I selected a chrome SteelShad blade bait that looks remarkably like a threadfin shad and makes an enticing wobble in the water. I tossed the bait near the bar edge and let it sink. Moments later, I pulled up what appeared to be a small Kentucky spotted bass.
However, days later, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that they discovered a new bass species native to the Florida Panhandle and parts of Alabama. According to a statement released by the FWC, Choctaw bass (Micropterus haiaka) closely resemble Kentucky spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus), but differ genetically.
I don’t know if the small bass I caught was indeed a newly-discovered Choctaw or a more common spotted bass, but I do know that Lake Talquin can produce a variety of fish. On this day, we caught about seven species including four types of bass without even trying for crappie, bream or catfish. Most came from that one point.
“It’s not uncommon to catch largemouths, striped bass, white bass and maybe even crappie at the same place with the same baits,” Mundinger said. “They all feed upon shad. Wherever you find bait, that’s where the bass will be.”
Lake Talquin offers anglers some of the best striped bass action in Florida. Talquin stripers generally run about 10 to 20 pounds, but some surpass 30 pounds. A few top the 40-pound mark.
Spawning saltwater stripers used to come up the Ochlockonee River, which flows 206 miles from southwest Georgia to Ochlockonee Bay east of Apalachicola, Fla. Many stripers still prowl the waters below the Talquin dam on the Ochlockonee River, but today, state biologists raise stripers from Lake Talquin brood stock in hatcheries to release in other lakes.
Created in 1927 with the damming of the Ochlockonee River for hydroelectric power, the lake spreads across 8,800 acres near Quincy, Fla., west of Tallahassee. In fact, the name comes from a contraction of “Tallahassee” and “Quincy.” Talquin averages about 15 feet deep, but some holes in the old river channel plunge to more than 40 feet deep.
“Lake Talquin is not a typical Florida lake,” Mundinger advised. “It’s an impounded reservoir unlike the typical shallow, grassy natural lakes found in central or South Florida. It’s more like lakes in Alabama or Georgia.”
A multitude of stumps, humps, dead trees and other objects left when the lake flooded blanket the bottom, creating outstanding cover for bass and other species. In addition, several spring-fed creeks enter the reservoir. All year long, these springs seep cool water, which stripers crave.
“Stripers like cooler water,” Mundinger explained. “On overcast days, stripers rise higher in the water column and chase shad on the surface. When I see big stripers attacking shad on the surface, I like to throw a big Spook or a Pencil Popper. When the fish go down or aren’t biting topwaters, I like to run a jig or crankbait through the area.”
The lake also holds monster white bass with some topping four pounds. Highly aggressive fish eaters, white bass often run with the stripers. Both species typically stay in deeper channels and always stick close to baitfish. Look for stripers or whites chasing shad off points or along the river channel edges.
“Big white bass are a lot of fun to catch and they usually run in huge schools,” Mundinger advised. “They hit hard and fight well. We catch big white bass on spinnerbaits when casting for largemouths. White bass big enough to put a 5/8-ounce spinnerbait in their mouths are big white bass!”
Many anglers prefer to tempt stripers and white bass with live shad. During the summer, head up one of the cool feeder springs to dangle threadfin shad under floats near weeds adjacent to the channel. If that doesn’t work, free-line a livie next to a channel drop. In deeper water, attach a live shad to a Carolina rig fished near the bottom.
“I like free-lining because the baitfish can swim more naturally with nothing holding it back,” said Matt Bergantino, an area fisherman. “If stripers are not feeding, I give them an enticement by throwing some shad in the water. There’s nothing like watching a shad trying to get away on the surface and, BAM, a 10- to 15-pound striper nails it.”
The lake also holds enormous largemouth bass, some exceeding 14 pounds. Each year, the lake produces bass topping 10 pounds. With so many creek channels, ledges, humps and other submerged cover, mine the depths with crankbaits, slow-rolled spinnerbaits or soft plastics. Over river channel holes, vertically jig spoons or work drop-shot rigs. Points and sandbars that provide good access to both shallow and deep water make great places to start looking for bass.
“Lake Talquin has a lot of underwater structure and cover,” Mundinger said. “For anyone who does not know the lake, the best places to start looking for bass are the places with the greatest depth changes. The biggest turns in the old river channel create the biggest and deepest holes.”
Lake Talquin also holds good populations of catfish, bream and other species. The lake produced the state records for black crappie at 3 pounds, 13 ounces, and chain pickerel at 5.75 pounds. In nearby waters, anglers might also catch redeye bass, shoal bass and Suwannee bass.
For food and lodging on Lake Talquin, contact the Whippoorwill Sportsman’s Lodge. The lodge operates a lakeside store, restaurant and marina. Guests may also rent boats or cabins. Call 850-875-2605 or see www.fishthewhip.com.