Water levels can change often on the Choctawhatahee River. So at times anglers access may be limited to areas. Spring largemouth bass fishing is generally the best when water temperatures increase and bass prepare to spawn. Recommended baits are live shad if available or of coarse wild shiners. When fishing artificial lures, loud crankbaits seem to be the best bait of choice to cover a lot of water. The Choctawhatchee River has an excellent population of large bream. Bream fishermen should search the shorelines by spot fishing, as you would for bass to locate bream, when accessible. Choctawhatahee River spawning activity for bream peaks during the full moon in April and May. Use wigglers, earthworms and crickets with a split shot sinker on lite line seems to work best. Bream will aggregate around spawning areas, as on most lakes. So, if you begin to catch fish, fish the area for spots within the same areas. Crappie fishing will be at its best when they move in to spawn. Most crappie are caught below the Highway 20 bridge west of Ebro. Try fishing the backwater lake areas around woody debris with small crappie minnow jigs.
During the spring on the Choctawhatahee River, striped bass and sunshine bass anglers should fish the river in the early morning or evening, which fishing is generally better on an outgoing tide. Look for stripers feeding, they swim in schools around lots of shad. Cast into the activity with a lure mimicking a shad and they will be sure to strike your lure. Large striped bass move upstream during their spawn, which runs as water temperatures approach 65-68 degrees. When fishing up the Choctawhatahee River, look for areas were the current is the swiftest, and check your depth finder for deep holes adjacent to sandbars and points. The mouth of East River, and the junction of Pine Log Creek and East River, are good places to start fishing. Live shad and shiners can be free-lined off the back of the boat. Catch data indicate that many stripers 15-30 pounds and hybrid striped bass 4-8 pounds are living in the river.
HISTORY ON CHOCTAWHATCHEE RIVER:
The Choctawhatchee River is Floridas’ third largest river system in terms of water volume discharged. Originating in the southern portion of Alabama, the river flows approximately 96 miles from the Alabama state line into Choctawhatchee Bay.
Choctawhatahee River in general, anglers will enjoy the greatest success fishing when water levels are low and the river is within its banks. Nice stringers of bluegill and redear (shellcracker) are caught off the spawning beds in the spring and along river banks lined with dead falls and snags the rest of the year. Crickets and wigglers are good baits for panfishing. Many local anglers swear by the catalpa worm, which can be frozen in clear corn syrup and used throughout the year. Try fishing the mid to upper reaches of the river system for your bigger bream. Largemouth bass are commonly caught on crank baits, spinner baits and artificial worms throughout the river system. Big bass can usually be found around treetops and snags in the mid and upper reaches of the river and along the saw grass flats down by the mouth. Sunshine bass (hybrid striped bass) and striped bass fishing is excellent in the spring and fall throughout the lower end of the river. These fish are stocked annually by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Preferred baits include finger mullet, live shad and shad-like lures on the Choctawhatahee River. The best fishing is on the out-going tide at dusk or dawn. Areas to target include sandbars and points in the river. It should be noted that harvest and size regulations are different for the sunshine and the striped bass (see current regulations handbook).
Popular boating access points along the Choctawhatchee River include Hwy. 90 (Caryville), Hwy. 20 (Ebro) and along River Road off Hwy. 20 (east of Bruce) there are several boat landings and a bait shop. For access to the lower river take Hwy 331 south of Freeport and go left on S.R. 394 about a mile and look for the signs.
Holmes Creek, a major spring-fed tributary of the Choctawhatchee, offers some excellent fishing. Several bream species can be found in abundance including longear sunfish, spotted sunfish (stumpknockers), redbreast sunfish and warmouth. Big shellcrackers can be caught along the channel side of water lily beds. The spotted bass, a close relative of the largemouth bass, is also native and is an exciting fish to catch. There are several boating access point along Hwy. 279 (Vernon) and Hwy. 79.
Local information on the Choctawhatahee River and their fishes may be obtained from the Commission’s Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center, 8384 Fish Hatchery Rd., Holt, FL 32564. (850) 957-6177; FAX (850) 957-6176.