The first quarter moon arrives Saturday at 4:50 a.m. which also happens to be National Hunting & Fishing Day.
The major feeding migration of the day starts before safelight and ends when the sun is fully up. The peak period most likely happens right at safelight and last for only 30 minutes or less. However, each day this will increase in duration and intensity slightly - enough to warrant fishing every morning a little longer and a little harder (you can use this fact as your excuse to insist on fishing with any opposition you might face - yes, you can blame it all on me).
By Friday and Saturday the early morning bite should be the best it's been all month, reaching a rating of 8 or 9, or higher on rainless nights. The water temperatures are still too high so fish will feed quickly and select only what they can digest, so you must be at the right place at the right time - meaning each fish will probably only eat one smaller fish or a few crawdads instead of several as they do in lower temperatures.
Fish start seasonal migrations mainly due to the change in wind direction. The fall season has a predominate north, northeast, east, source direction, with winds out of the north becoming more dominate as winter approaches.
Fish in shallow lakes (Josephine) are affected before fish in deeper lakes (Jackson) and this becomes even more accelerated when shallow lakes have aggressive weed management programs which produce an ever increasing buildup of muck (Istokpoga).
High turbidity causes aquatic habitat decline and fish will migrate throughout the lake in search of better water quality with oxygen levels being the key ingredient signaling a healthy environment for the upcoming spawning season.
If you already have not factored-in wind direction change into your fishing strategy, you might want to consider it. In deeper lakes such as Lake Placid with its many deep holes and sharp drops and ridges, a change in the dominate wind direction will change how the fish use those areas. For instance, instead of holding close to the drop-off on the southeast corner fish will move to the opposite side thirty feet away. But in the case of a large shallow lake like Istokpoga, fish will move as far as they have to in their search for better water column clarity. In some areas of this lake the migration will be several miles.
"In Lake Istokpoga bass don't migrate to other areas because they are territorial predators and won't give up their domain." This statement would be true if turbidity and heavy wave action, caused by predominate northerly winds, didn't affect the majority of lake areas.
The larger largemouth bass females are all moving throughout the eight deeper holes-which are several miles across north to south - in search of the best water conditions. If there are bass which don't migrate due to this seasonal occurrence it would be the smaller ones because they are far less influenced - or more correctly, influenced last - due to requiring less oxygen and food, in the safe low-visibility water columns.
In high turbidity waters the food source of the largemouth bass - the smaller bass - hide more easily and can last longer in search of food sources. Once a bass grows to five pounds its feeding methods change from hunter to ambusher. Therefore the larger bass will only move when the ambush method no longer provides enough food - she can't ambush what she can't see.
Lake Istokpoga's level is at 39 feet 1 inch above sea level and rising mainly due to rain in the Arbuckle Creek Basin to the north.
So far this month we have received approximately 3.30 inches of rainfall, which is two inches lower than the water management district average of 5.27 in the same period. The monthly district average is 6 inches. If the extended weather forecast turns out to be correct, we will not come close to the average rainfall total for September.
Oh, well, we can always hope for an unseasonably wet fall and winter - which I give the same odds as me catching the state record bass this week.
This week while speaking with Fish & Wildlife directors for our region the subject of Aquathol contact herbicide came up due to Lake Cypress and Lake Hatchineha having major hydrilla Aquathol treatments two weeks ago.
Now, this got my attention because the Highlands County lake managers have always insisted that Aquathol is very ineffective if used in water with temperatures in the mid-eighties or higher. Without getting too technical, simply stated, "It doesn't work well enough to use until the temperatures drop into the seventies." This is what I was told on several occasions, thus the reason why the hydrilla in Lake Istokpoga can't be treated until November/December.
The FWC director said he would look into it and provide me with the facts and reasoning as to why the taxpayer's money was used wastefully - in that the effectiveness level drops to less than 50 percent with water temperatures at 85+ degrees. Or, if Aquathol does work well enough to use at this time of year, why are Highlands County taxpayers being given the opposite information.
If hydrilla Aquathol treatments can occur during the summer and early fall (water temps above 80 degrees) it stands to reason that managing hydrilla on a more constant yearly schedule would be less expensive since the invasive weed grows fastest during this same period. It's a well established "fact" that, Aquathol treatments cause death and die-back, followed by increased turbidity and plant-shading which leads to increase die-back, which would result in knocking-back (reducing) the weed expansion areas significantly.
Oh, and for the record, the Cypress and Hatchineha treatment areas were not areas of boat travel or flood control, instead just your run-of-the-mill, everyday prime big bass habitat areas.
Your Lake Manager's Contact Information:
FFWCC Fishkill Report Hot Line 800-636-0511, or go online at www.My FWC.com/contact.
Clell Ford, Lakes Management Specialist, Highlands County, 4434 George Blvd., Sebring, Florida 33875. Phone: 863-402-6545, e-mail: Cford@hcbcc.org
Vicki Pontius, Parks and Recreation Director, Highlands County, 4344 George Blvd., Sebring, Florida 33875. Phone: 863-)402-6812, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Gornak, Biological Scientist IV, FFWCC, Aquatic Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Sub-Section, Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, 3991 S.E. 27th Court, Okeechobee, FL 34974. Phone: 863-462-5190 (SunCom 761-5190), Fax: 863-462-5194 (SunCom 761-5194), Mobile: 863-697-6256, e-mail: email@example.com
Erica Van Horn, Regional Biologist, FFWCC, Invasive Plant Management Section, 2001 Homeland Garfield Road, Bartow, FL 33830, 863-534-7074, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Monday Morning Lake Josephine Black Bass Fishing Tournament is open to the public and launches every Monday morning at 8 with weigh-in at 1 p.m. Entry fee is $10 per boat with a "winner-take-all" payout. One person or two per boat, three legal (more than 14 inches) bass per boat, and one bass over 22 inches per angler. For information, call Paul Tardiff at 863-385-8007 (home) or 863-273-4062 (cell).
The Wednesday Morning Black Bass Tournament will be on Lake Reedy today, Sept. 23. Next week's event, Sept. 30, is on Lake Anthorpe. Launch time is 7:30 a.m. and weigh-in time is at noon. Entry fee is $30 per boat to be paid at the ramp. For complete information, call Paul Tardiff, home: 863-385-8007, cell: 863-273-4062, or Dwight Ameling 863-471-3305.