Crappie and bass primed for Big O comeback on Lake Okeechobee

Published online: Dec 09, 2010 News Susan Cocking - McClatchy Newspapers
Viewed 194 time(s)

ON LAKE OKEECHOBEE, FLA. Captain Perry Johnson moved around the deck of his 28-foot pontoon boat, baiting 16 long crappie poles with live Missouri minnows and arranging them in rod holders spaced along the gunwales.

A small Honda generator whined softly, providing power to an array of deck lights that lit up the Kissimmee River canal like an airport runway.

Satisfied with his handiwork, Johnson sat down at the helm station and sipped on a soft drink.

"We've done our part - a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other end," he chuckled, repeating an ancient angling cliche.

Johnson and his two companions didn't have to wait long. Within a couple of minutes, one of the fishing lines began bobbing erratically from the limber rod tip.

"There's one," Johnson said, unnecessarily.

Johnson's friend, captain Mike Krause, lifted the rod from its holder and swung a 12-inch crappie, or speckled perch, into the boat to be measured and dropped into a cooler of ice. It was the first of 75 "specks" the trio would catch in 21/2 hours of fishing. They never had to wait more than about 10 minutes between bites.

Johnson, who guides exclusively for crappie on Lake Okeechobee and Kentucky Lake, was elated.

"Last winter, I had 42 fish per trip average," he said. "This year, it's 65. It's back with a vengeance now."

Hearing this, Don Fox - a veteran Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biological administrator in Okeechobee - had to laugh.

"It's nowhere near where it can be," Fox said. "The crappie are doing well, but I know what they can do."

Fox and his colleagues have been conducting fish surveys on Lake Okeechobee and the nearby Kissimmee using otter trawl nets since 1973. The biologists' figures show crappie peaked in the mid 1980s, with 30 fish caught per minute. The last count, conducted last January, showed two fish per minute. Another survey is scheduled for January, and the numbers are likely to rise.

"They are so prolific. They can come around quick," Fox said.

Read more:

You May Also Be Interested In...

March 19, 2015

Carefree Boat Club adds location in Georgia

Carefree Boat Club has just opened a brand new location, adding to its ever-growing lineup.
March 17, 2015

World's fastest pontoon boat gets even faster

When you think of fast boats, a pontoon is probably pretty low on your list, just ahead of houseboats and tugboats. Brad Rowland begs to differ.
March 05, 2015

West Marine begins "Do It Yourselfie!" promotion

Show off your selfie fixing up your boat and West Marine could lend you a hand.
March 04, 2015

Pontoon Brands United

Premier Marine announced today the company will transfer the production of its Weeres and Palm Beach brands to its headquarters in Wyoming, Minn.
March 02, 2015

West Marine's New Product Review Day set for March 20

West Marine has announced the date for this year's iteration of their New Product Review Day.
February 19, 2015

Honda Marine and Coach Pontoons Are Now Partners

The PDB team has exciting news! While we were at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show, Honda Marine announced their new exclusive OEM agreement with Coach Pontoons!
Follow us on Facebook!  Follow us on Instagram!  Follow us on Twitter!  Follow us on YouTube!