Lake Okeechobee Crappie Fishing
The Florida Crappie fishing, speckled perch or speck’ as they are called throughout the State of Florida is the most sort after pan fish on Lake Okeechobee. Although the Florida crappie can be caught during the summer months, they really are at their best from late fall to early spring.
Go Lake Okeechobee freshwater fishing with your family and friends together for an affordable day of Florida crappie fishing on Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee comprises a 730-square-mile area and is the second-largest natural lake in the U.S., holding more than a trillion gallons of water.
Most fishing takes place along the southeastern, west and north portions of the lake within a mile of the shoreline. Look for hyacinths, hydrilla and other water plants where big bass ambush shiners, bluegills and other scaled groceries. They also pounce on frogs, crickets, worms, grasshoppers and pretty much any fish smaller than itself. Plastic imitations of those baits work well.
You know the deal black crappies speckled perch to most Floridians are about as smart as a dead bird, but fortunately they are a lot more abundant. Stick a minnow in their face, set the hook and start heating up the frying-pan as we say here on Okeechobee.
The fish are out there somewhere, but finding them can take a bit of work, as well as some electronic help. Basically, the fish usually hang near large schools of shad, which are easily spotted on a depth finder. You can run cross-hatch patterns across the lake at speed until you mark a couple of baitfish schools, then go back to them and start trolling in that area. They’ll typically hang in eight to 25 feet of water at this time of year—shallower on Lake Okeechobee, deeper in the clear canals.
Some guys toss a couple of marker buoys to help them map out a trolling route, or if you have a GPS, you can simply turn on the tracking function and let that map start your trolling course, with way points punched in where you’ve spotted baitfish.
The winner of a national championship crappie fish off this year used a Blakemore Roadrunner with a minnow attached, and a red hook suspended above it with a second
minnow. The Roadrunner is a little horse-head jig with a tiny spinner attached below the head. Lots of other jigs and spinners work well, including the Beetle Spin, Hal Fly, Blue Fox jig, Crappie buster, Crappie Magic, Crappie Pro, etc.
Does the red hook make any difference? Hard to say, but enough people who fish for money believe in them that they’re probably worth a try. Some new models of hooks are made to stand out horizontally from the main line, which acts as sort of a mini-spreader and may help the bite.
The big difference in jigs is the weight. If you’re fishing 14 feet of water on a day with 15-mph winds, it may take a 1⁄ 4-ounce head to keep the lure down within a couple feet of bottom where the fish are likely to be biting. On a calm day, on the other hand, you’ll catch more fish with a smaller head, down to 1⁄ 64 ounce. Take a selection to match whatever conditions you may face.
Colors are another factor that seems to have an impact on the catch rate. I have had it proven to me, repeatedly, that some color combos work better than others, and that the effective combo varies from lake to lake. It seems illogical, but the fish actually do sometimes want a yellow head, green body, yellow tail feather combo in
the Kissimmee River on the north end of Lake Okeechobee, for example, while around Clewiston on south end of Lake Okeechobee, just a few miles west on the north shore, they
might prefer a red head with gray body and gray tail feather. Considering that jigs don’t really look like minnows, whatever the color, it’s weird that the fish have a color preference, but at times they definitely do.
Whatever the lure choice, you won’t catch nearly as many specks on 20-pound-test as you will on six, and you’ll catch even more fish on four. We suspect the lure sinks deeper on the lighter, thinner lines, so it stays in the strike zone better. The visibility of the line could be a factor, too, as could the flex of thinner mono, giving a better action to the jig. Of course, when that rogue 5-pound large-mouth grabs the jig, you will have your hands full with 4-pound-test, but that’s one of life’s more pleasant surprises. A careful hand with four will whip any speck that ever lived.
Speaking of which, they did not call them paper mouths for nothing. Actually, Okeechobee crappie mouths are as soft as you will find, but it’s not a bad name because the skin around their mouths is a membrane so thin that you can see through it. Naturally, it tears easily if you try to poll them really fast aboard, so a landing net is an essential part of fishing for specks of a pound and up—and you will find plenty of them in open water as well as the rivers and canals on Lake Okeechobee.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy, particularly in the winter months, just before the major migration to shoreline cover to spawn, typically in January, February and March. Largemouth bass on Okeechobee take the stage as the biggest star, but anyone who’s jousted with a feisty bluegill, a tenacious crappie or a scrappy peacock bass knows the challenge and fun of these light-tackle showdowns. It would be a virtual sin to start any discussion about Florida’s freshwater fishing scene other than with Lake Okeechobee.
Bag limit for crappie (speckled perch) is 25 per person per day. Possession limit is two days’ bag limit per each licensed angler.
Here’s a lake map of the local rivers and canals in addition to Lake Okeechobee that are worthy of a visit.