North Florida's Best Winter Bass Fisheries
By Terry Gibson
While old bucketmouth black bass deservedly gets most of the press there's another big-mouthed hard-fighting species in the state's fresh waters that enjoy more of a cult following: the striped bass. This species likes cool or even cold water so it's a prime wintertime target especially in North and Northwest Florida. Here are some top places to intercept a trophy striper.
Located a stone's throw from Tallahassee this 35 000-acre reservoir is located on the Florida-Georgia border in Gadsden and Jackson Counties. It is the headwater of the Apalachicola River and the body of water that produced the state record striped bass (42.25 pounds) as well as the striper/white bass hybrid called a "sunshine bass" (16.31 pounds) and white bass (4.69 pounds). The state stocks about 500 000 striped bass in these waters annually along with 200 000 sunshine bass. Prime season is NOW.
Even closer to Tallahassee Lake Talquin's striper fishery rivals the Lake Seminole fishery with plenty of double-digit fish and increasing numbers in the 20- to 30-pound range.
Escambia River and Bay were stocked with striped bass (200 000 fingerlings) in 2002 and sunshine bass (500 000 fingerlings) in 2003. The river has its headwaters in southern Alabama and is called the Conecuh in that state changing names as it comes into Florida and drains into Pensacola Bay. Most of the fish are caught in the lower 10 miles of the river except in spring when they run upriver.
Striped bass are one of the most popular sport fish near Jacksonville in the St. Mary's and Nassau rivers. They tend to overwinter in the lower rivers and move upstream above U. S. Hwy. 17 during the spring. On the St. Mary's River look for stripers between I-95 and the town of St. Mary's near the mouths of the larger tributaries along the deeper banks and the I-95 bridge pilings.