Local Sports

Fishing improves this week

The Florida freshwater fishing forecast for the fourth week of April includes a strong first-quarter moon phase and an ideal weather forecast of an even mix of sun and clouds and wind speeds below 10 mph. All fishing factors considered, an April fishing week doesn't get much better than what we'll experience this week.

The moon will play an influential role as it arrives at its closest orbit point to earth on Wednesday, one day after the last-quarter phase arrives. For daytime anglers, this means greater fish feeding action during the early morning and noontime hours due to the moon overhead and moonset periods.

Water temperatures have cooled slightly during last week and have dropped to the lower 70s as a daily high mark. The bass are still spawning in the deeper sections of the lake. Last week I caught two 7-pound bass that were still healing from bed building abrasions. Both bass were just under 25 inches and skinny. At the seven foot depths where I caught them, water temps at the bottom of the lake are in the middle to upper 60s, which are perfect spawning temperatures.

This week water temps will return to the middle 70-degree range and this will turn on the annual feeding frenzy that all Florida freshwater fish experience in the spring season. And as I stated in last week's article, the angler must master his bait presentation when all the fish species are actively feeding every day, and in many cases, more than once a day.

A fish does not strike just anything when it has all its favorite food sources active all around it, feeding aggressively. The bait fish a bass eats has a full stomach with undigested foods in it more often. Not only is it easier for the larger bass to find food, it takes longer to digest the bait fish with undigested foods in it. I believe for this reason, bass are selecting larger, bulkier meals and thus artificial baits must mimic this "bait signature."

And since there is the feeding action is at its highest annual rate right now, anything unnatural stands out, and this makes the larger and smaller bass to move on to something natural that is feeding and eating naturally.

Perfecting your bait presentation so that it mimics the natural food source signatures is essential to having a great bass fishing day. A "silent entry" into the water must be perfected. Allowing the bait to fall directly to the lake's bottom before retrieval is also a must. Swimming the bait from plant base to plant base, with a pause at each base, is also vital in order to mimic the bait fish populations.

An up and down swimming retrieve is not natural right now to the larger bass. In order to catch the big bass, you must move your bait like the bigger bait fish, which are feeding successfully - usually in a "hiding-feeding" mode. A 15-pound bass doesn't chase anything, ever. It ambushes other smaller bait fish that also ambush their prey. This type of prey is the better meal and the largest bass in the lake knows this and situates itself along the migration routes to wait for such a successful feeder to make a mistake and hide and/or feed nearby.

Fishing fact: the angler can't expect to have the same catch-rate using the same bait retrieve action that was successful in the winter season. During the spring season, everything is fast and faster down in the depths. Right now it's a "fish-eat-fish-world" at high speed, where stealthy hiding and fast inhaling of fat feeders is the standard feeding action. And more so now than at any other time of the year. Anglers should adjust accordingly.

The major feeding migration of the day occurs when atmospheric pressure increases slightly during the 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. hours of the day - centered on the moonset period. Note that I don't believe the solar and lunar tables for the first part of this week. Rising barometric pressure and changing sunlight levels causes more fish to move and adjust, thus causing more opportunistic feeding.

The minor fishing migration of the day occurs during the moon overhead and underfoot times - 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively, starting an hour before and ending an hour afterward.

Lake Istokpoga's level has been lowered to comply with the water management schedule and is currently at 39-feet above sea level.

I am still offering a two-person, half-day bass fishing trip for $135 plus a gas fee of $25-50 depending on boat travel required. The lake can be any lake in Highlands County.

Dave Douglass is a bass fishing guide and conservationist in Central Florida. The full article can be accessed at BassFishingForecast.com and FloridaBassFishingForecast.com. Main website: HighlandsBassAngler.com Phone: 863-381-8474. Email: davidpdouglass@hotmail.com