management Area. Shore bound fishermen can walk four and a half miles of levees and a bank- fishing peninsula near the ramp on the east side of the lake, south of Highway 355.
It's safe to eat bass under 16 inches, but mercury in larger fish may endanger some consumers. This 7,100-acre reservoir rambles along the eastern edge of the Lafayette County MA, where the AFC and International Paper Co. share management duties.
At press time, AFC fish pathologists were awaiting test results to determine whether Florida bass stocked in the early 1980s continue to exert any genetic influence, said biologist Les Clay brook. This 320-acre reservoir in Brinkley received a new crop of 4,500 5- to 8-inch Florida bass last year, and they need some time to grow up.
Large mouths thrive in this 29,000-acre southwest Arkansas lake operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and stocked by the AFC. Mill wood is nine miles east of Ash down and sits atop the Sever, Little River, Howard and Hempstead County lines.
These small lakes are ideal for verifying survival rates, age and growth data and the influence of Florida genes on an existing bass population. Lakes Mill wood and Monticello show the most improvement from infusions of Florida bass, Dennis said.
He also recommends Columbia and White Oak and sees Atkins and Boys D'Arc as the hotspots in our future. Although future stocking decisions will occur “on a lake-by-lake basis, year-to-year,” Dennis predicts that the AFC's program will gradually grow to include more lakes.
This 31,500-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment became the focus of nationwide attention when Jerald Shaun caught his world-record 27-pound, 5-ounce hybrid in 1997. In summer, many hybrid aficionados night fish with 8- to 10-inch live gizzard shad.
In spring, these huge fish may be scattered all over the lake, but there are some areas and methods you can count on. One prime hot spot encompasses the huge flats near where the White River and War Eagle join in the upper portion of Beaver.
Experts will tell you that Lake Dardanelles at Russellville toward the upper end of the river is the place to go for big large mouth. In May, look for fish running the Little Missouri River, mixed in with schools of white bass.
Surface feeding stripes frequently appear in the Chimney Rock area at dawn and dusk. Big brown trout are a top White River attraction, especially in the upper reaches of the tailgater when they come off their spawn in late January or early February.
Look for beds of spawning fish on the gradually sloping banks, particularly near points, and also in the backs of the wider (and therefore shallower) coves. Few people know about the region’s superb spotted bass fishing, but at times, a visit here can produce a limit of 2- to 3-pounders in a single hour.
There is bass fishing by day and catfish at night, with camping in the primitive area (no facilities) at lakeside. Foster Pond MacArthur Park contains more than 10,000 catchable fish, including rainbow trout and channel catfish.
Wells Lake A popular fishing destination in the heart of the Arkansas River Valley. Lake Wichita State Park This park is water sports mecca where anglers can fish for bream, crappie, catfish, stripes, and large mouth bass.
It is native to the west coast of North America from southern Alaska to Mexico. Learn more about how you can identify a large mouth bass, where to catch it and what bait and lures to use.