A mahi-mahi created by last year’s seventh-ninth grade, first place saltwater winner, Penelope Horwitz.

The annual Fish Art Contest is now open! Students in kindergarten through 12th grade can create an original piece of artwork and compete in this free contest for a chance to win state and national honors and prizes.

In partnership with Wildlife Forever, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is excited to announce the second annual category for a Florida Native Fish Award! This State Specialty Award is an additional award to the national Fish Art Contest that participating students will qualify for by submitting a Florida native species from the specified list below. The goal of the Florida Native Fish Award is to celebrate fish species native to Florida’s inland and marine waters.

“The Florida Native Fish Award is an amazing opportunity to introduce students to some of Florida’s most iconic native fish species in a fun and creative way,” said FWC Commissioner Sonya Rood. “This award helps connect Florida’s students to the fish species that help make Florida the Fishing Capital of the World, which is critical in inspiring the next generation of fisheries resource stewards.”

One first place winner and one runner up will be selected for each grade bracket. The brackets are kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade, and 10th through 12th grade. One for illustrating the best freshwater fish species and one for the best saltwater fish species. Digital artwork will not be accepted this year, all submitted pieces must be created with a traditional media. All first-place winners will advance to the National Competition to be judged for top prizes, such as Best of Show. The deadline to enter is Feb. 28, 2024. So start designing!

To enter, students from Florida should submit their entry at Wildlife Forever – Florida Art, consisting of the following:

  • An original piece of physical artwork featuring any fish including one or more of the following Florida native species from the same category: 
    • Category 1 – Freshwater. Largemouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, spotted sunfish, channel catfish, Florida gar, chain pickerel, bowfin.
    • Category 2 – Saltwater. Snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, flounder, tarpon, mahi-mahi, Spanish mackerel, hogfish, queen snapper, black grouper.
  • A piece of creative writing, no longer than one page, about the chosen species (required for grades 4-12).
  • A Florida State-Fish Art Contest entry form.

Note: Digital artwork will not be accepted this year. All submitted pieces must be created with a traditional media. 

Florida Fish Art Contest Prizes.

  • First-place winners in the 10-12 grade bracket will receive 10 T-shirts printed with their artwork to give to family and friends from our partner The Florida Nomad. The shirts will also be available for sale on their website.
  • The two first-place winners from each grade bracket, from each category will have their artwork displayed in FWC’s freshwater or saltwater regulations guide.
  • All first-place winners will have their artwork displayed at FWC headquarters in Tallahassee.

For all things Florida fishing, tune into Reel Talk on ESPN SWFL.

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Florida Has 3 Of The Top 10 Bass Fishing Lakes In The Country

The state of Florida continues to show as a top destination for fishing in the latest “Top 10 Best Bass Lakes of 2023.” The annual rankings come from the highly regarded Bassmaster. Theyshow that when it comes to bass fishing lakes, Florida is a clear choice. And with winter approaching in the north, many will be flocking down here to Florida to fish.

In a press release, Roger Young, FWC Executive Director stated,  “We take a tremendous amount of pride in managing our freshwater fisheries. The recognition of multiple Florida waterbodies in the Best Bass Lakes is a testament to our commitment to preserve the well-being of our aquatic ecosystems while promoting recreational fishing in Florida,”

Fishing is a big part of the Florida lifestyle. Whether you’re out in the gulf fishing for grouper, or just passing the time at the retention pond at your Fort Myers condo. People here love to fish. But sometimes you want to hit a lake and do some bass fishing. Fortunately for us, 3 of the top 10 lakes in the U.S. for catching bass are right here in Florida.

If you’re up for a road trip, number one on the Bassmaster list is the O.H. Ivie Lake. The lake is a reservoir on the Colorado and Concho Rivers, 55 miles east of San Angelo, Texas. The reservoir was formed when a dam was built in 1990. They’re seeing a lot of double digit bass being pulled from there this year. Some of these spots will be best if you wait until spring. Do your research, but here’s some ideas to get you started.

Here’s the Florida lakes that made the top 10.

  • 5. Fellsmere Reservoir

    Sometimes known as Headwaters Lake or Lake Egan, this is a 10,000-acre manmade lake in Indian River county. This place was made to be a bass fishing lake with underwater features and am ideal habitat.  Recommended lures are topwater lures and weedless soft plastic jerkbaits or stickbaits. When the lake was originally flooded, it was stocked with 1,000,000 Florida bass.

    Fellsmere Reservoir

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  • 8. Orange Lake

    Orange Lake


    This lake is 20 miles southeast of Gainesville. A lot of vegetation on this lake, making some areas inaccessible. The deeper areas are good fishing for largemouth bass. This lake also features a handicap-accessible pier with a fish attractor to provide for good fishing.

    Orange Lake

    Orange Lake Public Fishing Pier, 5041 NW 191st Pl, Reddick, FL 32686

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    Orange Lake

  • 10. Lake Okeechobee

    Lake Okeechobee lilies

    In the Seminole language, this literally means ‘big water’. Because Lake O is so heavily affected by rainfall, it’s levels vary. The current restriction “For largemouth bass only one may be 16 inches or longer in total length per angler per day, with no minimum length limit. The bag limit remains the same, at five.” Because the releases of Lake O always make negative headlines here in SWFL, it’s easy to forget that it’s a really good spot for bass fishing. 

    Lake Okeechobee, Florida

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    Some Florida lakes that just missed the top 10. 

  • Lake Tohopekaliga

    Lake Tohopekaliga

    Twin Oaks Conservatory at Lake Tohpekaliga Osceola County

    Lake Toho is an 18,810-acre lake located southeast of the city of Kissimmee. The FWC has installed fish attractors, so check here for locations of the best spots. 

    Lake Tohopekaliga

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  • Lake Seminole

    A reservoir at the juncture of the Florida, Georgia, and Alabama state lines. 80% of this lake is in Georgia, but Florida fishers can fish up to an imaginary line. More details on that here. Beautiful place.

    Lake Seminole

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  • Lake Placid

    Lake Placid has 27 freshwater lakes. Cool small town. I like it because it’s not too far from here. My neighbor has a place on one of those lakes and it’s a really nice change of pace from Southwest Florida. 

    Lake Placid, FL 33852

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  • Lake Panasoffkee

    This place is more well known for it’s trails, but four spring-fed creeks enter the lake which provides for some solid bass fishing. Bass as big as 8 pound on up to double digits. Just to the northwest of Orlando.

    Lake Panasoffkee, FL 33538

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  • Lake Istokpoga

    Lake Istokpoga is five miles northeast of Lake Placid. There’s fishing resorts on the lake with accomadations. Excellent largemouth bass fishing can be done from the bank near the canal. 

    Lake Istokpoga

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  • Lake Rousseau

    West of Ocala, this is a man made reservoir on the Withlacoochee River. A real old Florida feel out here. You might even see a manatee. 

    Lake Rousseau

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  • Rodman Reservoir

    Lake Rodman

    This one comes as a recommendation from Captain Debbie Hanson, host of ESPN Reel Talk Radio. This man made lake is a premier largemouth bass fishery located in Putnam County in Northeast Florida. North of Ocala. 

    Rodman Reservoir

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

Joe Winner spends his days combing through memes and off beat stories to bring you the side of Florida not always seen.

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