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GAR

COMMON NAMES: Longnose and Florida gar.

RELATED SPECIES: Alligator and spotted gar, found only in northwest Florida.

RANGE: Longnose are in Lake Okeechobee and north throughout the state. Florida gar are in the Ochlockonee River and south and east throughout the state.

HABITAT: Gar mostly stay near underwater vegetation in torpid lowland lakes, canals or streams with sandy or muddy bottoms. Longnose gar occasionally enter brackish water and sometimes venture out of coastal rivers into saltwater. The gar can tolerate poor water quality with low oxygen content by breathing air through its air bladder.

SPAWNING SEASON: December through March. Males and females congregate in shallow, heavily vegetated waters where females discharge eggs among submerged plants. Eggs adhere to vegetation, and when larval gar hatch, they remain attached to aquatic plants with an adhesive organ at the tip of their snout until they are about }-inch long. The snout organ atrophies as the fish matures.

STATE RECORD: Longnose - 41 pounds, caught in Lake Panasoffkee, 1985; Florida - 7 pounds, caught in Ocklawaha River, 1988.

REGULATIONS: Gar are non-game fish with no size, bag or season limits. However, each species plays a vital role in the ecosystem, so fish responsibly.

TACKLE & TACTICS: Gar often grab live shiners intended for bass and trotline cut baits intended for catfish and softshell turtles. Anglers targeting gar soak dead shiners, clumps of wiggler worms or cut bait in dark, still water areas. (Gamefish including black bass, striped bass, white bass, sunshine bass, peacock bass, panfish and chain pickerel may not be used whole or in part as bait.) Gar may be taken by manually operated spears, gigs, snatch hooks, crossbows or bows during daylight. Netting gar is legal but ill-advised; the toothy fish often damage nets.

Source: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

BASS

COMMON NAMES: Black bass, Florida bass, bigmouth, bucketmouth, linesides, Oswego bass and green trout.

RELATED SPECIES: Suwannee, redeye, shoal and spotted bass.

RANGE: Statewide.

HABITAT: Largemouth can be found in rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. They prefer clear, still water with shoreline vegetation or submerged timber utilized for shelter and ambush points when feeding. They usually are found near structure with quick access to deep water. They occasionally are found in brackish regions of rivers and estuaries.

SPAWNING SEASON: Largemouth spawn December through May. The heaviest time typically is in February and March, when water temperature reaches 58 to 65 degrees. Males build saucer-shaped nests about 2{ feet in diameter along hard-bottom shorelines or in protected coves and canals. The female lays as many as 100,000 eggs, and the male fertilizes them as they fall into the nest. The male guards the nest and the hatching fry as the female rests in deeper water. While on the nest, bass will viciously attack anything that approaches. But instead of eating the intruder, they will kill it and spit it away from the nest.

STATE RECORD: 17.27 pounds.

REGULATIONS: 5 black bass aggregate a day, only one of which may be 22 inches or longer. Black bass kept south and east of the Suwannee River must be at least 14 inches in total length. Black bass kept in the Suwannee River, north and west of the Suwannee and tributary of the Suwannee must be at least 12 inches in total length.

TACKLE & TACTICS: Soaking live wild shiners on 20-pound baitcasting gear under hydrilla beds, overhanging shoreline shrubbery or around fallen trees is most effective for jumbo bass of 8 pounds or more. Shiner size varies from about 4 inches to a foot. The larger baits intimidate small bass, so takers will be huge. For artificials, Texas-rigged plastic worms are preferred for probing broad areas and locating fish. Ideal colors are black grape, junebug, red shad and Tequila Sunrise. A variety of soft plastic jerk baits can replace worms. These lures are good for working higher in the water column. Sputtering topwater lures are particularly productive at dawn and dusk. Crankbaits with flashy sides and built-in rattles are good for reaching bass in deep water, and noisy spinnerbaits worked close to any likely structure often irritate a resting bass into striking. For fly-rodders, poppers, dragonfly imitators and minnow pattern wet flies are effective. Quarter-ounce bucktail or plastic body jigs also will produce.

Source: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

PANFISH

COMMON NAMES: Bluegill (bream, copperbelly); redear sunfish (shellcracker); spotted sunfish (stumpknocker); round sunfish (flier); black crappie (speckled perch, papermouth); warmouth perch (goggle-eye, redeye).

RELATED SPECIES: Redbreast sunfish, found only in northern Florida; white crappie, found in Georgia and Alabama.

RANGE: Spotted sunfish can be found throughout peninsular Florida. Black crappie can be found statewide, except in the Florida Keys. Flier are in central to north Florida. All others are found statewide.

HABITAT: Bluegill like quiet, weedy water over sand, mud or gravel. Redear sunfish like open, offshore water near stumps, roots and logs. Redear can tolerate brackish water and often are found in a river's tidal area. Spotted sunfish can be found in slow, heavily vegetated rivers and streams with limestone, sand or gravel bottoms. Round sunfish are in dark, heavily vegetated coastal swamps, creeks, ponds and canals. Round sunfish have the highest acidity tolerance of the sunfish. Black crappie like clear lakes, reservoirs and large, slow rivers with moderate vegetation. Warmouth perch are in swamps, marshes, shallow lakes, slow streams and canals. Warmouth can tolerate muddier conditions than most species.

SPAWNING SEASON: Bluegill bed April through October in large groups over sand, gravel or mud among plant roots. Redear sunfish bed March through August over firm, shell bottom near aquatic vegetation. Spotted sunfish nest alone near vegetation May through November. Round sunfish nest alone or in small groups March through August. Black crappie nest in colonies over gravel or soft, muddy bottoms near vegetation February through April. Warmouth perch nest alone near submerged objects between April and August.

STATE RECORD: Bluegill _ 2 pounds, 15.25 ounces. Redear sunfish _ 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Spotted sunfish _ 13.25 ounces. Round sunfish _ 1 pound, 1 ounce. Black crappie _ 4 pounds, 8 ounces. Warmouth perch _ 2 pounds, 7 ounces.

REGULATIONS: 50 fish aggregate, no size limits.

TACKLE & TACTICS: Live worms, grass shrimp or crickets fished on cane poles or light spinning gear is effective for most species. Many also will hit dryflies, poppers, tiny jigs, spinners and small surface plugs. Black crappie like Missouri minnows, slow-trolled or fished under corks.

Source: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

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