Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) freshwater fisheries biologists from across the state recently weighed in to suggest fishing sites that novice to expert anglers might want to try out in 2011 for a variety of species.
Florida is the "Fishing Capital of the World" due to great resources and responsible management. Those great resources include a wide variety of fishing opportunities throughout the state. Every winter, biologists select some of the larger water bodies they recommend anglers try out.
To make their recommendations biologists use information such as creel count (data from actual anglers' on-the-water success for the previous year); electrofishing data (a sampling method that uses electric currents to stun fish so they can be netted, examined and released); tournament data; Big Catch results (the FWC's popular angler-recognition program); state records; interviews with local guides and bait-and-tackle shop owners; and their own fishing experiences.
All of the sites selected are large enough and have adequate public access facilities to accommodate additional fishing pressure and still provide great fishing opportunities. We also try to take into account recent or anticipated weather or vegetation trends that might impact angling success throughout the year.
The results are posted on MyFWC.com/Fishing
(see "Fishing Sites and Forecasts") each January. In addition, that site also provides quarterly fishing forecasts for major water bodies in each region of the state, along with fishing tips and information about all of Florida's recreational freshwater fishes.
Of course, one of these lists features largemouth bass, the most popular sport fish in North America, and one which has been a jewel in Florida's crown since the first angler cast a hook alongside a lily pad. Long before that, it was a gem for native fishermen casting a fish spear or a gorge (the predecessor of fish hooks) - typically a bone with an off-center hole attached to a line. When a fish swallowed it and the fishermen pulled on the line, the gorge stuck in the fish's throat.
Another piece of good news is that Lake Okeechobee, the "Big Waters" in the midst of the renowned River of Grass, is back on the list. Following a series of environmental calamities, including prolonged high water and hurricanes, the lake's resiliency and management efforts have generated a bass resurgence. Other featured black bass waters include perennial favorites, such as the Everglades Conservation Areas; lakes George, Istokpoga, Kissimmee, Monroe, Seminole, Talquin, Tarpon, Toho and Walk-in-Water; Mosaic and Tenoroc fish management areas; Orange Lake; Rodman Reservoir; and the Suwannee River.
Who knows? You might land a trophy fish by trying out these hotspots. A yellow bullhead caught in the Crystal River on Dec. 17 became the new state record for that species. Tom Flynn of Homosassa was fishing with minnows he caught at a boat ramp when he hooked the catfish. The new state record yellow bullhead weighed 5 pounds, .75 ounces and was 20 inches in length.
Please check out MyFWC.com/Fishing
, under "Fishing Sites and Forecasts," to learn more about these destinations and how your fishing license dollars help ensure the future of quality freshwater fishing throughout Florida, so people can keep catching various bass species; crappie, bream or bluegill; shellcrackers or stumpknockers; redbreast sunfish; and catfish or bullheads.
We hope you will try your luck fishing for a new species or testing some of these outstanding fishing holes this year to expand your enjoyment, and we encourage you to take a kid fishing. It's likely a tossup between bluegill and catfish for having generated most of those awesome "first fish" smiles for millions of young and not-so-young anglers in Florida. Regardless, for a kid, fishing is inexpensive, fun, healthy and a great way to spend quality time with someone you care about away from the stresses of daily life.
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License
or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling *FWC or #FWC on your cell, or 888-404-3922.