Catch Huge Stripers Right Now
On the Forgotten Panhandle coast of Florida winter is Striper time. You can catch huge Striped bass in the Apalachicola River from now until spring, as long as the water temperature stays in the preferred range of 65-70 degrees.
No matter what you call them, Stripers, rockfish, linesides etc., just call them fun to catch and great to eat. Their firm, white flesh is comparable in taste to their Largemouth Bass relatives. When Stripers are schooling and on the bite, you can literally catch them by the box full. As always, save some for our grandchildren and take only what you can realistically use for your own consumption. The bag limit in Florida is 20 fish individually or in total with white bass and sunshine bass, of which only 6 can be 24" or longer in total length. Stripers are considered freshwater fish in Florida and to possess them you will need a freshwater fishing license.
In the Apalachicola River we catch stocked fish. Beginning life as a fingerling, these fast-growers will reach 10-12 inches the first year depending on food source availability. The Florida State record was caught out of the Apalachicola River over 10 years ago and stands at 42.1/4 pounds. Anyone want to take a shot at that? The world record Striper is 78 pounds and came from Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Spawning takes place in water between 60 and 68 degrees. Success depends on water movement, so the eggs can suspend in the current. Normally, impoundments are not suitable environments for natural Striper reproduction, however there have been a few exceptions. Two I am aware of are the Santee-Cooper reservoir in South Carolina and John Kerr reservoir off the Roanoke River in North Carolina.
Other great fishing venues for "rockfish" include the Bay/Bridge tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island, New York , the TVA lakes of Tennessee and Lake Lanier, Northeast of Atlanta. But those are only fond old memories now, let’s get back to catching Stripers in the Apalachicola River.
Your baits of choice will be those that naturally emulate the striper’s primary forage. Live baits that work well include threadfin shad, eels and shrimp. Artificial lures will include crankbaits, bucktail jigs(white and yellow) and poppers when stripers are chasing bait on the surface. Another pattern I have not tried yet is trolling bridle rigs with multiple white bucktail jigs. Practice, practice, practice.
So, when the North winds of old man Winter blow, head up the Apalachicola River for a day of spectacular striper-snatchin’. You will absolutely vaporize the fun meter.
As I sit peering out my office window at the wonderful watery horizon that is the Gulf of Mexico, my New Years’ thoughts wander into an introspective daydream. I count my blessings for the opportunity to pursue my beloved obsession, so cleverly disguised as a job. Wishing everyone the very best New Year! Take yourself fishing.
Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups.
Captain Alex Crawford
Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers Association
Proud Member Florida Guides Association