By Terry Gibson

While crappie anglers across most of the country are laboring over ice augers and steaming breath just to get a line to the fish, Florida anglers are double checking tackle bags for sunscreen. We're one of the most underrated states for catching crappie, in part because down here we call them "speckled perch," or "paperfish," so diehards don't know we have 'em. Yep, we've got the same crappie lakes you would find around North America, and big ol' "slab specs" to boot. Winter and early spring are the best times to speck fish.

This winter has already proved a banner season for many of the best crappie lakes, with limits of "specks" coming from top lakes. Biologists with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission keep track of Florida crappie (and bass) populations on most major public lakes. Click here for FWC's assessments of the best crappie lakes in Florida, and for more information on these areas.

Best Lakes for Crappie Fishing

A couple of personal favorites are Lake Okeechobee, especially near Lakeport where Fisheating Creek runs into the Big O, and over near Buckhead Ridge where the Kissimmee River pours into Lake O.

Lake Arbuckle, near Sebring, produces plenty of fish especially in cool weather, and it's one of the most beautiful lakes in the state.

The Rodman Reservoir, near Palatka, is perennial champ in terms of speck numbers, and this year, it will be doubly good because a habitat restoration program will require a drawdown of water levels, which will concentrate the fish.