(Santa Rosa County):
Bear Lake is a 107-acre man-made impoundment constructed in 1959, opened to fishing in 1961, and designated as a Fish Management Area. The lake has an average depth of 8 feet with a maximum depth of 23 feet. Deepest areas are located near the dam and along the old streambed. A considerable amount of flooded timber remains, providing fish habitat. This lake has been stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), black crappie, hybrid striped bass, and channel catfish. Bear Lake is located in northeast Santa Rosa County with in the Blackwater State Forest, approximately 2 miles east of Munson, FL on SR 4. A dual-launch concrete boat ramp is located within the Bear Lake Campground. Ample parking, a handicapped accessible fishing pier, and an informational kiosk are located near this ramp. The Florida Forest Service maintains the campground, which includes bath/restroom facilities, along with camping and picnic areas. The Florida Forest Service charges a $2.00/car fee to all persons entering the Bear Lake Campground area. Two primitive dirt boat landings are accessible from Hurricane Lake Rd. and are not currently subject to this fee. A limited number of small jon-boats and canoes are available to rent from DOF for use on the lake. Information regarding these rentals can be obtained by calling 850-957-6140. Bear Lake is subject to the rules and regulations currently in effect for Fish Management Areas. Please refer to a current copy of Florida Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations. Gasoline boat motors are prohibited from use on Bear Lake; however, use of electric trolling motors is allowed.
For additional information regarding fishing opportunities at Bear Lake contact Blackwater Fisheries Center in Holt, Fl. Phone 850-957-6175.
See also our Fish Management Area Brochure and Map for Bear Lake.
Hybrid striped bass are often active when water temperatures are under 60 and can provide excellent fishing during January and February prior to the start of the bass spawn. Shad or shad colored baits are often the most productive as shad are the most important prey item for hybrids.
Black crappie begin moving into shallower waters to begin spawning activity as water temperatures climb into the high 50’s. Spawning activity typically peaks when water temperatures range from 60 – 62 degrees. Crappie can provide some early season action for anglers looking for opportunities before the bass bite picks up. Crappie nesting activity is similar to that exhibited by largemouth bass; it just begins a little earlier. Most years this occurs in mid to late-February, but the key is to be observant of weather patterns and water temperatures.
In late February and early March largemouth bass will begin to move into shallow water in preparation for spawning activity. Male bass move in first and begin to fan out nests, typically as water temperatures reach the lower 60’s. Nests are most often constructed in water that is 2 – 6 feet in depth, but nests have been observed in water as deep as 10 feet. As water temperatures reach the mid 60’s, peak spawning activity begins with the females moving in and pairing with the males. While spawning can begin when water temperatures are in the lower 60’s and continue as temperatures rise into the upper 60’s, the peak of the bass spawning season normally occurs when water temperatures are in the 64 – 66 degree range. Observing water temperatures and weather patterns during this time of year can play a big part in angler success. Cool fronts that often move through this time of year can have a big impact on both spawning and feeding activity and can affect different areas of the lake in different ways. It is not unusual for one area of a lake to warm-up a little earlier than another which can have a large impact on bass activity in those areas. Water temperature, wind speed and direction, and the frequency of cool fronts moving through the area all play major roles in bass activity this time of year. Dark colored plastic worms/lizards and floater-diver type lures are two of the more productive artificial baits used by anglers this time of year. Rat-L-Traps are also effective according to numerous bass anglers. Bass can often be found hanging out around clumps of maidencane grass or other types of structure found around the lake.
Redear sunfish (shellcracker) will be congregating on the oyster-shell spawning area and limerock piles located within the lake. Redear spawning activity usually begins as water temperatures reach the upper 60’s and typically peaks when water temperatures are in the 68 – 72 degree range. As with largemouth bass, water temperatures and weather patterns play a large role in redear activity this time of year. Overcast days also tend to be more productive than bright sunny days, especially when the water is very clear for both bass and bream. Live baits such as red worms, wigglers, and crickets fished on light tackle are the best bet. Another productive method for catching bream is to take a small Beetle Spin (1/16 or 1/32 oz.), detach the spinner and use only the little lead headed jig preferably with chartreuse colored grubs. Bait with a cricket and fish 3 to 4 feet below a float. For anglers without a boat, good catches of bluegill can be had by fishing off the fishing pier adjacent to the boat ramp in the north campgrounds or off the fishing fingers located in both the north and south campgrounds. Catfish activity is usually slow this time of year and picks up later in the year as water temperatures warm. Chicken livers and earthworms are good baits to use when pursuing catfish.