By Captain David Lifka
It is pretty easy to say that the winter months of North Florida are usually the “crappiest” time of year to fish here. Or should that be “Crappie” time of year?
While winter weather and cooler water temperatures often bring area fishing to a considerable slow down, these same conditions are what many area fishermen have been waiting for all summer long. That just happens to be the fishing season for Florida’s second most sought after gamefish, commonly referred to as the “Black Crappie” or “Crappie” by the folks from the north, “Speckled Perch” by the folks from the south, or just plain old “Speck” by the remaining good ole boys.
Shallow water of three to 10 feet seems to be the favorite depths for these fish to gather during winter months and cooler temperatures. The best time to find them concentrated on lake or creek bottoms will be on a full moon, as that is when they will gather and bunch up to spawn. Using the wind or a trolling motor to slowly move your boat to cover various areas of a lake or creek is a common tactic to locating the tasty panfish and putting large numbers in the cooler. Doing the same while they are more spread out will also prove to be more productive than fishing in one particular spot.
By far, their favorite bait is a fresh, lively, Missouri Minnow. Hooked through the lips with a #4, #5, or #6 wire hook, a small split shot eight or 10 inches above the minnow, and a small float set at the depth you are fishing on light mono line will be all you need to get fishing. Slow trolling 1/16 or 1/32 Crappie Jigs is a good alternative, especially if you add a minnow.
Florida is regarded as the “Speckled Perch Capital of the World” with outstanding fishing almost everywhere in the state. There are literally dozens of lakes within a minimal drive of our area of the state that are famous for producing great catches of Speckled Perch every winter. Just to name a few: Rodman Reservoir, Orange Lake, Lochloosa Lake, Newman lake, Crescent Lake, Lake Santa Fe, and Harris Chain of Lakes. Most of these lakes and others have all the bait, tackle, and information needed for a great day of fishing and even rental boats. Also, Julington Creek west of the bridge and in the channel, and Durbin Creek in the channel have been known to produce some good catches in the past.
Fishing Report: This is best time to catch Specks. If you get a chance, give it a try. Take advantage of a pretty day and get the kids outside for some bream fishing in a neighborhood pond. No neighborhood pond? Try Trout Creek Marina south on State Road 13.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.
Email your Catch of the Month photo to email@example.com. Be sure to include the name of the person(s) in the photo, the name of the person who took the photo, the type of fish and date and location of the catch. We will select a photo each month for publication.
Photo courtesy David Vaughn
Dawson Vaughn, age 12 of Julington Creek with a bull redfish caught at the beaches jetties on Aug. 18, 2018. Bait was the lady fish he caught earlier in the morning.