Finding Florida’s Freshwater Hot Spots

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Since moving to Florida in 2013, I could count on one hand the number of times I fished freshwater in the “Sunshine State” before learning about the waters holding trophy fish, just a little further inshore from where I live.  I was doing some research to see what freshwater action there was around me, and that’s when it happened… that’s when I discovered Polk County. I had not idea what I just discovered!

For years, I have heard Florida referred to as, “The Fishing Capital of the World” and with all the saltwater fishing I do, I totally understand why. According to the 2014-15 Fishing License Revenue Data, Florida brings in over 10 million dollars of revenue from the sale of freshwater fishing licenses. That is just FRESHWATER! It doesn’t include the additional 32 million dollars spent on the sale of saltwater fishing licenses. With just over 573K freshwater licenses sold, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) estimates that 74,000 people fish the waters of Polk County every year. That is a staggering number and one that points to Polk County truly being a fishing destination. One contributing factor to that number is the 554 natural freshwater fishing lakes.

So after taking in all this new information, I had to see for myself what Polk County had to offer. One of the key finds for me was the Mosaic Fish Management Area. After years of mining phosphate in central Florida, Mosaic has partnered with FWC to help reclaim land and water resources offering great fishing to the public. Their numerous lakes are managed with very impressive catch rates. However, to gain access to these waters is not about just driving up and casting a line.

To enter the Mosaic Fish Management Area, you must first go to the Check Station and check-in. (These waters are only available to the public, Friday through Monday from 6 am to 2 pm.) You must register and give the custodian your fishing license in exchange for a Daily Fishing Permit that will allow you on-site. It is important to note, these lakes have a quota of daily fishing permits allowed and issued on a 1st come 1st served basis, which are specific to the lake you are requesting to fish. Should you decide to change locations, you must return to the Check Station for a new permit.

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After learning about this fishing hot spot, I grabbed my gear and was off. With the abundance of plant life in the water I was prepared to sling some frogs across the lily pads along the edges from my kayak, along with some other weedless lures. On this day, I was using a new 13Fishing 7’ 3” Omen Black Casting Rod with a new 13Fishing Concept A baitcaster, spooled with 40lb. braided line. I went with the heavy line due to the vegetation and possibility of a monster bass. Once on site I was greeted at the Check Station and proceeded to get my permit. With only four days of fishing available, I suggest you get there early to ensure you get a permit and on the water for the bite at first light.

As I made my way to the lake, I couldn’t help but notice all the other bodies of water and land that was set aside by Mosaic for wildlife that is off-limits to people. Mosaic has taken a strong stance on its conservation efforts and the future of the Mosaic FMA is dependent on anglers making sure they only fish the designated areas.

As soon as I launched, I started marking fish on my Lowrance. The bottom was stacked with fish and I decided to go with a chartreuse spinner bait. It worked like a charm and I was hooked up to a 15″ Bass. It put up a good fight, but was no match for this 13Fishing setup as it “tail danced” across the surface of the water. I should mention this reel has an 8.1:1 ratio, hauling in 32” of line with each crank and 22lbs. of drag. As this was my first time fishing this setup, I was impressed to say the least. The reel matched the performance of the rod perfectly. At 7’ 3” it was a perfect length for guiding the fish around the front of my kayak while staying seated.

As I moved around the lake and watching the screen on my fish finder, it was obvious the FMA had worked hard to provide the fish a great habitat. While my focus was on Large Mouth Bass, I saw plenty of other species and bait as well. Going back and fishing in the winter months is definitely on my list, as the Crappie action in these lakes is reported to be phenomenal as well.

Whether looking to change things up from your saltwater fishing adventures or just find some new freshwater locations, Polk County has a lot to offer. Check out the links to the locations and products mentioned above:

 

Fishing Gear:
Omen Black Casting Rod
Concept A Baitcaster
Lowrance HDS7

Mosaic Fishing Management Area Brochure

FWC Freshwater Data

FWC Fishing License Sales Data

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