(3.2) FISH and/or FISHING - The Middle Ocklawaha River: Its Fish, Fishery, and Fishing

The Middle Ocklawaha River of Marion County, Florida
Its Fish, Fishery, and Fishing

The Middle Ocklawaha River


An Information, Opinion, Photos, & Sources Report
Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca
With the assistance of Captain Erika Ritter
Created:  07 May 2015
Last Revised:  07 November 2017

The Middle Ocklawaha River



NOTE:  Click-on individual photos to enlarge them!


Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass


IS IT THE OCKLAWAHA RIVER OR THE OKLAWAHA RIVER?

The United States Board on Geographic Names in 1992 changed the official spelling back to Ocklawaha, which was the original traditional way that this river's name was spelled from 1824 until 1892. The Federal government had officially decided in 1892 that the spelling should be Oklawaha and it was so for a century. OCKLAWAHA (Native American for crooked or great water) is the correct way since 1992 to spell its name.


Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass


THE OCKLAWAHA RIVER and ITS FISHERY

The 30 September 1968 completion of Rodman Dam caused the loss of 21 river miles of free-flowing riverine ecosystem. Florida's peninsula was blessed by the Creator with thousands of lakes but very few swift-flowing streams of any considerable length. The pre-Rodman Dam 56-mile long Ocklawaha River-Silver River system was unique in this state by virtue of having one of the world's greatest-flow 1st magnitude artesian spring groups (73 degree F Silver Springs) as its supreme headwaters with unimpeded access for fish and other aquatic life -- located more than 50 miles above tidewater influence.



Bass and Guillory (1976) fisheries report:
"The Oklawaha River, the largest tributary of the St. Johns, enters the St. Johns River at the town of Welaka, several miles upstream from the entrance of the Rodman canal. The Oklawaha River is about 125 miles in length (202 km) and drains approximately 2,300 square miles. Gradient of the Oklawaha River is much steeper than the St. Johns River proper, and currents are much swifter. The gradient of the Oklawaha, from its headwaters to confluence with the St. Johns River, is about 60 feet (18.3 m)."

"Although the Oklawaha is a 'sand-bottomed' type stream, as defined by Beck (1965), it has several unique characteristics. Its swift current and steep gradient of 60 feet from headwaters to its mouth more typically exemplifies a Piedmont-type stream."

"Also the blockage of migrations of striped bass, American eel and possibly, American shad, which now exists in the form of Rodman Dam, would be removed. Restoration of these spawning runs would have a positive economic impact upon commercial fisheries as well as enhancing the sport fisheries."

"Prior to the construction of Rodman Dam, eight marine species (American eel, American shad, hogchoker, Atlantic needlefish, striped bass, sailfin molly, white mullet, striped mullet) ranged up to Moss Bluff Dam and/or Silver Springs (McLane, 1955)."

"A total of 49 freshwater species have been recorded from the Oklawaha River proper and immediate tributaries...Eleven marine species...have been taken in the Oklawaha River..."

"Barkuloo (1967) noted that striped bass were occasionally numerous in Silver Springs. As early as 1970, however, there has been a decline in certain marine fishes (e.g., striped bass, mullet) in Silver Springs (letter from Buck Ray to Dale Walker, 23 October 1970). This decline in the marine fishes may be attributed to the presence of the physical barrier downstream -- Rodman Dam."

"A total of 36 freshwater species have been recorded from Silver Springs...In addition, a total of seven marine or estuarine species (Atlantic needlefish, rainwater killifish, sailfin molly, striped bass, striped mullet, white mullet, hogchoker) have historically occurred in Silver Springs."

"A total of 33 freshwater species have been taken from Rodman Reservoir...Only three marine species, American eel, Atlantic needlefish and striped mullet, have been recorded."

Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (1970) Florida Wildlife magazine:

"During its geologic life, the river has carved out a mile-wide valley through which it now flows. During the annual rainy season, the water flows over its low banks and spreads out on the valley floor. When the water is low, the flow from Silver Springs makes the Oklawaha run crystal clear for miles. These rich, fluctuating waters have created dynamic conditions necessary for the maintenance of a productive sport fishery, which includes channel catfish, chain pickerel, panfish and largemouth bass. The Oklawaha in its natural state is a cool, highly enriched, densely shaded, fast-flowing, neutral pH river."



LARGEMOUTH BASS OF THE OCKLAWAHA RIVER
The biggest / heaviest / longest LARGEMOUTH BASS ever supposedly taken from the Ocklawaha River was reportedly 21 pounds 3 ounces in weight and measured beyond 32 inches in length. It was reported as being caught near Moss Bluff by Mr. Thomas A. Johnson of Ocklawaha, Florida on January 2, 1975. There is at least one photo from the Ocala Star-Banner newspaper, in 1975, of this extremely long bass which looks very much longer than the Ford 5th generation pickup truck 21-inch height tailgate that also appears in the picture.



THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER OF TODAY

Today's middle reach of the north-flowing Ocklawaha River stretches south from river mile number 33 at the uncompleted Eureka Lock and Dam upstream to river mile number 51 at the confluence with the Silver River and is about 18 stream miles long and approximately 50 to 100 feet wide with a gradient averaging 0.9 feet/mile that supports a swift current. Bacon and Black (1891) measured the current velocity in this segment of the Ocklawaha at from 0.9 to 1.2 mph. When inside its low banks, the middle Ocklawaha River (including its side-creeks) covers maybe 210 surface acres. River elevation at Eureka averages 20.5 feet while upstream at the SR-40 Bridge (just below the Silver River confluence) it is usually about 36.5 feet above sea level. Long-term median discharge from the beginning of the middle Ocklawaha River at the SR-40 Bridge is some 935 cubic feet per second. Summer water temperature (morning low) in this segment averages a cool 75 to 77 degrees F (24 to 25 C) as it is heavily influenced by the 74-degree F (23.5 C) inflow from Silver Springs via Silver River. The mostly natural middle Ocklawaha River comprises nearly all of the Ocklawaha River Aquatic Preserve and has been mentioned for possible inclusion into Wild and Scenic River status.

The Middle Ocklawaha River


DEFINITIONS OF SOME FISHY ADJECTIVES
 
BENTHIC fish species such as catfish dwell and feed mostly on the bottom of a water body.

PELAGIC fish species such as black crappie and striped bass feed and travel open waters in schools much of the year.

STRUCTURE-ORIENTED fish species in a flowing river such as largemouth bass usually face the flow in black shade and ambush their live prey from the current-breaking cover and concealment of in-stream rocks, undercut banks, living or dead trees and other large woody materials, and living emergent or submerged aquatic vegetation.

ENDEMIC describes a species which is only found in a given area and nowhere else in the world. 

LENTIC describes freshwater LACUSTRINE (lake/pond) still-water environment and its fish species. Florida lentic species such as largemouth bass and bluegill commonly will also naturally exist in flowing streams. 

LOTIC describes freshwater RIVERINE (stream/river) flowing-current environment and its fish species. Florida lotic species such as redbreast sunfish and channel catfish only rarely exist naturally in still-water lakes that are not connected to river systems. 

ANADROMOUS describes any saltwater (marine) fish species that naturally lives in saltwater or brackish water (much of the time) but spawns only in freshwater (after migration). Striped bass are usually considered to be anadromous fish although the native to Florida varieties rarely entered saltwater.

CATADROMOUS describes a saltwater (marine) fish species that naturally lives in freshwater or brackish water (much of its life) but spawns only in saltwater (after migration). American eel and striped mullet are catadromous fish that are native to Florida.
 
 
NATIVE FISH SPECIES OF THE ENTIRE OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN
 
A 2002 research paper (Clugston) documenting all previous fishery studies dating back to 1899 reported that specimen collections from the entire Ocklawaha River basin have verified the historical existence of 69 different NATIVE fish species. Of those, 59 are considered freshwater fishes and 10 are brackish or saltwater (several being anadromous or catadromous).



THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER OF TODAY:  ITS FISH

FISH SPECIES OF THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER

Approximately 53 different fish species may exist in the free-flowing middle Ocklawaha River between Silver River and Rodman Reservoir. About 1/2 of them are small minnow-sized (bass forage) varieties. Grass carp, longnose gar, channel catfish, striped bass (if any were present), largemouth bass, bowfin, striped mullet, white catfish, chain pickerel, Florida gar, and American eel are the 11 longest and/or heaviest fish. Only about 2.5% of the Ocklawaha's pre-Rodman Dam flow is available through Buckman Lock for migration of fish between the St. Johns River and the Ocklawaha, which has had a negative impact on the abundance here of these five native highly migratory fish species: channel catfish, white catfish, American eel, striped mullet, and striped bass.
 
The following is a list of the 25 verified larger fishes (that are more likely to be caught while fishing or possibly observed in the river during clear-water periods) that inhabit the middle Ocklawaha upriver from Rodman Reservoir.

Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass

NATIVE FRESHWATER WARM-WATER GAME FISH (7)
Florida largemouth bass, black crappie (speckled perch), bluegill sunfish, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish (shellcracker), spotted sunfish (stumpknocker), warmouth.

Black crappie (speckled perch)

Bluegill sunfish

Redbreast sunfish

Redear sunfish (shellcracker)

Spotted sunfish (stumpknocker)

Warmouth

NATIVE FRESHWATER WARM-WATER NON-GAME FISH (12)
Bowfin (blackfish, mudfish, or choupique [pronounced as shoe pick]), brown bullhead (speckled catfish), yellow bullhead (butter catfish), channel catfish (blue catfish), white catfish (blue catfish), chain pickerel (jackfish), Florida gar, longnose gar, gizzard shad (stink shad), threadfin shad, golden shiner, lake chubsucker.


Bowfin  (blackfish, mudfish, or choupique [pronounced as shoe pick])
Bowfin boneless fillets can be prepared for eating as delicious fish cakes!

Channel catfish

Channel catfish

The Ocklawaha River was known in the past for containing some of the biggest channel catfish in Florida.
A 42-pound 3-ounce CHANNEL CATFISH was caught from the middle Ocklawaha River upstream of Rodman Reservoir in 1978. It was 41.5 inches long with a girth of 27.5 inches. This catch was the state record channel catfish until 1985.


White catfish

Chain pickerel (jackfish)
Chain pickerel can be prepared for delicious eating by gashing the Y-bones of the SCALES-OFF but SKIN-ON fillets (dicing them DOWN TO but NOT THROUGH the skin) then coating them with corn meal and deep-frying until golden brown!
This same method is used to prepare the lake chubsucker for cooking.

Florida gar

Longnose gar

Gizzard shad (stink shad)


EXOTIC FRESHWATER WARM-WATER NON-GAME FISH (3)
Grass carp, sailfin catfish (pleco), blue tilapia (Nile perch).

Sailfin catfish (pleco)


NATIVE SALTWATER (MARINE) NON-GAME CATADROMOUS FISH (3)
American eel, Atlantic needlefish (may possibly be able to spawn in fresh or brackish water), striped mullet


American eel

Atlantic needlefish


Striped mullet



NATIVE ANADROMOUS / COOL-WATER RIVERINE GAME FISH (1)
STRIPED BASS OR STRIPER Morone saxatilis. Since the 1980's there have been NO verified reports of the existence of native (or stocked) striped bass anywhere upstream of Rodman Dam including the middle Ocklawaha River of Marion County, Florida. 

Stocked STRIPED BASS in Silver Glen Springs which empties into Lake George of the St. Johns River.

These stripers are blocked from entering the middle Ocklawaha River by Rodman Dam.

The Ocklawaha River-Silver River system -- 56 free and swift-flowing miles in length prior to the closure of Rodman Dam in 1968 -- appears to have been the only successful spawning habitat for native Atlantic-race striped bass in the entire St. Johns River basin.


The following is an excerpted paragraph from the "Outdoors by Fred Langworthy" report about middle Ocklawaha River striped bass fishing that appeared in the Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal newspaper (28 August 1955, page 14):

"Reports received here say that the party, fishing for black bass, hit into rather hefty strikes that tore up tackle. Later, and with heavier gear, they returned to the river and boated some of the fish, finding that they were real northern striped bass, a salt water fish. From then on anglers from all around hurried to the river, and at last report were hauling in scores of them weighing from 14 to 30 pounds."

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=kYUfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qswEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1651,3848661&dq=striped-bass+oklawaha-river&hl=en





THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER OF TODAY:  ITS FISHERY

ELECTROFISHING DATA
from the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
"Rodman Reservoir Historical Perspective--Updated April 2015" 

In Appendix 5 of the above document, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission listed 51 different fish species total that were collected from all 4 segments (zones) of the entire Ocklawaha River. Only 43 species were collected in Zone 3.

NOTE:

Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella and STRIPED BASS Morone saxatilis were not listed at all.

Also migratory CHANNEL CATFISH and WHITE CATFISH % numbers were EXTREMELY LOW!

  

Fish Species Composition [%] by River Segment (Zone)

Collected by Electrofishing from the Ocklawaha River from 2009–2013.

 Zone 3 - Silver River confluence to Eureka.

 Common name   Scientific name   Percentage

 

American Eel Anguilla rostrata 0.14

 Atlantic Needlefish Strongylura marina 0.01

 Banded Sunfish Enneacanthus obesus 0.00

 Blue Tilapia Tilapia aureus 0.00

Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus 0.08

 Blackbanded Darter Percina nigrofasciata 3.39

Bluefin Killifish Lucania goodie 0.23

Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus 11.77

 Bowfin Amia calva 1.09

 Brown Bullhead Ameiurus nebulosus 0.05

 Brown Darter Etheostoma edwini 0.04

 Brook Silverside Labidesthes sicculus 0.42

 Bluespotted Sunfish Enneacanthus gloriosus 0.02

Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus 0.00

 Coastal Shiner Notropis petersoni 12.92

 Chain Pickerel Esox niger 0.37

Dollar Sunfish Lepomis marginatus 0.98

 Florida Gar Lepisosteus platyrhincus 1.28

 Gizzard Shad Dorosoma cepedianum 0.01

 Golden Shiner Notemigonus crysoleucas 1.60

 Golden Topminnow Fundulus chrysotus 0.02

Hogchoker Trinectes maculates 0.00

Lake Chubsucker Erimyzon sucetta 0.98

Least Killifish Heterandria Formosa 0.26

Longnose Gar Lepisosteus osseus 0.19

Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides 4.67

Marsh Killifish Fundulus confluentus 0.00

Metallic Shiner Pteronotropis metallicus 7.15

Eastern Mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki 7.12

Okefenokee Pygmy Sunfish Elassoma okefenokee 0.05

 Pirate Perch Aphredoderus sayanus 1.70

 Pugnose Minnow Opsopoeodus emiliae 0.45

 Rainwater Killifish Lucania parva 0.00

 Redbreast Sunfish Lepomis auritus 7.05

 Redeye Chub Notropis harperi 0.08

 Redear Sunfish Lepomis microlophus 1.85

 Redfin Pickerel Esox americanus americanus 0.01

 Sailfin Molly Poecilia latipinna 3.31

Seminole Killifish Fundulus seminolis 0.01

Snail Bullhead Ameiurus brunneus 0.09

Speckled Madtom Noturus leptacanthus 0.11

Spotted Sunfish Lepomis punctatus 25.88

 Striped Mullet Mugil cephalus 0.02

 Swamp Darter Etheostoma fusiforme 0.03

 Tadpole Madtom Noturus gyrinus 0.04

 Taillight Shiner Notropis maculates 0.00

 Threadfin Shad Dorosoma petenense 0.00

Sailfin Catfish Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus 0.01

Warmouth Lepomis gulosus 4.35

White Catfish Ameiurus catus 0.02

Yellow Bullhead Ameiurus natalis 0.17

Total Percent 100.00

Total Individuals 13,909




THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER OF TODAY:  ITS FISHING

OCKLAWAHA RIVER FISHING REPORT USING 25 YEARS PLUS (1990-2015)
OF MY COMPUTERIZED CREEL DATA
Updated through 8/28/15

89% = caught using ARTIFICIAL LURES; 
11% = caught using BAIT or other legal methods; 
100% = total of my Ocklawaha catch using artificial lures, bait, or other legal methods.

46% = BASS (Florida largemouth); 
33% = BREAM (bluegill, redbreast, redear, spotted sunfish, warmouth); 
13% = BLACK CRAPPIE (speckled perch); 
03% = CHAIN PICKEREL; 
02% = BOWFIN; 
03% = ALL OTHER SPECIES (catfish, gar, mullet, pleco, sucker, etc.); 
100% = total of my Ocklawaha catch by species.

48% = Spotted sunfish (stumpknocker);
34% = Redbreast sunfish;
13% = Bluegill sunfish;
04% = Warmouth;
01% = Redear sunfish (shellcracker);
100% = total of my Ocklawaha BREAM catch by species.

60% of total days = BASS FISHING; 
18% of total days = BREAM FISHING; 
12% of total days = BLACK CRAPPIE (speckled perch) FISHING; 
10% of total days = OTHER TYPES OF LEGAL FISHING; 
100% = total of my Ocklawaha fishing days by type of fishing.


FISH SPECIES COMPOSITION % BY TYPE OF FISHING DAYS

BASS FISHING DAYS USING ARTIFICIAL LURES (e.g., 1/4th-ounce buzzbaits and spinnerbaits):
85% = LARGEMOUTH BASS;
08% = BREAM;
05% = CHAIN PICKEREL;
02% = BOWFIN
100% of total catch.

BREAM FISHING DAYS USING ARTIFICIAL LURES (e.g., 1/32nd to 1/8th-ounce beetle spins):
78% = BREAM;
15% = LARGEMOUTH BASS;
04% = BLACK CRAPPIE (speckled perch);
02% = CHAIN PICKEREL;
01% = BOWFIN;
100% of total catch.

BLACK CRAPPIE FISHING DAYS USING ARTIFICIAL LURES (e.g., canoe-trolling 1/16th-ounce curly-tail jigs):
78% = BLACK CRAPPIE (speckled perch);
09% = BREAM;
06% = LARGEMOUTH BASS;
04% = BOWFIN;
02% = CATFISH (brown bullhead, white catfish);
01% = OTHER (Atlantic needlefish, chain pickerel, longnose gar).
100% of total catch.

BREAM / CATFISH FISHING DAYS USING BAIT (e.g., earthworms, minnows, cut bait):
89% = BREAM;
05% = BOWFIN;
04% = CATFISH (brown bullhead, white catfish, channel catfish);
02% = LARGEMOUTH BASS;
100% of total catch.


Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass


OCKLAWAHA RIVER FLORIDA LARGEMOUTH BASS CREEL SURVEY DATA

My 1990-2015 (25 years plus) computerized creel records of Florida largemouth bass caught (measured and most then released) while using artificial lures (e.g., buzz-baits and spinner-baits) in the flowing middle Ocklawaha River (between Silver River and Rodman Reservoir) -- with fishing trips during all 12 months of the year (including: high and/or low water stages, inclement weather conditions, and unfavorable moon-influenced events) -- show these cumulative results (updated through 8/28/15):
Success Rate = 1.00 bass caught (kept and/or released) per hour of bass fishing;
41% = less than 12 inches in total length; 
59% = 12 inches or longer in total length; 
26% = 14 inches (legal keeper size) or longer in total length; 
6% = 17 inches or longer in total length; 
1% = 20 inches or longer in total length.

Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass


How the FLORIDA GAME AND FRESH WATER FISH COMMISSION described good bass fishing success in 1989:


Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass

OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASS FISHING IS SPECIAL!


The free and nearly natural middle section of the Ocklawaha River -- which comprises most all of the state designated "Ocklawaha River Aquatic Preserve" -- contains its original strain of Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) plus other fishes that have adapted over the centuries to its swift-flowing lotic ecosystem, which is rarely found anywhere else in peninsular Florida. This is Real-Florida bass fishing for stream-bred, riverine-adapted largemouth bass NATIVE to this canopied, cool-water, spring-fed river for perhaps thousands of years.

The aesthetic quality of this Ocklawaha angling experience may be comparable to having the unique opportunity to fish for wild, non-stocked rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in one of their surviving unspoiled, cold-water, Pacific-slope streams -- where rainbow trout have been NATIVE for thousands of years -- in Oregon, Washington (state), or Alaska some 3000 miles or more away from north-central Florida.

Or maybe being able to enjoy the rare pleasure of doing a fishing trip for wild, non-stocked smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) on one of their precious few remaining boulder-strewn, cool-water, free-flowing, spring-fed rivers -- where smallmouth bass have been NATIVE for a thousand years or so -- in the Ozark, Boston, or Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, Missouri, or Oklahoma at least 1000 miles from Florida’s Ocklawaha River.

YES, OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASS FISHING IS THAT SPECIAL! 


Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass


Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass



WOW, JUST CONSIDER THIS ANGLING OPPORTUNITY!

A REALLY EXCITING POSSIBILITY FOR THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER, SILVER RIVER, & SILVER SPRINGS IN THE WINTERTIME -- AFTER RODMAN DAM IS BREACHED:  SNOOK & TARPON SEEKING WARM WATER?

Wintertime SNOOK at Volusia Blue Spring of the St. Johns River

Wintertime TARPON at Volusia Blue Spring of the St. Johns River

Just imagine casting a buzzbait or a spinnerbait into the middle Ocklawaha River in the winter seeking largemouth bass and hooking into a snook or tarpon! It could be possible in a free-flowing again 56-mile length Ocklawaha-Silver River system.
WHY NOT?



MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER FISH KILL OF SEPTEMBER 2004
A LOOK BACK AT THIS DEVASTATING EVENT

 

The September 2004 fish kill in the middle Ocklawaha River between Eureka and Gores Landing resulted in the suffocation deaths of up to a thousand sizeable largemouth bass due to low levels of dissolved oxygen. About 300 dead bass were counted just around the Eureka boat ramp. This fish kill, which seems to be the only one ever reported from this segment of the Ocklawaha that involved native gamefish and catfish species, was apparently caused by a combination of natural and man-made factors.

 

Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne blew through central Florida within 2 months of each other causing high water levels not seen since Cleo in 1964. Eureka and Rodman dams were not constructed until after 1967 so they were not in place during earlier hurricanes to constrict and slow-down the Ocklawaha's surging floodwaters, as they would in 2004. The natural floodplain at Eureka Dam is 3/4-mile (3960 feet) wide while 21 miles downriver at Rodman Dam the natural floodplain is over 1-mile (5280 feet) wide. Along comes September 2004 with a raging, swollen Ocklawaha forced by man to flow strangled to the St. Johns through the much smaller gaps of 400 feet along the west side of the never fully closed Eureka Dam and then only 160 feet wide at Rodman Dam Spillway though four 40-foot wide gates.

 

The managers of Rodman's spillway, probably in an effort to save newer public-use recreational structures at the Rodman tailrace that were built somewhat below 10-foot elevation, apparently never allowed the lower Ocklawaha River to fully inundate the historic floodplain in that area which naturally extends up to 10 feet above sea level. According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) data, high water events during the years of 1950, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1970, 1979, and 1982 had all flooded that part of the valley to beyond 9-foot elevation above sea level. In September 2004 the USGS gage recorded a maximum water elevation below Rodman Dam of only about 8.21 feet above sea level.

 

The USGS Eureka (CR-316 Bridge) stream-flow gage, some 21 miles upstream of Rodman Dam, recorded a maximum river elevation of 25.61 feet while the upper extent of the natural floodplain there is quite a bit less than 25 feet above sea level. Rodman Reservoir's take line is less than 24 feet at its Eureka headwater. 18 miles above Eureka, the USGS Conner (SR-40 Bridge) stream-flow gage recorded a maximum river elevation of 40.22 feet while the natural floodplain there is less than 40 feet above sea level. Water was backed-up un-naturally from Eureka upstream in the middle Ocklawaha River and inundated normally dry ground areas for many days. Add many cloudy days to this mix, lots of oxidizing dead terrestrial organic material, plus the highest water temperatures of the year along with the instinct of largemouth bass to cruise any new shoreline for non-aquatic prey and the conditions were ripe for the fish kill that occurred.

Hill and Cichra (2005):

"Although tolerant of a wide variety of physical and chemical parameters, largemouth bass is not well-adapted for periods of low oxygen and is one of the first fish species to succumb to hypoxic conditions...Increases and decreases in water levels can negatively effect fish populations due to poor water quality. High water levels and floodplain inundation can lead to hypoxia due to decomposition of terrestrial vegetation and other organic materials (Toth 1993; Furse et al.1996; Sabo et al. 1999, Fontenot et al. 2001). Such harsh environmental conditions can lead to fish kills and affect movement and habitat use of largemouth bass and other species..."




REFERENCES
 
Bacon, J. H. and W. M. Black. 1891. "Report of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army; Appendix O - Report of Captain Black (pages 1620-1627); Improvement of the Ocklawaha River, Florida; Report of Mr. J. H. Bacon, Assistant Engineer, United States Engineer Department, St. Augustine, Fla., May 11, 1891." U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
 
Bass, D. G. and V. Guillory. 1976. Cross Florida barge canal restudy report; fisheries study (Volume 1, 2, 3). Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee, FL.

Clugston, J. P. 2002. Fishes of the Ocklawaha River, Florida. Florida Defenders of the Environment, Gainesville, FL.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2015. Rodman Reservoir historical perspective--updated April 2015. Tallahassee, FL.

Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. 1970. "The Oklawaha River" article. Florida Wildlife magazine (November 1970, page 24-26). Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee, FL.

Hill, J. and C. Cichra. 2005. Biological synopsis of five selected Florida centrarchid fishes with an emphasis on the effects of water level fluctuations. Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

http://tal.ifas.ufl.edu/PDFs/Hill%20and%20Cichra%202005%20SJ2005-SP3%20Centrarchid%20biological%20synopsis.pdf




Ocklawaha River, Florida largemouth bass


Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca's Bass Fishing Began in Florida More Then 50 Years Ago (1965)!

Ocklawahaman in 1966 with a Florida largemouth bass caught on a plastic worm from a man-made still-water pond.

But Ocklawahaman prefers to catch bass from free-flowing natural streams where they have been NATIVE for 1000 years!


Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca is an accomplished stream angler who has caught nine different varieties of bass plus three different species of cold-water trout along with many other fishes from the flowing freshwaters of several Southern states. Although he has fished many of the still-water canals, lakes, and ponds plus salty tidewaters that almost all other Florida fishermen are accustomed-to and greatly prefer; river bass angling in current is undeniably Paul's preferred pursuit. Paddling a canoe (or bank-walking and wading when advantageous), Ocklawahaman skillfully uses buzzbait and spinnerbait lures almost exclusively while bass fishing moving freshwater. Motorized watercraft for run and gun fishing or other aquatic tomfoolery and plastic worms or live shiners for bait are not part of his personal angling ethic. Ocklawahaman practices a style of bass fishing on natural segments of streams that is ideally an aesthetically pleasing and un-crowded solemn quest for some of Nature's most game fishes; the great majority of bass caught to be released unharmed for future benefit. North-central Florida's swift-flowing Ocklawaha River is the home water of Ocklawahaman; it is where Paul Nosca first learned freshwater stream angling techniques and where he continues to employ them as often as possible -- from his man-powered canoe.



"There are lake fishermen, and there are river fishermen, and seldom do the twain agree!"
 - Original author's name is unknown.


REFERENCE AS:  Nosca, P. 2017. "The middle Ocklawaha River of Marion County, Florida: Its fish, fishery, and fishing" webpage report. "Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca reports" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.


 
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