Striped bass are found primarily in the Apalachicola and the St. Johns rivers and their tributaries, and to a lesser extent in Lake Talquin and the Ochlockonee, Blackwater, Nassau and St. Marys rivers. Striped bass need long stretches of flowing water to reproduce successfully, and these conditions are rarely found in Florida. Stripers do not tolerate water temperatures over 75oF for long; during Florida summers, striped bass become less active and must find cool water springs or canopied streams to survive. Because of this, striped bass populations are maintained only through annual stockings from Commission and federal hatcheries.
The best striper fishing occurs from fall through spring, when fish are actively feeding. Live shad are very effective, particularly below Jim Woodruff Dam on the Apalachicola River. Stripers may weigh up to 60 pounds; use heavy tackle with 3- to 4-oz. weights in high flow areas. In the St. Johns River, the Croaker Hole and the jetties at the south end of Lake George are good fall and spring striper areas, and the first few miles of the Wekiva River have several locations where stripers congregate. Live menhaden, golden shiners, croakers or eels are good choices as bait. Lures, like rattletraps, that resemble baitfish also produce impressive strikes, including heavy jigs, as well as sinking and floating lures in white, chrome or chartreuse.
White bass are found in the Apalachicola River, Ochlockonee River and Lake Talquin. In the same family as stripers, white bass seldom exceed four pounds, with one- to two-pound fish more common. The best white bass fishing occurs in the spring, when fish move upriver to spawn. Small crayfish or grass shrimp on #4 hooks fished in deep river bends or at the edge of sand bars are effective baits. Put a 1/4oz. egg sinker above your swivel, with an 8- to 12-inch leader tied to your hook; use lighter line for the leader, so if you get snagged you don't have to replace the complete rig. Small jigs in white or brown are often productive.
The sunshine bass, a hybrid of striped bass and white bass, is artificially spawned at Commission hatcheries. Hybrids are stocked in lakes with an abundance of gizzard and threadfin shad. Sunshine bass are also stocked together with stripers in some river systems, and some of the best fishing is found in the Apalachicola and St. Johns rivers. The mouth of the Escambia River near Pensacola has good hybrid fishing, and sunshine bass feed around the fish attractors in Newnan's Lake near Gainesville. Live bait, including shad, grass shrimp and crayfish are especially effective, but jigs, spoons and imitation-minnow plugs also produce. In urban lakes, shrimp, squid and even cut-up pieces of hot dogs will attract sunshine bass. Sunshine bass readily concentrate around mechanical feeders that periodically dispense food pellets.