Lake Jackson is drying up. As a result of persistent drought, the 4,000-acre lake north of Tallahassee is reduced to several isolated pools.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is suspending some fishing regulations to allow anglers to take some of the fish that remain, especially those that are stressed or trapped in shallow areas. Previously, largemouth bass had to be 18 inches before fishermen could keep them, but beginning today, anglers can keep five largemouth bass, regardless of size, and their daily bag limit of bream (50) and crappie (25). There is no bag limit on catfish.
In addition to legal fishing methods, anglers may take fish by dip net and by hand from Lake Jackson. Cast nets are prohibited.
FWC fisheries biologist Michael Hill works the area, and he’s seen the lake go dry, then refill, several times throughout his career. Hill said Porter Sink, which drains the middle of the lake, had about eight acres of water this past Friday.
“It was dropping several feet a day, and last night Porter Sink drained completely,” he said. “There are still some pools of water closer to Highway 27, but we don’t know if Lime Sink, which is in that area, will open.”
Lake Jackson and other area lakes sit atop a geographic feature called a karst formation. Water flows far below ground in limestone caverns and passageways toward the Gulf of Mexico. In times of drought, water drains down the sinks to the aquifer. When normal rainfall returns, the lake refills.
Hill said Lake Jackson last went dry in 2006. It then refilled completely but has been receding over the past two years.
Historically, Lake Jackson goes dry every 20-25 years.
All regulations pertaining to turtles, or their take, remain in effect. The take or possession of softshell turtles is prohibited from May 1 through July 21. Also, people cannot possess Florida cooters and snapping turtles.
The FWC is advising anyone who ventures out on the lake bottom to use caution, particularly around Porter Sink. Boggy conditions will make access to the remaining pools of water difficult.
Only foot traffic is allowed on the lake bottom. Under county law, ATV and vehicle traffic is prohibited.
Image from Florida Fish and Wildlife, MyFWCmedia from the flickr Creative Commons