(Columbia, Hamilton, Madison, Lafayette, Gilchrist, Alachua, Suwannee, Levy, and Dixie counties):
The Suwannee River is a pristine, black water stream flowing 213 miles in Florida from the swamp-like region at the Georgia border to salt marsh tidal creeks at the Gulf of Mexico. In between are rocky bluffs and shoal areas in the upper reaches and floodplain cypress tree-hardwood swamp borders, lined with water lilies, in the middle sections. The Santa Fe River is a significant tributary with great spring flow influence, making the water clearer yet more productive for submerged vegetation and fish food organisms.
Although the Suwannee River is not known for trophy largemouth bass, good catch rates can be expected, and anglers frequently catch quality-sized bass. The more petite but feisty Suwannee bass species also occurs throughout much of the river system, and fish large enough to qualify for FWC’s “Big Catch” Suwannee bass certificates (minimum: 16 inches or 2 pounds) can be caught by anglers in the Santa Fe.
Crawfish are the main food item for bass in the river system, so anglers should fish accordingly. Plastic worms, lizards, and crawfish; jigs with orange skirts and pork rinds; and metallic crankbaits are all standard lures that catch fish in the river.
While the scenery may change every 20 or 30 miles, the key to catching bass is the same. A deep structure, or a shallow structure that has deep water nearby, is what anglers should always look for. Suwannee bass, more common in Santa Fe River, prefer current where water moves around cypress trees or in mid-river at low water levels. Changing depths will change the location of the current structure.
The lower Suwannee River moves more slowly, and bass utilizes shoreline cover of fallen trees and cypress trees on outer bends. Plastic baits, rigged Weedless, can catch bass in the pads of inside shallow banks. Live shiners can be fished into brush piles from upstream by letting them float downstream. Small bass will hit a fly, or a small floater-diver fished along the bank in the Suwannee.
The estuary is also productive. In the fall, fishing can be outstanding when shrimp are in the river. Tidal creeks are a unique fishing experience.
SUWANNEE & SANTA FE RIVERS the Suwannee drains from the Okeefenokee Swamp through limestone shoals stretches to become a large floodplain river in the lower reaches. Drastic water level fluctuations characterize the river and keep the fishery dynamic. The Santa Fe is the major tributary, heavily influenced by springs, and, unlike the Suwannee, has vast areas of submerged vegetation in the middle and upper reaches.
These areas harbor abundant freshwater shrimp, water studs, and aquatic insects, thus producing excellent growth rates for fish, particularly abundant redbreast sunfish and pugnacious spotted sunfish (stump knockers). The upper Suwannee has only tree roots and rocky shelves for fish structure. The lower Suwannee has a band of waterlilies and, eventually, in the tidal portion, numerously wooded and marsh-lined feeder creeks.
(*Local upper Suwannee contacts: Suwannee River State Park 386-362-2746, Canoe Outpost 1-800-428-4147, Spirit of Suwannee Park 386-364-1683; *Local middle Suwannee and Santa Fe contacts: Sandy Point Marina 386-935-0615, Gene’s Bait & Tackle, Ft. White 904-497-2248; *Local lower Suwannee contacts: Sid’s Treasure Camp at Fowler’s Bluff 352-493-2950)
Note: Boaters should be highly cautious on both rivers, as low water has made clearance over sand bars and other underwater hazards less specific. Use low water periods to understand what exposed areas look like under normal river levels.
Depending on seasonal storms, water levels in both rivers can bounce back. If this happens and water enters the floodplain, it sets the stage for some great fishing. When the water recedes into the river proper is the best time to catch your fill. For panfish, live bait such as crickets and worms work best. Cast towards the cypress knees and roots with your bait suspended about two-three feet down.
On the other hand, fishing from the bank requires enough weight to get your bait down and stationary. Realize that the current will drag your baited hook downstream with time, thus providing another opportunity to cast and see what bites. During cold spells, fish may concentrate in holes, especially in creeks of the lower Suwannee River. Speckled perch become very active and can be caught wherever a brush is in either river. Check spring run entrances.
High tide fishing is always slow, with the best fishing during lower tides. It is also helpful to remember that the outer bends are always deeper, sand bars are on inside curves, lilies on the outer bend mean the current has left the bank, and panfish like to spawn here. Both Suwannee and largemouth bass occur. Large fish are not the rule and remember that all bass in the river, especially Suwannee bass, prefer to feed on crawfish, so crawfish-colored lures prevail.
In the Suwannee River, areas north and west of the Suwannee River, and in any tributary, creek, or stream of the Suwannee River: the daily bag limit for striped bass is 3, each of which must be at least 18 inches in total length (20 fish combined bag limit). 2 Butterfly peacock bass, only one of which may be 17 inches or longer in full length.
The possession limit is two days bag limit. Without a commercial fishing license, it is illegal to transport or possess more than two days’ bag limit of fish per licensed angler. Exceptions are fish legally acquired from aqua-culturists (fish farmers) for use in aquaria for broodstock, pond stocking, or adequately marked for the market.
(NOTE: It is illegal to possess grass carp without a permit; all grass carp must be released immediately.)
We will guide you on the Suwannee River, part of the “Limestone Spring Belt.” Vast limestone deposits exist on land areas once covered by the ocean. In this region of northern Florida, deposits are very near the surface, and both springs and sinkholes are numerous in many different locations.
There’s a lot to be said for Florida river fishing; not only can you catch the famous Suwannee bass, but this area also hosts trophy largemouth, meaning Florida-strain largemouth. The fishing on the Suwannee is outstanding in most cases during the summer months through the winter.
So do not hesitate; you will fish with a professional guide; all of our trips include Fully equipped Bass boats, fuel, and tackle. Everything you need for that trip you’ve been waiting for. The only thing you will need to have is a Florida fishing license.
Corporate trips are welcome and very common for us because of our size. We can accommodate all of your fishing needs from one to a hundred. We also can provide everything from breakfast and box lunches to a southern BBQ to end the day.
Suwannee River Reviews
More great links to information on these rivers,