Right now, we are in the middle of the spotted perch season in the freshwater lakes and streams of western Volusia County.
The fish camps and boat ramps are filled with smiles all around. Each year, as the water cools, the specks leave the cover of lily pads and move into open water to lay their eggs. This makes fishing easier and attracts anglers from all over the Southeast as well as hordes of locals.
Spotted perch are Florida’s version of crappie, only larger. They are fun to catch, and very good to eat. Here in Central Florida, they often weigh more than two pounds, and it’s not unusual for us biscuits to eat a fish that might be a record in the northern states. Here, they are prolific breeders, and therefore plentiful.
The main way to catch winter spots is by fishing, but it’s not the only way. When I first moved here in the late 1960s, I thought the only way to catch them was with live minnows. That’s how we caught them in Louisiana, where they’re called sac-a-lait (French for white perch). I don’t know why they have so many names, but no matter what you give them, they all eat great.
To troll them, you’ll need to rig three to five rods with small racks of 1/32-ounce weight. ranges. You can use practically any color, but for me, white and orange work best. When you start walking around the middle of the lake, it’s best to use a variety of colors. Fish will let you know what is best. The best color often changes with changing sunlight or cloud cover.
The depth of your troll will depend on the speed of your boat. An electric trolling motor is best, but you can catch them with an outboard motor. In years past, I’ve used a large 100-horsepower Mercury-sized motor to catch them.
While fishing, you may need to move your baits up and down in the water column. Do this by changing the speed of your boat or by adding lead shot. Again, the fish will tell you when you are right.
To catch them with bait, you’ll need a way to keep the minnows alive. Do this with a live well or battery-powered aerator.
Although most of the fish have moved to open water, you can still catch spots around the edges of lily pads or near fallen trees or logs. Fish them with a bobber to keep the bait off the bottom and moving.
Spots have a paper-like mouth and are often pulled free. You can never expect to get everything you set your mind to. The real fun happens when you get three or more at once.
Each fisherman is allowed to keep 25 fish per day. Guys, this is a popular fishing mine throughout the United States, but seems to be mostly overlooked by anglers in eastern Volusia County.
If you want to have some fun and great food, give it a try. The season runs from now until late April.
Dan Smith has fished Volusia County waters 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.