Florida has a diverse range of freshwater fish species found in the hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams. The most popular of these species are the black bass, pan fish, stripe bass and catfish. Each of these species has unique physical characteristics. They are active in their habitats at different times of year depending on spawning periods and temperatures of water. Different species enjoy different habitats such as lakes and rivers, deep and shallow water, and slow-moving or fast-flowing water.
The largemouth bass is the most popular species of the black bass family found in Florida. It is found mostly in March and April when the fish move into shallow water to spawn. Their color is a distinct olive green and the typical length is 18 to 20 inches. Largemouth bass are found in slow-moving water such as ponds, lakes and shallow streams. Lake George, Lake Toho, Lake Kisimmee and Orange Lake are the most likely places to find largemouth bass in Florida. Anglers use medium to medium heavy rods to catch this fish and use live baits such as the golden shiner.
Pan fish are popular freshwater fish found in Central Florida and North Florida in rivers such as the Oklawaha, Suwannee and Santa Fe. They are characterized by the oval and rounded shape of their bodies. Anglers gave them their name because they were a small catch that could fit in a pan. There are different species of pan fish in Florida such as the blue gill. This fish thrives in the shallow water of lakes and ponds and spawn mostly during the summer. Redear fish and redbreast sunfish are other species of pan fish. The best time to catch a redear is during a full moon in March and April because this is when spawning is most active. The redbreast sunfish spawn from May through August and can be identified by their yellow, orange or red breasts.
The striped bass is typically found in long stretches of flowing water. The Apalachicola and St John rivers are the likely places to find striped bass. The fish is characterized by a dark olive green color with a dark blue top. It prefers cooler water and is most active from the fall to the spring. There are two variants of the striped bass in Florida: White bass and sunshine bass. The white bass is found in the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee rivers and is fished in the spring. The sunshine bass is a hybrid of the striped bass and white bass and is artificially spawned at hatcheries.
The catfish is a unique fish found usually at the bottom of rivers and lakes in Florida. They can be identified by their whiskers, which they use to locate food. Though the typical size of a catfish is 5 pounds, the state record in Florida is 44 pounds. These fish are active at dusk and at night. The Apalachicola and Withlacoochee rivers hold the state records for catfish. However, catfish can also be found in many lakes in Florida such as the Blue Cypress, Crescent, Crooked and Deerpoint lakes.
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