Florida has roughly 2 million anglers. About another 1 million out-of-state anglers also fish here every year. With more than 700 world records to its credit - more than any other state or country - Florida can honestly claim the title of "Fishing Capital of the World."
But while saltwater fishing may get most of the attention, it was Florida's trademark species that first put the state on the international sportfishing map. March is peak time for bass fishing in Florida, and the odds of catching a "trophy" - a fish 10 pounds or larger - are good.
Many believe Florida's largemouth bass is a distinct species; others think it's merely a subspecies. But the debate is academic. No one disputes that Florida's fish grow bigger and fatter than any other species of bass. One reason is a year-round growing season; warm water and ample vegetation make for big bass.
Micropterus salmoides floridanus were once found only on the Florida peninsula, but they have since been introduced in Texas, California and as far away as Japan. Females live longer than males and are more likely to reach trophy size. Most conservation-minded anglers release large, breeding fish.
Regulations may vary from lake to lake. For a complete list of current rules, click here.
With more than 7,700 named lakes, Florida has no shortage of places to catch the state's freshwater fish, largemouth bass. Here are some of the spots to consider putting on your bass fishing list:
Lake Tarpon: One of the best bass fishing lakes in Florida is located right in the middle of a major metropolitan area and is easily accessible. While Lake Tarpon may be in the state's most densely populated county, it has miles of wild shoreline brimming with bass. The 2,500-acre lake, located in Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs, has consistently ranked among the state's best despite its suburban setting.
Lake Tohopekaliga: Located just south of Orlando in Kissimmee, Lake Tohopekaliga, or Lake Toho for short, is a frequent stop on the professional bass fishing tours. In 2001, this lake made international news when angler Dean Rojas set a Bass Anglers Sportsman Society record by weighing and releasing 108 pounds of bass during a tournament. During the four days of fishing, anglers caught and released 21 bass that weighed 10 pounds or more.
Lake Istokpoga: A large (28,000 acres) yet relatively shallow lake (an average of just 6 feet deep), Istokpoga, just outside of Lake Placid, is another "big number" bass lake in the Kissimmee Chain. Several years ago, a late-spring fishing trip to Istokpoga went down in my personal record book after every cast seemed to result in a strike. The lake has two large islands - Big Island and Bumblebee - which make this a particularly scenic and productive spot.