• Stick Marsh Vegetation Returns, Bass Never Left (Part 1)

    Sunrise at Stick Marsh

    (Part 1) Go to (Part 2)

    Vegetation has returned to the Stick Marsh and Farm 13. At the time of this writing there are massive amounts of vegetation in the South Central and South West portions of Farm 13. The vegetation is spreading Northward as I report. The vegetation is eel grass, hydrilla and coontail. The grasses have taken a big hold on the lake. The water in Farm 13 and Stick Marsh is much clearer and bassier looking than in recent years. The vegetation is taking hold in the Western portions of Stick Marsh. As I write the bass catching is getting easier and easier. The vegetation seems to make locating the bass easier. Based on electroshocking results and angler surveys by Florida Wildlife agents and biologists the bass never left. In fact the catch rate is the same now as in the peak reported fishing years of the 90s. Electro shocking results are no different now, as far as numbers of bass, than in the 90s. However, the baitfish have changed some. Wild Shiners are in reduced numbers compared to the 90s but Seminole Killfish are in increased numbers.

    Bass caught in the eel grass.

    Anglers continue to report catching more than a hundred bass a day. An occasional 200 bass caught in a day is reported. Granted that is for two anglers, but that is still a bunch of bass. We are reporting that these catches are on artificial lures. Nothing is wrong with catching those kinds of numbers of bass. Combine the numbers of bass reported with reports of the size of bass caught recently; 17 lbs, 13 lbs, 12 lbs, tons of 8 pounders and larger up to 11 pounders, and itís obvious that this lake combo of Stick Marsh and Farm 13 need to be considered by the visiting out of state fisherman.

    Typical fishing patterns for Stick Marsh and Farm 13 are slow rolling Spinnerbaits and Rattle Traps and Dead Sticking Stick-Os in the Spring/Winter; topwater lures (Chug Bugs) all day long in the summer; Carolina rigs in the running water; and the always working pattern of fishing Bomber Long As with a jerk-jerk-let it rise technique. Spring time anglers report catching larger bass on wild shiners.
    Florida bass do not have a winter. So when we talk about Spring fishing and Spring patterns what we mean is months most Northern anglers refer to as Winter months. That is the months of January through March. My personal favorite time to fish for bass at Stick Marsh and Farm 13 is after Thanksgiving and Before Christmas. That is when the large females are pigging out to go on the bed and no one is fishing for them. Seems like the majority of anglers are concerned and occupied with hunting and Santa. Not me; I am concerned with catching a bunch of big ol female bass who are concerned with eating anything they can get their mouths around.
    With the resurgence of vegetation in Farm 13 and Stick Marsh the bass catching is going to go out of sight and become unreportable. No one is going to believe how good it is. That is the way it was back in the 90s. No one believed the reports we had back then; they were too good. That is the way it is going to be from till the vegetation is gone. The vegetation isnít going anywhere, except, there is going to be more.

    Farm 13 bass caught on Rattle Trap.

    Rumors and reports of these two lakes fishing small are going to be put aside. The lakes will fish larger and better. Not that there are more fish, or larger fish, than at any previous time, but that anglers are going to be able to catch them. The easy days are back. Finding the bass is easier than it has been. Give this some thought: local anglers, the regulars, are disappointed with a 20 bass day. Local anglers, the regulars, feel like itís almost impossible not to catch a five pounder. Any angler who was fished a hard to fish lake will go nuts with his success in Stick Marsh and Farm 13. These are some fantastic lakes. The return of the vegetation is improving the anglerís opportunity for success.

    Stick Marsh was opened to public fishing in 1987. Fishing and catching were better than awesome. Anyone could go out there and throw something and catch something. It did not even matter where you threw what you threw. The favorite saying of most bass fishing guides at the time was ďYou can not buy enough shiners. It doesnít matter how many you have the bass will keep coming and keep eating them!Ē And that was the way of it.

    Stick Marsh during low water.

    ďEvery where you see a tree; there is a tree. Every where you donít see a tree; there is a tree.Ē
    Artificial fishing and live bait fishing for bass and specs (crappie) was better than awesome. Over the years several things took place. All those bass finally figured out that it wasnít safe to eat live wild shiners. The guides threw away the dead ones so the bass ate the dead ones. Then the guides figured that out and were killing wild shiners to use them as bait. WellÖ.the bass figured that out and got harder to catch.

    Chug Bug bass during low water.
    Then along came Hurricane Gordon and smashed the tops of the trees in Stick Marsh and then when the water level dropped the fishermen had less places they could identify. So the bass got safer.

    Then along came the St. Johns River Water Management District and raised the level of Stick Marsh and Farm 13. That gave the bass more water depth in which to hide. Then along came a series of Hurricanes that blew out the vegetation. Then the catching got tougher. Not so now.

    I interviewed Bob Eisenhauer, Florida Wildlife Biologist, who has worked at Stick Marsh and Farm 13 almost since their inception. I have seen Bob on the water, at the ramp, and around the area. Bob has the best interest of the bass at heart. Bob is a bass fisherman as well. So, his information is Ďright onĒ when it comes to what the bass fisherman wants to know. The largest bass Bob can remember being electrofished (anglers call that shocking) is 12.5 to 13 lbs. Electrofishing only works around the perimeter of the lake. The results of electrofishing only can be related to the perimeter of the lake. The best part, fishing wise, about Stick Marsh and Farm 13 is that there is similar structure and cover off shore that holds bass. A biologist might not be able to relate electrofishing results along a perimeter to off shore populations but those of us with rods and reels can. Most of the bass catching at Stick Marsh and Farm 13 is done off shore. As far as big bass reported by anglers, reliable reports of several bass in the 17 pound range have been made. Then there are those questionable reports of 20 pound bass being caught. I do not doubt that there are multiple 20 pound bass swimming around Stick Marsh and Farm 13. I do doubt that anyone has caught one of them. I have not seen any photographic proof. I have had bass hooked by myself, several of my clients that have towed by Bass Cat around. I know of several bass over 30 inches long being caught. Those are long bass and that kind of length certainly has the potential of twenty plus pounds.

    The lakes have changed over the years. That is part of the anatomy and history of a living lake. What has not changed is the catch rate and the electrofishing results. Less angler pressure might be the reason for a similar catch rate is one observation of Bob Eisenhauer. However, that does not change the results of electroshocking. The bass are in there and they have been in there. What is most interesting to me, as an angler, guide, and writer is that there seems to be an excellent spawn the last two seasons. Those year classes of bass seem to be stupid. They are extremely easy to catch and they are fat and full and looking good. Throw in one of those monsters now and then and the day is full of action.

    With the bass that were reported caught during the Spring and the bass that my clients caught during the months of March and April I have no doubt that there was as excellent spawn this year and I know that there are lots of monster bass out there. There are lots of bass of a lifetime swimming around those two lakes.

    Hula Popper bass.

    Why so much emphasis on the vegetation. Bob brought it to my attention that the vegetation clears the water. The vegetation breaks down the wind effect on the lake and therefore makes keeping a boat in position to catch bass much easier. The lakes are fishing larger than they have in years and with the spreading vegetation they will continue to fish larger. Many of my clients continually remark about how healthy the bass are. The bass are fat, full and fight like the dickens. What ever they are eating they are eating lots of it. So..there must be lots of it to eat.