The fishing forecast for central Florida's freshwater anglers for the last two days of October and the beginning of November, starts-out with a high-pressure weather system and the beginning of the new moon week. Put together, both factors will create some of the best fishing conditions so far this fall season, especially for shoreline anglers.
For the past four months of our storm season, the wind factor ironically became a negative fishing factor only when there wasn't any, and the lake was like a sea of glass. Now that fall weather seems like it's here to stay (although the current weather forecast is predicting 90 degree temperatures for Thursday) the wind factor becomes a bigger challenge more often, as speeds reach double digits and form white caps on the waves.
Both the fall and winter seasons bring stronger winds out of the northern and easterly directions, making conditions on the south and west areas of the lake much more challenging to fish. If your lake doesn't have a tree-belt on the northern and eastern sides, then even fishing those areas of the lake in moderate to high winds can be more challenging. If there's one factor that exhausts me and drives me from the lake, it's winds above 12 mph on larger lakes like Istokpoga, a 12 mph wind becomes 20 as it travels five to 10 miles across open water.
Over the past few days, and today will be no exception, winds have forced me to increase my bullet weight sizes from one-fourth of an ounce to 3/8 oz. and jig sizes from 1/2 oz. to 3/4 oz., just so I can pitch the bait to the targeted vegetative hole that I know huge bass like to wait in and ambush without the wind pushing the bait off course. That is one downside to using heavy braided lines in strong winds. The wind causes the line to wrap around rod guides during the pitching motion, push line against vegetation which stops the bait from pulling line while dropping to the lake's bottom, and make detection of bass movements entirely impossible. I hate moderate to high winds, period.
But wait one minute, there's a silver lining in those "fishing clouds." The heavier winds are caused by high atmospheric pressure systems, and pressure greater than 30.20 In Hg produces excellent shoreline feeding migrations, which means huge fish on the end of the line. So playing the wind is an essential part of fall and winter fishing here in Florida, and one large bass on the hook will make you love higher winds. Take my word for it - I never feel the wind after that first huge bass of the day, just like I didn't feel the heat during the summer months when there was no wind to cool me while I was battling a trophy bass.
The water temperature daily averages over the past two weeks have dropped into the lower 70s - a 10-12 degree drop. In depths of seven feet of more temperatures have dropped into the 60s, which means some bass will start to enter the pre-spawn mode. From now until the first major cold front drops water temperatures into the lower 60s, bass and all fish species will be feeding at the highest rates of the year. This also occurs in April and May.
The major feeding migration of the day occurs from 7-11 a.m., with a peak period from 8:30-10:30 a.m. that should produce a feed rating on a scale from 1-10, in the seven range. As stated, a high pressure system will dominate today and shorelines will have greater numbers of feeding fish. Thursday the barometric pressure will begin to drop slightly and the winds will subside slightly as the direction switches from easterly to southeasterly directions. By Friday, there will be a moderate west wind followed by a weekend wind from a northerly direction but with speeds in the 15 mph range.
The minor feeding migration of the day occurs during the sunset hours from 6-9 p.m. and should produce a peak period from 6-7:30 p.m. and a rating of six. Today fishing the calm side of the lake at this time should produce some excellent top water action. Until barometric pressure drops below 30 In Hg shoreline shallows will be the place to fish.
The new moon week starts tomorrow and ends next week, with the new moon happening this Sunday. The higher pressure days of this period occur tomorrow and Friday which I predict will create excellent fishing and a rating of 10 for both days in the shallows. However, fish don't stop feeding just because of a low pressure system. It might seem that way "if" you stay in the shallows, but if you move into the deeper sections out from the shoreline areas, you'll discover your fish are just feeding deeper, residing in a deeper structure. I predict a feed rating of eight or nine for the weekend if you locate fish in the eight to twelve foot depths.
Lake Istokpoga News: The lake's level is a few inches above the annual high-pool maximum height of 39.5 feet above sea level.
For the record, the Fish and Wildlife Commission personnel are touting Istokpoga as the "Best Big Bass Lake of the USA" right now. The creel clerk has seen record numbers of trophy size bass this year and he's out there just two days a week collecting data. He's only run into me this year once. So, he didn't record my 18 bass over 10 pounds, and the 26 bass between eight and 10 pounds. I hate to say it, (because I want the lake all to myself) but Istokpoga is a bass fishermen's dream. I can't believe I get to fish it everyday, what a privilege.
Ironically, due to publishing the "bass fishing success" of Istokpoga in this newspaper column and my website, the native local Istokpoga bass anglers aren't too happy. The additional bass fishing pressure is not welcomed by the local anglers. However the fishing-related businesses of Highlands County rejoice.
This fishing column and additional fishing information and advice is online at www.FloridaLakesFishingForecast.com
Dave Douglass is a bass fishing guide and conservationist since 2006 in Highlands County. Website: HighlandsBassAngler.com and BassFishingForecast.com Phone: 863-381-8474. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org