Courtesy photo The Florida Black Crappie, otherwise known as a Speck, is quite plentiful in area waters Ð and is quite tasty as well.
published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Speck Fishing - On again, Off again
In Florida, black crappie, known locally as "specks," are not just another fish in the pond.
In fact, they are considered "the other white meat" by many of us who love their clean, white meat and delicious gentle flavor.
Florida black crappie are more numerous than the state's black bass and just as sought after.
After the Florida largemouth black bass, Florida black crappie are the second most popular freshwater species targeted in Florida.
If you haven't tried fall/winter crappie fishing, you're missing out on one of the most productive and reliable times to catch this tasty panfish.
You'd be surprised to find out how many more people would rather fish for crappie than Florida bass.
Approximately 1.2 crappie are caught per hour in Florida, and only 0.7 bass per hour.
Florida black crappie are not only sought after by fishermen, but they're also on the main menu for black bass.
Crappie are a very prolific fish.
It only takes a couple crappie to start an entire school.
This is one of the reasons for the seriousness of the FWC black crappie stocking program.
Last year alone, the FWC produced nearly 20,000 crappie for stocking throughout the state.
Without exception, all the lakes in Okeechobee, Highlands and Polk counties have plenty of crappies, but they can be an extremely finicky fish, often shutting down and turning on with minor changes in air and water temperatures.
John Wood, owner of Lorida Bait and Tackle told me just a few weeks back, fishermen were catching 100 specks a day on Lake Istokpoga, with 75-percent too small, but the 25-percent that were large enough to keep were in the 10-inch plus size range, with a few over 15-inches.
"The weather seemed to warm up again and the speck just stopped biting," John said. "Fishermen are still catching a few up around Grassy Island and in the deeper holes further south, but the big schools have just been hard to locate."
Many crappie fishermen fish with live minnows, rigged on specially created "crappie rigs," while others troll with minnows and small jigs.
John mentioned that the fishermen recently trolling at a speed of about 8/10 of a mile were having the best success, catching fewer crappie, but larger ones.
Crappie can be found virtually anywhere in a body of water but during the fall/winter season they school up and often spend their time in deeper water following schools of minnows.
Water depths vary, depending on the lake.
In Lake Istokpoga, as well as Lake Okeechobee and Lake Walk-in-Water, depths will range from 6-9 feet, while in other, smaller lakes like Lotela, Glenada and Jackson, the larger schools of crappie may be in depths of 20 feet or more.
A good depth finder can prove to be a valuable tool in locating them.
Slab crappies take a delicate touch bringing them on board.
Known for their "paper-mouths," many a fishermen has experienced losing the "big one" boat side.
Over the past two weeks, my fishing has suffered due to a 4-day trip to Houston and three days in St. Louis, but I finally got out late last Sunday and experimented with my new quest for really big bass.
Trolling an AC Plug and a Pike Minnow on Lake Lotela, I caught three bass that weren't much larger than the plugs.
After a few hours of trolling, I finally went back to casting a bass assassin and missed my first two strikes in open water.
Casting into a new area of reeds along the shallower section where the two larger bodies of water meet, I was just about to lift my bass assassin out of the water for another cast when a huge bass exploded on it boat side.
The bass assassin is a great top-water bait and generally works best over vegetation, although quite often a bass will follow it back to the boat and strike the lure violently in open water.
The bass was a real beauty, 5.7 pounds on my electronic scale.
Just goes to show what I've always said.
When you target big bass, you may or may not get one, but just "plugging away" a big fish can hit at any time.
That reminds me, one of my readers, Dixie Lee Burns wanted me to encourage everyone to "catch and release" and use waste containers for discarded line, wrappers and empty plastic containers.
I released the bass back into the water and caught a few more yearlings as I watched the storm clouds begin to gather across the lake.
Before I headed out for Lake Lotela, my wife reminded me that I had promised my Mother-in-Law, Ruth Charvat, who lives with us and loves a good fish dinner, that when the fall season arrived, I'd be catching some crappie.
Since I hadn't really done much crappie fishing, I picked up some minnows, in case the bass fishing was slow, figuring I could catch a few slabs before I called it a day.
Studying my depthfinder, I found what appeared to be schools of baitfish in and around the 23- foot depth, so I rigged up a couple of poles, baited up with minnows and dropped them down.
I normally drift-fish with two rods, and while I was baiting up my second rod, the tip of my first rod went down and I recognized my first crappie bite.
There's one, I thought, a nice 9-inch fish, and I figured I must be on a school so catching a half dozen for dinner shouldn't be too difficult.
Thirty minutes later, as the sky turned darker and the rain started to fall, I'd had a few more missed opportunities, but just the one crappie in my livewell.
One crappie was not going to feed the three of us, but I knew it would be enough for Mom.
I headed for home, filleted the one crappie and my Mother-in-Law said it was the best fish she had ever eaten.
Now I need to go catch some more!
Gary Albin, owner/operator of Trails End Fishing Resort on Lake Istokpoga is sponsoring a "Big Fish Shiner Tournament" on Lake Istokpoga, Saturday, Nov. 3.
The purpose of the event is to help our military men, women and families through the Wounded Warrior Program.
The cost is $75 per boat.
For more information call 863-655-0134.
Don Norton is a professional tournament bass fisherman, bass fishing guide, and custom rod builder. He has also taught a few fishing classes at the South Florida Community College. He lives in the Golf Hammock area of Sebring with his wife Lexie and is the owner of a custom rod building company appropriately named "The American Fisherman". He can be reached at 216-339-6571, 330-635-6682 or by email at email@example.com. His website address is theamericanfisherman.com.
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