It’s spring in Southwest Florida, not only because the calendar tells us, but also because the fishing is switching into spring mode. In Charlotte Harbor, the fishy signs of spring include the spread of spotted trout onto the flats, the arrival of the first serious wads of baitfish in the bay, a sudden uptick in snook action and the first reports of tarpon. In the Gulf of Mexico, sharks are showing, and king mackerel have arrived. With the variety of hot saltwater action that breaks loose in the spring, many anglers overlook the fact that spring in Southwest Florida is also a great time to fish in fresh water. Last Saturday morning, as we were trying to decide how best to enjoy a perfect spring day, Mrs. Capt. Ralph suggested that we launch our canoe in a local lake to sample the freshwater fishing, and some 60 minutes later, we were afloat and casting our ultralight rigs.
It was a clear-sky bluebird day, and we didn’t get on the water until after 9 a.m. — hardly the best scenario for a serious freshwater fishing expedition, but on this day it did not matter, because the fishing was on fire. We caught three species: bass, bluegill and tilapia. And during the five hours that we fished, there were few intervals of more than five minutes without a fish caught. We found that the smaller bass, fish from about 6inches in length and up to about a pound in weight, were tucked along the near-shore weeds, while the larger bass were actively cruising several feet outside the weeds. The smaller bass were extremely aggressive, and there were several times that one or two fish would follow a hooked bass back to the canoe. I’m not sure that it would have mattered much what we threw at them, since anything that moved seemed to be attacked, but we caught our fish on beetlespins, Roadrunners and Yozuri slash baits.
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