Local Sports

Tough fishing conditions continue

The Florida freshwater fishing forecast for the last two days of January and Feb. 1 and 2 will give anglers challenging weather conditions and a new moon in orbit perigee.

The super new moon occurs today, but so too does a high-pressure weather system that will bring total cloud cover and a significant chance of rainfall. So while the moon phase gives fish the desire to form a larger feeding migration than usual, the cold front will delay the day's feeding migration until water temperatures reach the daily high.

For the past three days, the approach of the new moon phase, which would normally cause fish to feed during the mid-morning hours in large numbers, has had little positive affects on triggering fish to feed early in the day. Instead fish have held back from feeding until water temperatures reach the lower to mid-60 degree range. And even at the daily high, they only fed briefly for about an hour or so.

Therefore, I predict that fish will predominately feed in the early to middle afternoon hours today through the weekend as water temperature dominates all fishing factors until the daytime low temperature in the early mornings rises to the middle to upper 60s - which the extended weather forecast predicts as occurring Sunday and lasting for at least eight to 10 days.

The major feeding migration occurs from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. today and tomorrow. On Saturday and Sunday, I expect the duration of the feeding migration to increase slightly as water becomes warmer sooner in the day, and the moon-affect causes fish to feed naturally in the middle to later hours of the afternoon.

The minor feeding migration will not occur until the early morning water temperatures reach 66 degrees or higher. You might catch a "small one" here and there until this occurs, but the odds are against you.

The weekend fishing forecast should give anglers exactly what is needed to catch their favorite fish. Water temperatures will start out the day in the mid-60s, while a southerly wind will be mild to medium in speed and a even mix of clouds and sun should make conditions ideal in the afternoons. Temperatures in the middle to lower 80s and a moon phase that will also trigger fish to feed in large numbers from 2-5 p.m.

HighlandsBassAngler.com has been improved and now provides a "Lake Maps" page so that anglers can view detailed custom bathymetric maps of over 50 lakes in central Florida from their phones. Links to Highlands County's website provides information on lakes and boat ramp locations and more. The County lakes that have bathymetric maps and boat access areas are listed by towns, and there's an "Other Popular Lakes" section with bathymetric maps of lakes like, Okeechobee, Walk-in-Water, Kissimmee, Toho, Hatchineha, Reedy, Clinch, and Buffum and Arbuckle.

Fishing report of the past week: My last bass fishing trips were tough, tough, and even tougher. I won't mislead you. If I didn't know where the fish were biting before the front and cold temperatures slowed things way down, I would never have caught the "few" little to medium sizes bass that I did manage to find. Last Sunday I had to contend with lots of anglers competing in a tournament, but in the fishing holes that were vacant, I couldn't locate one feeding bass - a few gar and one mudfish kept me company by cutting my baits in half and yanking my worm from the hook.

I attended the weigh-in event at the end of the tournament and there was one angler who did find a large eight-pound bass and four two to four pounders. But only a half dozen of his competitors managed to achieve a five-bass limit in the nine to 10-pound range. Of the 45 boats in the field, most bypassed the scales.

Fishing Facts: When water temperatures here in Florida drop lake temperatures below the middle 60 degree range, all fish don't need food for several days. Bass for instance have not fed in eight of my best fishing holes on Istokpoga for three to four days in what I would call a "regular feeding pattern" - even during the high temperature period of the daytime. I did get one or two bass in the two to five pound range on the second day after the cold front, but it took two more days before five to eight fish (bass, gar, bowfin) attacked my baits when temperatures reached 64 degrees in the mid-afternoon.

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