Many who have relocated to Florida from points north become perplexed with the confusing names of local fish.
They hear about reds that are not red snapper, trout that are not rainbows and drum that are not in the carp family. What's worse, crappie the favorite fish up north, are never mentioned. What's going on?
Well, fear not bunky, Central Florida has plenty crappie, but we call them specks or speckled perch. Actually, as you travel around the U. S., you will find those tasty pan fish go by a variety of names. In Louisiana they are sac-a-lait (French for white perch.) Some call them paper mouths and others just white perch. No matter what you call them they are probably the tastiest fish in the world.
If you are from up north and have yet to encounter our version of crappie, you are in for a real treat. Here they grow big and are so much fun to catch. Florida specks can average over two pounds with the state record being four and a half. That fish was recently caught in East lake Toho near Orlando. Now that is a sow! I am certain that in my years I have eaten many specks that would have been crappie state records in the north.
As a kid in southwestern Louisiana, I caught loads of sac-a-lait, but size wise they could not compare with those we have here.
In order to catch specks, you will need to leave the east coast of Volusia County and head west for the many lakes in the St. John's River system. All are good, but some are better than others. For my money, you won't do better that beautiful Lake Woodruff west of DeLeon Springs.
Crescent Lake and the connecting Dead Lake over in the Crescent City area are great. Big Lake George is tougher, but has many miles to try. Little Lake Disston is hard to find, but has a nice population of big specks. Over at Sanford, Lake Monroe is an area favorite. Just about anyplace you find fresh water you will find speckled perch.
Right now is the best time to catch specks since the cooler water sends them into the center of the lakes. That will last until about mid-April. When the specks are schooled up in deeper water, trolling for them is the way to go. Use tiny 1/32nd oz. jigs or 1/64th oz and bring along a variety of colors. If you are not into trolling, minnows work just fine.
A secret bait and maybe the best one is grass shrimp. To catch them, use a small aquarium net and wipe it under the roots of water lilies near shore. They may seem too small, but those tiny clear shrimp are candy to specks.
Over the years me and my old buddy, the late Andy Anderson, caught specks all over the state. Big Cypress in south Florida, Lake Panasofkee in west central and Orange Lake near Gainesville to name just a few. Our big inland sea Lake Okeechobee provided me with many a nice speck meal.
Remember, once the water warms, the specks will retreat under the vegetation and be harder to catch. You can get them from most anything that floats. I have seen folks fishing for them from foot paddle floats on up to junior yachts. Good fun! Don't miss out.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.