Anglers Welcome

By: Joseph Hayes

The Tallahassee area's abundance of lakes, rivers and wilderness preserves make it an ideal destination for fishers.

Say "Florida" to the average vacationers and images of roller coasters and cartoon characters may pop immediately to mind... unless their idea of a perfect vacation includes waking up before sunrise and taking to the water with a keen eye and a fishing reel in hand. A break like that calls for a Florida destination decidedly to the north.

Sport fishing rivals the theme parks as a draw for tourists, families and sports enthusiasts coming to Florida. And the abundance of lakes, rivers and wilderness preserves in the Tallahassee area makes it an ideal destination for both the optimistic fisher and vacationing eco-tourist. Located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, newcomers will find a longer, cooler fishing season in the Tallahassee area than what they might expect in the Sunshine State – along with some of the premier bass fishing in the country.

In fact, there are so many top lake and river fishing locations in the Tallahassee area that it's almost impossible to list them all, but even the highlights are hard to resist.

Catch bream, shellcracker and speckled perch on Lake Talquin, formed in 1927 by the construction of the Jackson Bluff Dam on the Ochlockonee River. The lake is touched by the 17,000-acre Lake Talquin State Forest and the 400-acre Lake Talquin State Park. There are plentiful opportunities for boating and hiking. Many believe that Lake Talquin is the state's best lake for catching striped bass – winter, spring or summer. In the spring, largemouth bass move into the shallow waters of the lake. Summer months find an increase in floating plants such as water lily pads, which make a perfect home for small inhabitants like sunfish and bluegill. And where there are bait fish, there are bass. Camping and RV services can be found at Coe's Landing, and picnicking and dock fishing can be found at Lake Talquin State Park adjacent to Jack Vause boat landing – all accessible from State Road 20.

Fisher-folk can find pickerel and sunfish while enjoying the 4,000-acre wood surrounding Lake Iamonia, north of Tallahassee. Named after an Indian town, Iamonia itself is spread over 5,700-plus acres. As a prairie lake, it is very shallow averaging just five feet deep, with abundant vegetation and a constantly flowing sink hole. Kayaks or canoes are great ways to get around, fish and observe wildlife. May is the time when large, record-sized bluegills arrive among the lily pads lining the boat channels, but Lake Iamonia is known for great fishing year-round. On Lake Iamonia, it isn't unheard of to catch a largemouth bass in the heat of summer.

Troll for striped and Suwannee bass in the Ochlockonee River. Running across Leon County north to south, the Ochlockonee is resplendent with natural beauty and tea-colored waters as it winds its way towards the Gulf. The Upper River is home to a redbreast sunfish fishery, where the spunky, blue-accented Suwannee bass makes its Florida home, spawning from February to June. In May, while the bellowing of courting alligators can be heard resounding from the swamplands, redbreasted sunfish and spotted sunfish begin spawning in rivers. August and September mornings bring freshwater shad swimming up the Lower River to spawn. Too bony to be an eating fish, some anglers catch them for sport - but schooling bass consider them a delicacy, so take the opportunity to snag a few during their feeding. The Lower River runs through Ochlockonee River State Park, 42 miles south of Tallahassee, with camping and canoe rentals. At the park, you might catch a fresh water large mouth bass on one catch and then a nice fat redfish on the next. With the diversity of both salt and fresh water species that can be caught within the park's waterways, this area does not take a back seat to anywhere in Florida.

Fishing in Florida provides great recreational opportunities. To help sustain the resource and provide fishing access, most anglers will need a fishing license. Visit for details and to purchase a license, or call 1-888-FISH-FLOrida (888-347-4356). In general, if you are under 16 years of age or a resident age 65 or older, you are exempt. In addition, if you fish on a licensed saltwater charter boat or fishing pier, their license covers your fishing fun. You can also find licenses and regulations at many tackle shops, fish camps, hardware or sporting goods stores and tax collector offices.

If you want to explore the Tallahassee area's waterways without your fishing pole, consider a boating expedition that brings you eye-to-eye with the area's flora and fauna. The Wilderness Way offers guided kayak tours on many of North Florida's lazy rivers and tidal creeks. Come aboard and you may get a glimpse of wildlife such as manatees, eagles, 'gators, warblers and wading birds. There's much to hook your interest here, on land and under water.

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