By David Lifka
Spring is here which means area fishing will soon be going into high gear. Spring time is traditionally the season of the year which welcomes the return of many species of fish.
One of those species of fish that will soon be making a big splash at our favorite freshwater fishing spots is the largemouth bass. With water temperatures on the rise, largemouths will begin their retreat from their deep water winter hideaways and return to shallower depths with a voracious appetite, looking to devour most any bait that crosses their paths.
March has consistently been Florida’s most active month for catching largemouth bass with more largemouths, as well as trophy-sized largemouths, being caught in March than any other month of the year.
This holds true for our neck of the woods as largemouths are usually at some stage of spawning during the month, making them more plentiful and accessible to catch. Live bait usually works best, but during this time of the year even artificial baits are hard for a bass to refuse.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is now in its fourth year of sponsoring a program called TrophyCatch, an incentive based, citizen science, catch-and release program for anglers who catch largemouth bass heavier than eight pounds in Florida. Everyone who registers in this free program qualifies to win a $40,000 bass boat at the end of this year, regardless of the size of the catch. Every bass submitted that was caught on Florida waters can earn the angler prizes from TrophyCatch sponsors. By participating in this program, anglers are helping the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to gather data and evaluate management programs.
Last year seven of the top 10 heaviest largemouths submitted to TrophyCatch were caught in a little more than an hour’s drive or less from our Mandarin/St. Johns neighborhoods. Many of the more than 1,200 qualifying catches submitted were caught in neighborhood and golf course ponds, in addition to creeks, rivers and lakes. To be able to participate just go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com where you will find all the rules and an online registration form.
In addition to TrophyCatchFlorida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission also offers “Big Catch,” which is a family-friendly freshwater angler recognition program that covers 33 different freshwater fish. More information on this particular program can be found at BigCatchFlorida.com.
Fishing Report: Now is the best time for that trophy largemouth. A wild shiner fished near any shoreline, dock or natural cover could produce some really nice fish. Surf fishing at the beach for whiting, blues and others will increasingly get better. Look for a pretty day, calm winds and a changing tide to increase your chances of leaving with a bucket full.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.