Last winter, I was at Slim’s Fish Camp in Belle Glade buying some panfish lures with my bride-to-be, Teresa. I was explaining that the Beetle Spins are the ticket for bluegills, shellcrackers and small bass, but that they also work really well for “speckled perch,” or “specks” as most South Floridians refer to one of the nation’s most popular and tasty of freshwater species.
A couple was standing in the same aisle eyeing the assortment of lures as well, and the man said to me, “Excuse me, but what’s a “speck’?” In my travels I have learned that folks just about everywhere else call the fish a “crappie.” In fact, the official common name of P. nigromaculatus is the “black crappie.”
We spoke for a while, and I was happy to tell these nice folks from Tennessee where to catch a mess of these delicious fish. Winter is “speck” season in South Florida, and folks are routinely limiting out in these easy-to-access areas around Lake Okeechobee.
In the Pahokee and Canal Point area, land-based anglers are catching plenty of fish. The Pahokee Pier has really been producing. Also, check the gates where you find flowing water. Accommodations and more can be found at the Pahokee Marina & Campground.
In the Belle Glade and South Bay areas, land-based anglers are filling buckets from the floating dock at the South Bay boat ramp. Boaters are catching fish in the dynamite holes and around the Torry Island Bridge. The Torry Island Campground and the South Bay Campground there are great places to stay. Lots of winter visitors come down in RVs with a boat in tow.
In the Clewiston area, anglers do well at night in the lights around the lock. Boaters do will drifting minnows along the Clewiston Ship Channel and in the dynamite holes. You can also catch a mess of fish out in the grass, flipping crappie jigs against the bulrushes and other emergent vegetation. This tactic works anywhere there’s grass on Lake Okeechobee. The Roland Martin Marina has accommodations ranging from RV campground to condos.
From Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp to Lakeport, catches are coming from the spillways and piers, and around the bridge over the Sportsman’s Canal. There are a bunch of RV campgrounds in this area, and the Lakeport Lodge & Motel has long welcomed anglers.
From Okeechobee to Lakeport, the mouth of the Kissimmee River is—as usual—producing more fish than just about any other area along the lake. But the bridge in and the mouth of the Indian Prairie Canal as well as nearby canals are hot as well. The folks at the Buckhead Ridge Camping & Fishing Resort are always helpful.
Top tactics include fishing minnows under bobbers in fixed or boat-mounted lights. Jigs under bobbers also work well at night around lights, and in the daytime fished against emergent vegetation. Trolling Beetle Spins is a good way to find fish. Once you locate a school, cast the lure instead. Jigging points and structure is another proven speck-catching tactic.
One of our favorite meals, once the “work” is done, is fried speck with collared greens and hush puppies. Yum!