The prespawn period for Florida largemouth bass can produce some of the most exciting fishing of the year, and 2011 has certainly started out exciting. Since bass tune into environmental triggers such as day length, lunar cycle and especially, water temperature, timing of the actual spawn can vary. Generally, once water temperatures rise above 58 degrees, the bedding process begins and may continue until temperatures are in the mid- to upper-70s.
A couple of days before full or new moons in late February, March or early April are often premier spawning times for Florida bass. Remember, triggering water temperatures vary significantly based on depth, sun exposure and currents.
Individual anglers, guides and tournaments statewide are reporting incredible catches. Check these examples:Lake Tohopekaliga ("Toho")
- Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., caught 80 pounds, 13 ounces of bass during a three-day tournament. To accomplish that, he averaged over 5 pounds per bass in his five-fish bag limits each day, coming close to the all-time record of 85 pounds.Lake Kissimmee
- Tom Rewis of Orange City and Doug Chance of Deleon Springs combined for a five-bass stringer that topped 40 pounds - a mark considered hallowed ground - to win theCapt. Tony Strickland Memorial Bass Tournament out of Camp Mack in February. That is more than an average of 8 pounds per bass, with their largest being 10.71 pounds. The team of Dustin Bozeman of Lakeland and Chris Maxwell of Winter Haven had the big fish with a 10.76-pounder.
That is not all. Zack Mack from Murfreesboro, Tenn., hooked, fought, landed, weighed and released a 14-pound, 2-ounce Florida largemouth bass on Lake Kissimmee, close to the river's mouth, on Feb 2. Mack has witnesses and pictures.Lake Toho
- Mark Detweiler, who operates a marina there, recently reported consistent 24- to 26-pound stringers of fish just about every weekend.
Tim Coughlin, an FWC biologist involved in habitat restoration and enhancement in the Kissimmee chain, noted that some of the agency's earliest and most persistent efforts took place on these lakes, from drawdowns and tussock removal to transplanting native vegetation and scraping spawning areas. Chemical treatments are routinely necessary to maintain plants at desirable densities so they provide areas for fish to feed and spawn.
It is immensely satisfying when you see efforts like this pay off for anglers and the local business community.Lake Okeechobee
- Brandon McMillan of Belle Glade won the FLW-Outdoors Tournament and set a tour record in February with a 106-pound, 10-ounce, four-day winning weight. Lake Okeechobee is coming back, after the FWC came to its aid with special regulations, habitat improvement projects and even a restocking effort, according to FWC biologist Don Fox, who has spent nearly 30 years working on the lake.Rodman Reservoir
- Fishing guide Sean Rush of Ocala reported, "Rodman may be the hottest trophy bass lake anywhere right now!" He recently documented a one-day trip for two clients who caught and released 50 bass, including one over 12 pounds.Orange Lake
- The FWC modified the existing slot limit here to promote future supplies of trophy bass, by allowing harvest of just one bass per angler, per day, if longer than 24 inches. However, anglers who return their catches to the water can still record them for posterity. The FWC encourages bass anglers to apply for a "Big Catch" recognition certificate (MyFWC.com/Fishing
) for any bass longer than 24 inches or over 8 pounds caught in Florida. Coupons and the opportunity to win a fishing trip with Shaw Grigsby, tournament angler and host of "One More Cast," encourage anglers to document trophy bass caught in Orange Lake (http://OrangeLake.MyFWC.com
The water level on Orange Lake is low, concentrating bass but making fishing patterns challenging. To help increase your success, check with locals, review FWC quarterly fishing forecasts (MyFWC.com/Fishing
) or listen to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida's audio updates (www.WildlifeFlorida.org
The FWC has always considered largemouth bass a premier draw for local anglers and tourists and worked to ensure safe and sustainable quality bass fishing opportunities. This past year, however, we redoubled our efforts to reach out to the public, to work with stakeholders involved in the fishing industry, and to review all aspects of our bass fishery management efforts. The result is an evolving Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan for Florida (MyFWC.com/Fishing
) to make Florida the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.
If fishing success stories like those reported here continue to pile up, we are well on our way.