April showers bring May flowers, but in Florida there is already an abundance of blooms and a bonanza of freshwater fishing opportunities that began earlier this spring. All across the state, anglers have reported great catches of a variety of freshwater fishes. Anglers especially target sunfishes moving into the shallows to spawn in spring.
Black crappie (specks), redbreast sunfish and largemouth bass begin
spawning when water temperatures get over 62 degrees. Crappie will stop
spawning before bass, which continue to work the beds until it warms up
to about 75 degrees. They are followed by redear sunfish (70- to
80-degree waters) and bluegill (75-85). Research and angler lore
indicate these fish key their peak activity to a few days before and
after full and new moons during spring.
April is a favorite time of year for freshwater anglers, not only
because fish congregating in the shallows provide great catch rates with
lots of quality-size fish, but also because temperatures tend to be
comfortable for an outdoor expedition. Another reason is that the first
Saturday in April each year (April 6, this year) is a license-free
freshwater fishing day across the state. People are exempt from needing a
license that day, so it is a great opportunity to reach out to people
who don’t have a freshwater fishing license and show them how much fun a
day on the water can be. Or, perhaps you have children who have been
bugging you to go, and you haven’t wanted to buy a license to accompany
them. Now is your chance.
In Florida, nearly everyone is within 45 minutes of a fishing hole.
For help finding a location or fishing tips and seasonal fishing
forecasts, check out MyFWC.com/Fishing (under “Freshwater Fishing,”
choose “Sites & Forecasts”).
Quarterly forecasts by biologists are supplemented with links to local
bait-and-tackle shops, marinas or guides for even more timely updates.
Florida’s Big Catch Angler Recognition Program provides an
opportunity for anglers to commemorate impressive freshwater catches
with a certificate and having their photo posted online. Thirty-three
different species are included in the program, and all it takes to
participate is a photo of a fish that exceeds either a specified length
or weight. It’s a great incentive for youth, who can qualify by catching
fish that are roughly 25 percent smaller than qualifying measures for
adult anglers. Visit MyFWC.com/BigCatch for more details and to enroll.
However, the ultimate challenge is the race for the biggest trophy
bass of the year. Florida’s fame as a bass-fishing destination lies in
an abundance of lakes and rivers that consistently produce trophy-size
bass. To document locations and frequency of bass catches over 8 pounds,
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) launched
in October with support from industry partners. The goal is to enhance
and sustain trophy bass fisheries and to promote Florida as the Bass
Fishing Capital of the World, based on documented catches.
To participate, catches must be verified by the FWC for the angler to
earn awards. For Lunker Club (8 to 9.9 pounds) and Trophy Club (10 to
12.9 pounds), verification requires photos of the entire bass showing
its length and weight, and then the bass must be released. Photos are
submitted via the website. For Hall of Fame bass, which earn for the
angler a free replica valued at $500 and an additional $500 in other
prizes, the fish must be caught before the end of April and weighed on
certified scales by an FWC representative. If you catch one, keep it
alive and call 855-FL-TROPHY. From May through September, bass over 13
pounds can still be photo-documented as Trophy Club bass, but they won’t
be entered into the Hall of Fame, to prevent undue stress from warmer
The biggest fish of the year currently is a 13-pound, 14-ounce
monster caught by Bob Williams, while fishing wild shiners on Rodman
Reservoir, with guide Sean Rush (Trophy Bass Expeditions). Check out
YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida to see a video of the current
leaderboard, including Williams’ catch.
Now it’s your turn! Enjoy the great freshwater fishing Florida has
for you this spring. Make memories and celebrate them through Florida’s
angler recognition programs at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, and if you
release a lunker bass, you’ll be able to say “My Trophy Swims in