Florida is known as one of the top destinations in the world for fishing and its lakes are often full of crappie. With so much natural food sources in and submerged structure, crappies are able to thrive in the warm climate that the Sunshine State offers.
While most of the anglers throughout the United States simply refer to these fish as “crappie,” Floridians commonly use the term “specks” in relation to their official namesake of speckled perch.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of my choices for the best crappie fishing lakes in Florida and some useful tips to keep in mind related to each one.
Florida’s Best Speckled Perch Fishing
Whether you call them specks or crappie, one thing is clear: crappie fishing in Florida is almost always good throughout most of the year. Anglers travel from many miles away to visit this warm-weather crappie fishing haven.
During the winter, most lakes across America are experiencing frigid temperatures, but it’s usually very easy to find and catch crappie in Florida during this time. Most of my trips to Florida’s crappie lakes have been during the winter months, but anglers can enjoy great success in fall or spring as well.
Here are some of the top crappie fishing lakes in Florida to help plan your next fishing trip to the state that most anglers deem to be the speckled perch capital of the world.
Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater body in Florida and it’s well known for crappie fishing. This massive lake covers more than 730 square miles of surface water and is commonly referred to as the “Big O” among local anglers. There are numerous access points you can use to target the lake’s different sections, but I commonly prefer launching near the mouth of the Kissimmee River.
Lake Okeechobee is surprisingly shallow with an average depth of about 8 feet in most places. This makes locating crappie during warm spells especially tough. My favorite lure to use on Lake Okeechobee is a Roadrunner jig head with a chartreuse-colored body fished around any type of brush piles or logs.
Lake Talquin is located along the northern portion of Florida near the capital of Tallahassee. This sprawling 8,800-acre reservoir is known more for speckled perch than any other species found in freshwater fishing.
With an average depth of just 15 feet, it’s essential that anglers fish the holes and channels found throughout Lake Talquin, which can reach depths of about 40 feet. I like to use a dropshot rig with a Gulp 3-inch minnow during the winter months when fishing on Lake Talquin.
Lake Tohopekaliga is one of the larger waterways that anglers commonly think of when it comes to taking a crappie fishing trip. The lake is located less than an hour to the south of Orlando and is commonly referred to as “Lake Toho,” spanning nearly 19,000 acres.
Lake Tohopekaliga has an average depth of just 6 feet, which makes it very difficult to pinpoint exactly where crappie will be at different times of the year. One of my favorite times to visit Lake Toho is during the early winter as crappie will be expected to spawn during mid-to-late February. During this time, you can catch specks around brush piles or other structure using just about any kind of crappie jig.
Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake
Just a short drive south of Gainesville are two of the top Florida crappie lakes within close proximity to one another. Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake are separated by only about one mile and both crappie lakes offer premium fishing opportunities for anglers looking to fill their limit of speckled perch.
Like most other lakes in the Sunshine State, Orange Lake, and Lochloosa Lake are very shallow and full of thick vegetation and a variety of different kinds of grass growing along the bottom. On my crappie fishing trips to these lakes, I like to fish a beetle spin or Roadrunner jig head just above the tip of this grass to entice any crappie hiding to come up and strike.
Lake Istokpoga is another one of the best Florida crappie lakes, but it’s also one that is commonly associated with trophy largemouth bass fishing, too. Located in Highlands County, this large 26,700-acre lake is very shallow and known for producing high numbers of speckled perch throughout the year. This lake is full of different species of Florida fish and sits just a few miles to the east of Lake Placid.
From my experience fishing Lake Istokpoga, I’ve caught huge numbers of black crappie using live bait such as a Missouri minnow and grass shrimp. There aren’t many depth changes throughout Lake Istokpoga, so anglers commonly target any type of submerged vegetation or structure for shallow lakes like this.
Most Florida anglers flock to Lake Seminole at different times of the year to take part in everything from catching many of the lake’s bluegill populations to enjoying its largemouth bass fishing. Lake Seminole is farther north than any other body of water in Florida, which means it has a greater fluctuation in water temperatures from one season to another. This makes the spring spawning season especially fun for catching crappie.
Lake Seminole stretches more than 37,500 acres across the Florida-Georgia state line and offers plenty of different types of depth changes and underwater structure where crappie commonly like to hide. I have caught a good number of slabs in Seminole using small jigs of a variety of different colors during the spring season.
Another one of the top locations for crappie fishing in Florida is Lake Kissimmee. This lake is situated to the south of Orlando and is a well-known spot for anglers to catch crappie, as well as lots of other Florida fish species. Lake Kissimmee is nearly 35,000 acres in size and offers an average depth of just 5 feet.
In my exploits fishing for Florida crappie on this waterway, I have sought out the deeper holes that reach down to around 10 or 12 feet. In these deep sections, crappie will often sit and wait for schooling fish to swim by overhead before ambushing them. This makes small jigs a perfect lure of choice for just about any part of Lake Kissimmee.
Lake Weir is located north of Orlando and offers some of the best places to target crappie in central Florida. This natural lake stretches across more than 5,700 acres and features much deeper holes than most other top Florida crappie lakes. Some of these holes are as deep as 20 feet, creating excellent crappie fishing scenarios during winter and summer.
When fishing on Lake Weir, I like to target these deep holes with a dropshot rig when the weather is significantly hot or cold. During the spring when crappie are spawning, most anglers will seek out some of the brush piles and use various jig fishing techniques to catch black crappie.
Tenoroc Public Use Area
The Tenoroc Public Use Area is a waterway that earns a spot among our top Florida crappie lakes. This area is a series of 24 individual lakes that vary in size from 7 acres to more than 225 acres. These smaller lakes are great destinations for kayak anglers to enjoy excellent bass fishing, but some of the bigger lakes are known for their crappie populations.
The Tenoroc Public Use Area is located near Lakeland and is the result of filled-in sulfur mines that were created during the late 1950s through the 1970s. Due to the fairly recent nature of its creation, the Florida lakes comprising this public use area feature tons of natural underwater structures such as logs, brush piles, and deep holes where crappie can be found.
Lake Monroe and Lake Jesup
Two of the more popular lakes where anglers catch crappie just north of Orlando are Lake Monroe and Lake Jesup. These two waterways are natural lakes that form along the St. Johns River and offer outstanding black crappie fishing during the spring. These two lakes are virtually identical in size–both measuring about 8,000 acres.
Anglers Fishing on Lake Monroe or Lake Jesup can typically find success using live bait such as Missouri minnows fished around lily pads. The crappie spawn tends to bring in great numbers of fish during the late winter since each lake is very shallow compared to the river. Many anglers will target the St Johns River when temperatures are more extreme and crappie tend to retreat to deeper water.
Rodman Reservoir is another one of the best lakes for Florida crappie fishing. This waterway, which is also known as Lake Ocklawaha, is located in Putnam County along north central Florida. Rodman Reservoir spans more than 5,000 acres and features a number of natural stump formations and plenty of vegetation for crappie to use as cover.
Like most other lakes around north Florida, Rodman Reservoir features much deeper holes than the state’s southern freshwater fishing waterways. Anglers here commonly catch crappie using live bait like hal flies, but there are plenty of artificial lures that will attract a bite as well. Kayak fishing is often considered to be more favorable on Rodman Reservoir due to the vast stretches of standing timber that can be found on the water from when the lake was created in 1968.
Winter Haven Chain
The Winter Haven Chain is located in south central Florida and deserves a spot among our best crappie fishing lakes in Florida. Anglers can choose from one of the 50 lakes that make up this chain for their own type of crappie fishing adventure.
These lakes vary in size and most are very shallow, making it essential for anglers to fish deeper pockets that can be found throughout each one. Most crappie anglers prefer to use minnows or other types of live bait when fishing the Winter Haven Chain.
Lake Marian is another great place to find speckled perch in Florida’s central region. This lake is located to the east of Lake Wales and spans 5,800 acres in what has been nicknamed Fisherman’s Paradise. The lake is a common destination for bass anglers, but there are plenty of crappie to be found on Lake Marian, too.
This lake is relatively shallow and doesn’t get as much fishing pressure as some of the other lakes on our list. I prefer night fishing on Lake Marian and targeting dock lights and other fish attractors for the best chance of catching summer slabs.
Lake Rousseau is ideal for crappie fishing in Florida known for producing monster crappie during the spawn. This Florida lake measures about 3,700 acres and is situated along the Withlacochee and Rainbow Rivers in the central portion of the state.
This lake was created in the early 1900s and has more of a reputation during the late spring for abundant numbers of redear sunfish, which are locally referred to as “stumpknockers.” This is another one of my favorite places to visit when crappies spawn during the late winter as there are huge slabs to be found among the grass beds and lily pads.
Florida Crappie Fishing Bag Limits, Size Limits, and Regulations
Anglers are allowed to keep up to 25 speckled perch per day in any one of Florida’s lakes. Each crappie must measure at least 10 inches in total length in order to be harvested. Be aware of the regulations regarding cleaning fish while on the water. Anglers on Florida lakes are not allowed to filet or remove the head or tail fin from any species of panfish (including speckled perch) until the angler has completed fishing for the day.
As always, be sure to purchase a fishing license before you reach your destination when fishing for crappie in Florida.
Final Thoughts on Crappie Fishing in Florida
Catching crappie in Florida is a great deal of fun and excitement. It’s an ideal destination for winter fishing when lakes around the rest of the country are either frozen or extremely cold, making fish sluggish and less likely to bite. If you use the tips we’ve provided for any of the lakes on this list, you’re bound to fill your cooler with a limit of specks and make lasting memories in the process.
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