The Big “O” is dropping faster and faster each
week, we are getting very close to having no place to launch! More
and more of our local ramps are either getting to shallow or have a
huge hole at the end of the ramp from power loading. It is hard to
put a time line on exactly when our local ramps will no longer be of
use, but I will do my best to keep you updated on the situation.
The ramps at Okeetantie
now have a sign posted at the end of the ramps where the hole
starts, but they already are to shallow to safely launch and load
anything but a small aluminum boat, your boat and or skeg will hit
the concrete possibly doing damage to your rig. The ramps at
Scott driver are okay to get
your boat off of the trailer but access to the lake is very shallow,
the water is 16 to 18 inches deep unless we have a north wind and
then it is even less. J&S canal
public ramp has a hole at the end and I received a report that a
bass boat got stuck over the end of the ramp and did some damage to
the trailer. The ramp at Indian Prairie
is very, very steep and there is a big deep hole at the end of the
ramp that will claim your trailer if you get to far back.
Harney Ponds ramps are still
okay to launch but, that is subject to change at any moment.
The best fishing news is coming from blue gill
fishermen, the big blue gill and occasional shellcracker are biting
in all of the local canals as well as the Kissimmee River. Cichlids
are being caught also; I cant help but wonder how long it will be
before these aggressive intruders start to impact other fisheries?
The bait of choice seems to be a cricket dangled under a small
bobber with a tiny split shot pinched on the line. Red worms and or
grass shrimp will work at times also, but finding grass shrimp can
be rather tough.
There is no good news when it comes to the Lake
and the huge community that depends on it for its livelihood.
Lake Okeechobee continues to fall with each passing day, the rate of
fall was 6 inches every thirty days, but this last month saw the
lake drop nearly 9 inches, and we can expect the lake to continue to
plummet. The chance of an all time low being reached by the lake is
very real. In May 2001 the lake reached its all time low of 8.97
feet, we could quite easily surpass that mark and then some.
The one bright spot has been the blue gill bite, all of the local
canals, and the river have big gills spawning near or on the bank in
the shallow water. Blue gill can be caught on red worms, crickets
and of course a grass shrimp. Most people fish their bait under a
small bobber with a tiny split show pinched on the line to weigh the
The big question a boater has to ask himself now is not where are we
going to launch our boat? But where can we launch our boat? The
water dropping each day brings new factors into play about the local
ramps. Okeetantie has posted signs at the end of the ramps which
have gotten so shallow it is nearly impossible to load your boat
onto your trailer without tearing up your lower unit and or prop. As
the weeks pass more and more ramps will become unsafe fro launching
your boat, we will try to keep you aware of where they are and let
you know where you can still launch your boat safely.
Captain Mike Shellen Report- Mar 25th, 2007:
The big lake continues to drop, lower and lower
each day, if the lake continues to drop at this rate a lot of the
local ramps now in use will soon be unusable. I am going to research
what ramps are still being used, and which ones are closed, or
getting close to being closed, and will have more info in next weeks
The crappie fishing has slowed considerably with the warmer water
temperatures, the full moon trigger a spawn, but we will not know
that for sure till later in this week. The biggest problem we have
with speck fishing is the liberal bag limits. Too long we have let
everyone take too many fish and of any size, it is time for the FWC
to change the regulations and toughen them up, a 10 inch size limit
and a 10 fish limit would be a good start. I see many people fishing
every day and know that a lot of people never release any fish, even
though undersized. We also need more officers on the water to put
some bite into regulating those that choose to circumvent the law.
Blue gill are starting to show up on the bank looking for a place to
spawn. I have seen quite a few people fishing and catching gills in
Harney Pond, J&S is another hot spot as well. The bait of choice is
a cricket with a small split shot and a little bobber.
Bass fishing is still good, we fished the lake one day this week and
lucked into an area of schooling bass, we caught 35 fish on
artificial baits in a very short time, they would eat nearly any
bait that was thrown at them. Shiner fishing is still good, when the
outside grass line can be gotten to, there are a lot of fish are
hanging out there waiting to bite.
Captain Mike Shellen Report- Mar 18th, 2007:
Once again this week the wind dictated where
and when the lake could be fished. We were able to fish the lake a
couple of days with the wind blowing 10 mph out of the southeast and
we caught a lot of fish on the grass line. Several others days we
had 20 to 30 mph winds out of the north which blew 8 to 10 inches of
water toward the south end of the lake, making area on the north end
to shallow to access. When the lake can be accessed bass can be
caught on the outside grass line, on the north shore bass can be
seen chasing busting small shad in the grass and the outside edges.
Horny toads, flukes, and other plastics will all work in this
situation. More than one report has been made of fish schooling and
40 to 60 fish being caught in a short time, reportedly these fish
would hit nearly any bait put in front of them, my kind of fishing.
The River and canals are still being fished heavily and good catch
rates are coming in from places that were previously lightly fished.
The lake is under 11 feet and going down quickly. It is only a
matter of time before some of the ramps that access local canals and
the river will no longer be accessible.
Crappies are still being caught in the river and canals surrounding
the lake, minnows are still the number one fish catcher, but jig
fishermen are catching fish too. I have not seen anyone catching
limits of crappie, but am receiving reports of catches between 10 to
15 fish per outing.
The blue gill and shell cracker have not made a strong showing yet,
but their arrival is anticipated any time now, with the full moon
April 1st the catching of these species is imminent.
Captain Mike Shellen Report- Mar 11th, 2007:
The lake is hovering around the 11 foot mark, which
makes it very difficult to access without tearing up your boat and
equipment. In spite of the low water bass fishing is still very
good. J&S canal has been a hot spot for artificial bait fishermen
wanting to catch a few bass. J&S canal can no longer be reached from
the lake the water is too shallow to even troll in. The canals and
Kissimmee River continue to be fished very hard, not just for bass
but for crappie and blue gill as well. The intense pressure has to
take its toll on the fishing. A lot of the local pan fishermen who
are unable to catch enough crappie or bluegill are making trips down
highway 27 to the everglades to catch Oscars and cichlids, these
fish are prolific and can be caught quite easily, I have had reports
of 100 or more being caught in a short morning trip. It is a long
way to go to fish but the catching is good.
resident Koby Kreiger won the Stren Series event on Lake Eufala this
past week making him the winningest angler in (Everstart) Stren
Series history. Koby stormed from behind on the final day catching
nearly a 20 pound bag to take the event by nearly 3 pounds. With
contingencies from Ranger and other his winnings were announced at
The arrival of March has brought us plenty of warm,
stable weather that has the water temperature pushing into the low
seventies. The warm water temperatures paired with the full moon has
sent bass scurrying onto their spawning beds. Big fish can be
literally seen in the shallow clear water of the lake. The only draw
back has been the wind and its ever changing direction and speed,
one day from the north, the next from the west, and then the next
day out of the southeast. Several anglers have found them selves
unable to get back into Harney Pond after launching their boats
there in the morning and then the wind switches mid-morning blowing
enough water out of the area that it can no longer be accessed by
Be very careful where you run in the lake, it is at a very dangerous
level, and many areas are at the mercy of the wind as to whether
they are fishable or not. The same situation exist in the J&S canal
a west wind will push enough water in that direction that a boater
can easily get into the canal, but if the wind switches the same
boat may not be able to get out of the canal back into the lake.
The bass fishing has been very good, artificial baits are catching a
lot of fish in nearly every area of the lake. Horny Toads, flappin
shad, speed worms, trick worms, and a variety of other plastics are
all taking good numbers of fish. Lipless crank baits are also
accounting for good numbers of fish as well, while deep diving crank
baits have cooled off some what, simply because the fish have moved
toward the bank. Every tournament held this weekend took fifteen to
sixteen pounds to win, not good by Okeechobee standards but
considered wonderful every where else!
We are spoiled by the huge sacks we catch in this fishery, and when
they are not caught everyone whines about the quality of the bass
fishing, all one has to do is fish another lake for a few weeks to
come back to the realization of what a terrific lake the Big “O”
really is. What we really need is a huge down pour of rain from
Mother Nature to bring the lake up to a normal level. Monday Vaughn
Meyers from Pa. caught an 11 ¼ pound bass in the lake on a wild
shiner while we were on a guide trip. If you pick your times to
access the lake its still possible to catch the fish of a lifetime!
Captain Mike Shellen Report- Feb 25th, 2007:
The cold weather of last weekend dropped the water
temperature in the lake down into the mid 50’s; it took the rest of
the week for the water to warm back up. Just as the water got warm
enough for the fish to start feeding again the winds switched around
to the south, southeast at 20 plus miles an hour and brought dirty
water back up into the shallows. The best bass fishing has been in
the canals surrounding the lake; the many miles of canals that
encircle the Big “O” hold a lot of quality bass. Some of these
canals get very little pressure from bass fishermen and the fishing
can be terrific! Big lipped crank baits that dive relatively deep
can work wonders when cranked around the rocks and steep drop offs.
A shaky head jig with a finesse worm or trick worm will catch fish
Crappie fishing picked up with the inundation of cold weather but
seems to have dropped off as the water warmed up, the number one
bait to catch big specks is a grass shrimp, which are hard to come
by at this time of year, but some people still manage get them and
catch a lot of crappie on them, as well as shell cracker or blue
gill. With warm weather forecast for the next week and the full moon
on March 3rd, big blue gill may move into the shallows and spawn so
keep your eyes peeled for beds of these tasty pan fish.
Shiner fishing slowed considerably this week with the cold water,
and the wind, most anglers were stuck to fishing the canals or the
river. Catch rates dropped but will pick up as soon as the water
warms and the full moon nears, look for the big female bass to move
shallow to spawn.
temperatures around South Florida have dropped drastically the past
few nights. Temperatures in the low 30’s have the water temperatures
in the main lake hovering in the low to mid 50’s. Needless to say
the bass bite has been slowed considerably, with water temps this
low the only places to catch bass are in the deeper water canals
surrounding the lake. In recent weeks several tournaments have been
won by anglers fishing the rim canal. Crank baits, lipless and deep
diving are taking good numbers of keeper size fish. The shiner bite
has slowed tremendously also with daily catch numbers falling
Crappie fishing has been very good with the cold weather, for those
brave enough to venture out into the frigid weather the bite is on!
I watched as three different fishermen all caught good numbers of
big thick bodied Crappie this morning, two of them were fishing
minnows under a bobber and the other was fishing grass shrimp, the
gentlemen using grass shrimp was catching 2 to 1 on the minnow
fishermen, there isn’t a fish in the lake that will not eat a grass
The cold weather will stop the blue gill and shell cracker from
moving up onto the bank to spawn, but as the water warms look for
the first run of these fish to happen. If we have a very warm late
February and early March these fish will start to spawn.
Fishing on the Big “O” improved as the week progressed, with the
water getting warmer bass fishing improved daily. Artificial baits
are catching a lot of fish, there are as many ways to catch a limit
of bass on Lake Okeechobee as there are different baits. With the
low water conditions more and more people are learning to fish
different baits and areas to catch fish. The local canals are
producing 20 plus pound sacks of fish for nearly every tournament.
Crank baits are catching a lot of bass in the canals both shallow
diving and deep running baits are working, shaky head jigs are also
accounting for good numbers of bass. The tried and true Carolina rig
is always a good producing method when fishing deeper water.
Crappie fishing is still a hit or miss proposition, one day there a
lot of limits caught and the next fish can not be found. The people
from the FWC that conduct surveys on catch rates related to me on
one particularly cold day that they checked at least thirty boats
and twenty five of them had no fish. There are still certain skilled
anglers that catch specks every time they go, these guys are not
afraid to try different techniques or baits until they find
something that works. There are some crappie showing up near the
bank in shallow water, we can only assume they are there spawning
since they are full of eggs.
Shiner fishing is still very good but the cold weather has taken its
toll on catch rates there as well. Local guides are still reporting
good catches of 30 to 40 bas per day on some days. Big fish are
still being caught almost daily. The big females are spawning and
can be found in very shallow water, please release these big
spawning fish once they are weighed and photographed.
The BFL held its monthly
tournament on the Big “O” Saturday February 3rd. The 80
boat field launched out of Clewiston on a rather dreary day. Local
Okeechobee angler Robert Stafford took the $3400 first place check
with just over 21 pounds of bass.
The cold weather of the past
weeks had slowed the bite somewhat, but as this week progressed the
water warmed up and so did the fishing. A lot of
were caught in the canals surrounding the lake. Many anglers are now
getting wary of running anywhere in the main lake. We are getting
very close to the 11 ½ foot mark which limits access to the lake to
only the most experienced anglers, or someone who does not value his
Crank baits, swimming jigs, and
Carolina rigged plastics are all accounting for good numbers of fish
in the deeper water of the canals.
The shiner bite has been
affected by the cold water also but it rebounded much faster than
the artificial bite did. The average catch is 15 to 25 fish per day.
The chance of catching giant bass is as good now as it will ever
get, with the low water the big sows are trapped on the grass line
when they move in to spawn and are more liable to be caught than at
any other time
Crappie fishing is still slow,
the size of specks being caught are huge! Fish in the 2 pound class
have been common. Jig fishing has picked up for the more adept at
handling a jig pole, but is still a battle of patience. Minnow
fishermen are still catching a lot of fish in the river and canals,
although I have seen more fish caught on grass shrimp this week than
in recent memory.
The big lake was
inundated by the FLW Series this week. Two Hundred anglers
and their co-anglers blasted off Wednesday morning in a four day
pursuit of the heaviest weight of bass. David Dudley from
Virginia caught 64 pounds 2 ounces of fish taking home the
$10,000 first place and a $2,500 Ranger boat bonus.
The 200 pros fished
all over the lake and in the surrounding canals, these hard core
fishermen will go to almost any lengths to access an area that they
know holds fish. There were at least 12 anglers or more that got
stuck trying to access shallow water areas where they had practiced
the day before, The 20 mile an hour north winds blew 14 inches of
water away from the north end toward the south end of the lake,
turning the south end into mud and making the north end water to
shallow to access. There were at least 10 boats that got stuck
trying to access the shallow water areas where 24 hours before the
water was 18 inches deep, only to find themselves mired in 4 inches
of water. The dangerous situation continues to worsen as the lake
drops lower and lower if you don’t know exactly where you are
running don’t chance it!
The cold weather this
past week shut down the bite for most fishermen, the water on the
outside grass lines dropped from 70 plus degrees to 61 degrees,
sending the fish into the thick grass or out into the lake in
pursuit of deeper, warmer water. The water in the deep canals and
river were not affected as much, but still cooled enough that even
the shiner bite took a nosedive. With the weather man forecasting
high 30 degree temps for this week it could get very tough for
anyone wanting to catch fish. The crappie bite normally would get
better, but thus far that has not panned out. I spoke to the
gentlemen that does the fish survey for the FWC and he related that
of the 32 boats he surveyed, 28 of them had zero fish, that is not a
good catch rate!
Captain Mike Shellen Report- Jan 21st, 2007:
The wind finally gave us a break this week
and the bass fishing improved each day. The water is so clear in
some areas of the lake that the bottom is clearly visible. There are
a huge number of bass fishermen in the area now with the FLW series
set to kick off this week. If the conditions remain favorable the
weigh-in bags should be bulging with big bass and heavy limits will
be necessary to take the first place money.
The Northlake Marine Ranger Open was held
Saturday out of Scott Driver Park. The tournament featured local
pros, guides, FLW pro fishermen, and even a team from the redfish
tour. There were 76 teams that fished the event and from the look of
the weigh-in bags brought to the scale everyone caught bass. FLW pro
Sandy Melvin and Billy Bowen took first place honors with nearly a 5
pound average, beating the second place team by a narrow margin and
claiming the $10,000 first place check. The tournament was sponsored
by Ellis and Judy Cole, local Ranger dealers, and received glowing
comments from all of the participants. This tournament is fast
growing into the most prestigious local event held on the lake.
There are huge numbers of
Crappie fishermen dotting the landscape along the Kissimmee River.
Day in and day out the river continues to give up big fat specks.
Some days the fishing is rather slow but that’s just fishing, I have
seen a lot of big thick bodied specks caught this week, most coming
on minnows under a bobber, but jig fishermen are taking their fair
share of fish also. The most productive fishermen are moving; either
trolling or drifting with the wind. Okeechobee Fishing headquarters
Crappie guide Tim Gibson has been catching limits of big Crappie
with his customers.
I see a lot of fishermen
anchored in the same place for long periods of time, and hear the
same folks complain about the lack of fish in the lake. There is no
current moving in the Kissimmee River and has not been for quite
some time, the fish are roaming and moving constantly, one day a
spot is good the next a bust, try something different, it just might
Bass fishing with
artificial baits has been good when the wind allows, I don’t
remember a warmer winter or a winter with more southerly winds.
The water on this end of the lake is clear for a few days, only
to be muddied again by high winds from the south or southeast,
that dirties the water. Senko type baits, Horny Toads and
creature baits are all producing.
Shiner fishing is still very consistent with decent numbers of fish
being caught each trip, and unbelievable numbers of big bass being
caught daily. The shallow water situation in the lake has the fish
restricted to the narrow band of vegetation around the perimeter of
the lake when the fish move in to spawn. The smaller area of
shoreline vegetation has a lot more fish in a relatively small area.
The bass are moving in to spawn and then after spawning they move
back out into the deeper water of the main lake.
New on Okeechobee360.Captain Mike Shellen
is making regular fishing reports and we'll soon have Virtual
postcards, video and photos of this long time local guide to keep
you up to date on some of the most exciting fishing anywhere!
While we're shooting photos and video, and getting Captain Mike's
page ready, enjoy his BLOG below.