By Lynn Burkhead - March 13, 2013
Lake Istokpoga is a 28,000-acre freshwater lake. The oblong-shaped lake is five miles wide by 10 miles long.
Despite its area, it is very shallow, with an average depth of only four feet. Maximum depth is 10 feet. Most of the shoreline is undeveloped and there are two islands, Big and Bumble Bee, in the lake’s interior.
Depending on the weather, which is likely to be the determining factor for fishing success, local anglers have ranked the zones (best to worst) 5, 6, 3, 2, 4, 1. The weather, particularly the wind speed and direction, will change that ranking for any particular day. Of the six zones, all include very favorable bass habitat in which anglers have come up with quality fish. Over the last few years, hot spots on the lake have moved around a lot, depending upon the season and the state of the lake’s vegetation.
The lake is very shallow, and when there’s wind, it can get rough and hard to fish, very fast. It’s not unusual when the winds are high to have the motor skeg touch the sandy bottom while riding up and down the high waves, especially on the west side of the lake, south of Henderson’s Point.
The other obstacle is hydrilla, which can block water intakes and cause a motor to overheat. The state keeps a hydrilla control plan, so the actual location of hydrilla varies significantly from year to year and from one season to another.
Because Lake Istokpoga is at the base of the Lake Wales Ridge, hydrostatic pressure is created from lakes higher up on the ridge. As a result, there are a lot of seeps and freshwater springs in and around the lake, which create local areas of cooler or warmer water. These are invisible to the angler, but the consequence is that fish may be stacked up in one location, while 20 to 30 feet away there are few, if any, bass, although both spots may be a part of the same habitat and appear identical to anglers.
Zone 5 is difficult to fish when the wind is out of the northeast. The west shoreline of Zone 5 offers great fishing.
The majority of tournaments on Lake Istokpoga are won and the largest fish are taken by anglers who flip into bulrush habitat, or who fish through breaks in the hydrilla. Zone 5 is known as the “West Wall” and when the weather is good, fishermen patrol along the edge of the bulrushes, flipping them to catch big bass. When the lake is rough, this is a difficult technique, but anglers have learned they can go into the lagoons behind the bulrushes, fish in one to two feet of water and find big fish.