By Captain David Lifka
Winters in North Florida may not be the same as other parts of the country, but for us, it‘s still winter. Sure we lack blizzards, snowfall accumulations and frozen lakes and ponds, but we still have to endure somewhat chilly temperatures, with occasional frosts and freezes. Overall, here in North Florida we experience enough of a winter to alter the fishing patterns of many of our favorite local fishing spots.
As water temperatures drop in the St. Johns River many of the saltwater species that we have been targeting for much of the year have retreated to warmer waters. The metabolisms of freshwater species such as bream and bass begin to slow as a response to the cooler water around them. This happens every year. As winter sets in, fishing slows down. What are we to do?
Well, fortunately we still live in Florida and as fishing may slow down a little for winter, it certainly does not come to a stop. As matter of fact, North Florida is well known for a certain species of a freshwater fish this time of year. Speckled perch, also known as Crappie (depending on where you’re from) is a highly targeted and valued freshwater species that abounds in nearly all our area freshwater fishing locations. Area lakes from our backyard to Gainesville as well as St. Johns River creeks and tributaries from Julington Creek to Deland can all offer some prime speckled perch fishing over the winter months.
For many locals and newcomers alike, speckled perch fishing is not taken lightly. Often rigging and designing their entire fishing platform to specifically target the tasty panfish, anglers wait anxiously for cooler temperatures to move in. While braving a chilly morning, anglers will slow troll or drift with a dozen or so strategically located rod holders, holding extra long and ultra light crappie rods with hopes of filling their cooler.
Live minnows, crappie jigs, or a live minnow fished on a crappie jig with a float rig holding the bait just off the bottom, is the most common way to fish for speckled perch. Drifting or slow trolling over troughs and holes from a boat or kayak can help locate the fish congregated in schools. Fishing along docks or the edge of lily pads may also prove productive.
Fishing Report – Slow trolling the channel just off the docks in Julington Creek or fishing the deeper holes in the bends of Durbin Creek is worth a try for nearby speck fishing. On pretty days, try the surf for pompano or whiting, or just get the kids to the neighborhood pond for some easy bream fishing.
Whether you catch one, some or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.