Situated just outside the Ocala National Forest near Weirsdale,
about 60 miles northwest of Orlando, offers some
of the best summer crappie fishing in central Florida!
Unlike most Florida
waters, the 5,685-acre natural lake drops to more than 20 feet deep in places.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission maintains
about a dozen fish attractors scattered throughout the lake. In addition, many
anglers build their own brush piles to hold crappies. The depth, irregular
bottom contours and numerous artificial reefs give crappie excellent cover and
a refuge from summer heat.
is a good summer lake because it has deeper, cooler water than most lakes in
the area," said Mike Baker, a professional crappie angler from Silver Springs, Fla.
"It produces a lot of fish in the 1- to 1.25-pound range and some bigger ones.
I normally fish in 15- to 18 feet of water and suspend my baits about 9- to 10
The state marked each of its fish attractors with yellow buoys, but private
brush piles may prove more difficult to find. Many locals try to keep the
coordinates of their favorite piles secret, but anglers can often locate
structure with good electronics. Keep hitting each likely brush piles to
locate, which ones hold the best fish at that time.
In the summer, crappies typically hold tight to structure so fish each pile
very slowly. Vertically drop a lure or bait into the brush pile and fish
completely around it. Sometimes, big fish hover on the edges; sometimes they
bury themselves in the thickest cover. In addition, start fishing at the bottom
and slowly work up the water column to locate where crappie want to suspend
that day. After determining the depth, dangle the bait slightly above the fish
since crappies look skyward to spot prey silhouetted against surface glare.
"A crappie always looks up to feed," Baker said. "It might not see a bait
moving 6 inches below it, but it might rise several feet to hit a bait moving above it."
In the summer, lethargic crappies may just barely taste a
bait or simply suck it down instead of smacking it. Watch the line
closely for very subtle nibbles. Add extra enticement for tempting finicky crappie
by sweetening a jighead with a live minnow or grass
shrimp. Flavored pellets, or "crappie candy," may also entice fastidious fish.
Many professional anglers, such as Baker use "spider rigs" to fish
vertically. A spider rig consists of several rods arrayed off the bow in
holders to create a fan-shaped pattern. Barely move the boat forward with an
electric motor to completely encircle the brush pile or follow a contour. On
each rod, (where legal) hang two or three different jigs at various levels to determine
the best color, bait and depth combinations.
"Spider rigging is a technique that catches big crappie all year long
because it's such a slow, vertical presentation," said Whitey Outlaw, a South Carolina crappie
pro. "People think it's a bottom-fishing technique, but it's really a slow,
vertical troll. We drop the baits down to the depth where the fish suspend."
Several houses and docks line the shorelines of Lake Weir.
The docks provide shady cover where fish can escape the summer heat. Docks closest
to deep water generally hold the most fish. Also look for secondary cover, such
as brush piles. Many dock owners drop Christmas trees, yard debris, branches,
or other material within casting distance of their docks to create additional
In the summer, anglers frequently find the biggest fish in the darkest
shadows way back under docks. To place small temptations far under cover, try
"shooting the docks." Open the bail on a light spinning reel, grab the jighead to bend the rod and release it. The rod tip acts
like a bow, flinging the bait under the dock. When released at a low angle, the
lure trajectory might cause it to skip across the water surface, shooting it
farther back under shady cover to target fish others wouldn't think of tempting.
Anglers can use this method to hurl a light jig under a dock, free-line a
minnow or sling a bobber suspending a bait or tiny fly under good cover.
Since Lake Weir
ranks among the cleanest lakes in central Florida, it can produce some sweet, great-tasting
crappie fillets -- and lots of them. For booking trips with Baker, call
352-625-1180 or 352-267-0747. On line, see www.thecrappiefisherman.com. For
GPS coordinates of the state fish attractors placed in Lake Weir,
For a fine assortment of Freshwater fishing gear, click here.