Freshwater fishing is about to get better at Miami-Dade County’s Tropical Park.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission teamed with the county’s parks and recreation department to create more transit corridors, as well as hiding and feeding locations for largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and catfish in the 11-acre lake. The agencies also cleaned up the shoreline for better angler access.
The lake is one of four freshwater bodies in southeast Florida and 80 statewide designated as fish management areas (FMAs)where FWC biologists work in cooperation with counties to provide cheap, accessible recreational fishing opportunities for the public. The other three local FMAs are the six-acre lake at Plantation Heritage Park in Broward County, four-acre Caloosa Park and 157-acre Okeeheelee Park in Palm Beach County.
The Tropical Park FMA, established in 1991, has yielded bass more than nine pounds along with channel catfish up to ten pounds. About 6,000 catfish are stocked annually because they don’t reproduce well in the lake. Bass, bluegill, and sunfish do fine on their own.
Over the years, too many cattails had sprouted up in the northern part of the lake, blocking fish from travelling back and forth. So, beginning in March, contractors hired by the FWC began removing the dense, tall plants. Now, there’s a more open shoreline for anglers to cast.
Further enhancements included removal of cattail and spatterdock (a type of water lily) a bit further south of the former blockage and removal of exotic Brazilian pepper at a fish nursery site adjacent to the fishing island where the police memorial stands.
John Cimbaro, the FWC biologist in charge of the project, said native vegetation such as spikerush and pond apple will be planted when elevated water levels from this past week’s heavy rains go down.
“The purpose is to provide a heavily vegetated area for young fish until they’re large enough to go into open areas,” Cimbaro said.
In the park’s southernmost lake, which is not part of the FMA but is used to conduct youth fishing camps, contractors have planted bulrush out from the shoreline to create even more fish habitat.
To take advantage of the improved fishery, Cimbaro made some recommendations for anglers.
The best bass baits, he said, are plastic worms rigged weedless in colors of junebug, motor oil, black, or red shad with a 3/8-ounce bullet weight for deeper areas such as the shoreline surrounding the police memorial. He said swimbaits and crankbaits also are effective. All bass must be released alive.
For catfish, most of which live near the fishing island, Cimbaro recommends chicken or beef livers, live worms, or commercial stinkbaits. Bluegill and sunfish can be caught on popping bug flies or with live crickets and worms. The catfish bag limit is six per person. For panfish, the limit is 20. However, bluegill and redear sunfish under eight inches must be released.
Occasionally, anglers fishing with bread balls may hook into large grass carp, which are stocked in the lake to cut back the spread of hydrilla. Those fish must be released alive.
For more information about fishing opportunities at Tropical Park and other FMAs, visit myFWC.com/Fishing.