(3.3) FISH and/or FISHING - Some Crappie Winter Speckled Perch Fishing
SOME CRAPPIE WINTER SPECKLED PERCH FISHING
ALONG THE OCKLAWAHA RIVER, FLORIDA
Black crappie (speckled perch) plus 15-inch white catfish taken while trolling small curl-tail jigs from my man-powered canoe
An Information, Opinion, Photos, & Sources Report
Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca
With the assistance of A Cruising Down the River Captain Erika Ritter
Article Originally Posted to Internet: 16 February 2011
This Webpage Created: 03 December 2015
Last Revised: 08 October 2020
NOTE -- IF NEEDED: Right-click-on individual photos then "Open image in new tab" to ENLARGE them!
If a school of largemouth bass guards the Pearly Gates of Heaven, then Ocklawahaman full-well knows that he is definitely in a whole heap of trouble! Although I have never owned or even fished from a BASSBOAT since I started my Florida bass fishing in 1965, I have caught and probably kept more largemouth bass than all other fish species combined. Hopefully any possible big-mouthed sentries on-duty upstairs will mercifully recall that Ocklawahaman -- using man-power not motorized horse-power -- bamboozled all those bass sportingly into his grasp with artificial lures and then released the overwhelming majority of them (to live another day).
My biggest canoe-caught largemouth bass (artificial lures used: buzzbait and spinnerbait)
Let there be no doubt that I am a RIVER-BASS ANGLER first and foremost! Over the past 30 years my preferred angling experience has been fishing freshwater streams for some 9 different bass varieties from my un-motorized canoe -- or sometimes even bank-walking and/or wading when advantageous -- using buzzbaits and spinnerbaits as lures.
Smallmouth bass from a south-eastern Oklahoma flowing river caught on buzzbaits &/or spinnerbaits.
Yes, I have humped-the-boonies and sometimes I still do!
Only about 30% of my bass fishing trips have been in still-water lakes or ponds. I very rarely use plastic worms as lures or shiners or any other live bait to catch bass. And I do not fish bass-beds. I truly worship my technique of stream bass fishing and have pursued it ethically along aesthetically pleasing free-flowing segments of various creeks and rivers in the northern half of Florida plus other states of the South.
My largest striped bass (so far) was caught from my man-powered canoe while fishing a flowing river using a spinnerbait
BUT SOMETIMES, HOWEVER, I TACKLE OTHER TYPES OF FISHING
AND ATTEMPT TO GIVE THE LARGEMOUTH BASS A WELL DESERVED BREAK!
A couple of 14-inch long speckled perch caught from my man-powered canoe on mini-jigs
SOME CRAPPIE WINTER SPECKLED PERCH FISHING
A Beetle-Spin catch of a black crappie from a side-creek of the Ocklawaha River
Believe it or not, North Florida experiences some cold weather for short spells every winter. Temperatures can range from the teens up through the 40's with bright sun or overcast skies, with or without wind, and with or without variations of rain -- maybe even snow flurries every decade or so. I used to hunt in the river swamps with my double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun from my canoe on many of these raw days, jump-shooting ducks or gunning for deer, hogs and turkey (when and where legal). Up North, somewhere above that old Mason-Dixon Line, sportsmen with cabin-fever possibly engage in some type of hunting or they ice fish! When a Floridian doesn't hunt in the winter and it is too brutally cold for any normal angler to think of bass fishing, many a Cracker (or a Born-Again Cracker [such as the good-old Ocklawahaman]) goes SPECK fishing -- which is probably the official Florida version of ICE FISHING! Heck, once in a while there will actually be some ice floating near the shoreline in the mornings -- or it will warm-up for a couple of crappie days after the freeze and Ocklawahaman will have at it for specks anyway!
A nice catch of Ocklawaha basin eating-size speckled perch up to 14 inches -- excellent eats destined for the deep-fryer!
So let it be written that my favorite TOO-COLD-WEATHER-FOR-BASS-FISHING quarry is the spectacularly marked black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) which almost all Florida anglers call speckled perch.
The live well of my man-powered canoe with its black crappie contents
Crappies are incidental catches much of the year from the deepest outside river bends of the Ocklawaha River -- either while bass fishing with smaller spinnerbaits (I have never caught a speck on a buzzbait yet) or even more often while bream fishing with Beetle-Spin-type lures.
Trolling the open waters of the Ocklawaha River basin from my man-paddled (or wind-drifted) narrow canoe is a two fishing rod (and reel) affair for me. The really serious gasoline-guzzler-motorboat-using black crappie fishermen and commercial guides (with depth/fish finder electronics, trolling motors, plus all the other modern technological goodies that can be bought) fish spider-rig set-ups of 6 to possibly 12 rods at a time -- and try not to ever stop moving (all those rod-reel-line-lure outfits) while catching speckled perch!
To specifically target speckled perch in the wintertime my usual fishing technique is slow trolling (from my canoe) using small curl-tail jigs (a.k.a. mini-jigs) or Beetle-Spin type lures on ultra-light spinning tackle through the deep open still-water of cuts, oxbows, canals and lakes. I drift wind-driven or slowly paddle. Vertical jigging in thick aquatic vegetation also works well sometimes -- crappies are a suspended-in-open-water, schooling-type fish except when they are actually in shallower water bedding among downed trees, lily pads or other water weeds. Bait fishermen buy Missouri minnows (fathead minnows) to use for specks. Speckled perch spawn earlier in the year than any other member of the Centrarchidae (sunfish) family in Florida -- largemouth bass spawn next.
A Cruising Down the River Captain Erika Ritter with a mini-jig caught 15-inch speckled perch
15-inch total length black crappie from the Ocklawaha River basin
Captain Erika Ritter and one of those gorgeous 15-inch speckled perch caught drift-fishing from her kayak
Just how big do speckled perch in Florida get? Good eating size slab crappie measure from 10 to 13 inches in total length. Lunker specks are 14 inches or more. Erika has accompanied me on some of these winter crappie days along the Ocklawaha and has done quite well. Using jigs, she caught 15-inch long specks two days in a row one year. The two largest Florida speckled perch that I ever actually saw taken with lures (and measured) were 16 inches long and weighed 3 pounds (which matches the two biggest Suwannee bass that I have ever seen). My good-old fishing buddy Keith caught one of those 16-inch specks from Crescent Lake of the St. Johns River basin while I captured the other 16-inch crappie from the Ochlockonee River drainage near Tallahassee.
The Florida Certified State Record black crappie was taken on 1/21/1992 from the Ochlockonee River system and weighed 3.83 pounds (but I have not found any length listed for it). My best guess is that it must have been 17 to 18 inches (or more) long. http://myfwc.com/fishing/freshwater/fishing-tips/record/
Online research reveals that Oklahoma's State Record black and white crappies were nearly 5 pounds with listed lengths of 19 to 20 inches (I have considerable past fishing experience in the Great State of Oklahoma -- their excellent fishery records include weight [in pounds and ounces], length [in inches], and girth [in inches]).
Ocklawahaman with a 16-inch total length black crappie from the Ochlockonee River basin near Tallahassee
My personal creel survey records from Ocklawaha River system open-water crappie trolling trips show that about 80% of the catch is speckled perch with the other 20% comprised of bream (sunfish [bluegill, redbreast, spotted, or warmouth]), largemouth bass, bowfin, catfish (channel, white, or brown bullhead), chain pickerel, and gar (Florida or longnose).
Speckled perch and a 19-inch white catfish taken while trolling from my man-powered canoe
Specks also tend to be here today and gone tomorrow like many other school fish species in a river system. I have feasted on 25-speck limit catches for a couple of trips in a row and then struggled on the next outing to get three into my canoe.
Ochlockonee River basin 24-inch striped bass caught while trolling for speckled perch from my man-powered canoe
When I used to perform my wintertime trolling in Tallahassee's Ochlockonee River basin waters where striped bass and white bass were present, those two species were often part of the day's bag. It is a real shame that because of inaction by officials of both the U.S. and Florida, the once native Atlantic-race striped bass are still blocked from the Ocklawaha River here (and their only means of natural reproduction in the entire St. Johns River drainage) by the Rodman Dam (a.k.a. Kirkpatrick Dam) some twenty-one miles downstream of Eureka.
Ocklawahaman with a 10-inch bluegill and a 15-inch speckled perch from an Ocklawaha canoeing/kayaking fishing day
Here is some final interesting information about Ocklawaha River basin speckled perch. They can be very invisible. I will often clearly see great numbers of crappie rolling on the surface of the open-water sector that I am trolling through during a moon-influenced feeding period: moon-over, moon-under, moon-rise or moon-set. The water in those areas is usually stained and not very clear. But when the Ocklawaha is almost as crystal clear as its Silver River headwater -- which is when Captain Erika and I perform our fish species inventory research observations -- we never see any black crappie!
OH, JUST FOR THE RECORD, I HAVE BASS FISHED A FLORIDA RIVER
ON A BRUTALLY COLD DAY
Back on Sunday February 4, 1996 it was 19 degrees F when I launched my canoe into the St. Marks River near Tallahassee, Florida at 0800 hours EST. The high that day was 35 degrees F and I constantly had to dip my rod guides into the river to de-ice them. 51 degrees F was the river temperature then which usually ranged in the 60's that time of year in that spring-fed stream. Wearing just about all the cold weather G.I. survival clothes that I owned and using a white 3/8th ounce spinnerbait, my catch was 4 keeper largemouth bass up to 16 inches. All of the bass came from the shade in strong current and all fried-up great in the pan, for true! Did I mention earlier that no NORMAL angler would even think of bass fishing on such a day?
"There are lake fishermen, and there are river fishermen, and seldom do the twain agree!" - Original author's name is unknown.