Rodman Reservoir is legendary for the number of trophy Florida bass it has produced over the years ever since it was created. It is consistently ranked in popular fishing magazines as one of the top ten best bass lakes in the country. Rodman’s waters, located southwest of Palatka, cover approximately 9600 acres. It is about 15 miles long almost 2 miles wide near the dam. It is a sunken floodplain forest which was created and partially cleared to create the Cross Florida Barge Canal which was never completed. The Reservoir is a complex ecosystem that supports a large variety of plants and animals. It is filled with stumps, trees, and a large amount of vegetation which makes for some great cover for these big largemouth bass. You can count on fishing under floating cover on a trip to this area. There are a lot of ‘dollar weeds’ and water hyacinths here where bass use to surprise unsuspecting prey. You also will be fishing around eel grass, hydrilla, lily pads. Rodman Reservoir and the Ocklawaha River is always a treat to fish. It is a beautiful waterway that produces big fish each and every year.
Just recently, a bass caught in Rodman gave the Official State record a scare. The fish weighed in at 17.2 lbs. and had a length of 29.75 inches coming up just short of the record fish weighing in at 17.27 pounds. Now that is one big fish! I believe that the new world record will come out of either Rodman or possibly Lake Toho down in Kissimmee which is also known for its trophy largemouth. Multiple day fishing trips booked for Rodman Reservoir and the Ocklawaha Backcountry are generally live bait fishing trips where we use wild river shiners. However, artificial fishing can also be incorporated into the trip.
Right now the Environmentalists are trying to restore the Ocklawaha River System to its original state before Rodman Reservoir was created. This would not only be a tragedy, but it would destroy a habitat in which a large amount of plants and wildlife now call home. The big bass population in this Ocklawaha backcountry would be no more and we would lose one of the best big bass lakes in the US. Hopefully, this whole restoration project will never come to pass. If you have ever thought about coming down to fish in Rodman Reservoir for that trophy largemouth that you have always dreamed about, don’t hesitate any longer. Give ma a call Captain Shawn Carpenter and book your next trip.
Rodman Reservoir is not a dying, weed-choked reservoir; it is a complex ecosystem that supports a wide variety of native plants and wildlife, including many species that are currently threatened in Florida.
St. Johns River Water Management District documented over 12 different habitat types within the Rodman Reservoir Complex, more habitats than the Oklawaha River, The Rodman Reservoir Complex includes over a mile of river and floodplain swamp and there is now a greater number of species inhabiting the Rodman Reservoir area than before impoundment. St. Johns River Water Management District also found that it is highly unlikely that sediment inflows are a significant problem in retaining Rodman reservoir. It is estimated that it would take about 8,000 years to fill in the reservoir. (St. Johns River Water Management District Environmental Studies Concerning Four Alternatives for Rodman reservoir and The Oklawaha River, Volume 20 – Pages 17,18,19,77,94 & Appendix A; Volume 1O Page 137)
Rodman Reservoir supports over twice as many bird species and greater densities of birds then the Oklawaha River.
St. Johns River Water Management District documented 115 bird species at the Rodman Reservoir Complex versus 45 bird species on the Oklawaha River. Of the 45 species found along the river only 8 species had a higher relative abundance on the river then the reservoir complex and only 4 species were found only on the Oklawaha River. Of the 115 species found at the Rodman reservoir Complex, 74 species were observed only at the Rodman Reservoir Complex. (St. Johns River Water Management District Environmental Studies Concerning Four Alternatives for Rodman Reservoir and The Oklawaha River Volume a 1 0 – Pages 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, & 38)
Removal of Rodman Reservoir will cause a decline In bird species richness and adversely affects more Species of Concern.
St. Johns River Water Management District found that restoration of the Oklawaha River will not benefit any threatened or endangered species but that several species of special concern, including three species of herons and the Limpkin will be negatively impacted, St. Johns River Water Management District documented that Bald Eagles were regularly present at Rodman reservoir and conclude that restoration will lead to the loss of most eagles from the study area. Overall bird species richness would also decrease if the Oklawaha River were restored, (St. Johns River Water Management District Environmental Studies Concerning Four Alternatives for Rodman Reservoir and The Oklawaha River, Volume I 9 – Pages ES-2, 58, 73 & 77)
Rodman Reservoir supports more fish and better fishing than Oklawaha River and many natural lakes.
Routine sampling of Rodman reservoir from 1992 to 1994 collected 38 species of fish versus 35 species of collected form the Oklawaha River. Based on biomass estimates (the appropriate analysis) provided by the St. Johns River Water Management District over 60% of Rodman Reservoir fish population is currently sport fish. There has been no statistically significant shifts to non-game fish since reservoir formation. Although direct comparisons were not made it was recognized that Rodman reservoir fish population is orders of magnitude higher than the population that can be supported by a restored Oklawaha River. St. Johns River Water Management District also states that 13 fish species known or “expected”: to have been present in the Oklawaha River and associated tributaries in the area currently occupied by Rodman Reservoir are now absent in the reservoir. Of the 13 species listed, the only species that has probably been eliminated from the watershed is the bluenose shiner, but this species has not been collected from the Oklawaha River main channel or its tributaries since 1949. Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission documented the sport-fishing use of the Rodman Reservoir (281,611 person hours 4-5 times greater than the use of the Oklawaha River (62,209 person hours) Florida GFC documented that the sport fishery of Rodman Reservoir is better than most natural lakes for which data was available and the angler catch harvest and success is better in Rodman Reservoir than the Oklawaha River. (St. Johns River Water Management District Environmental Studies Concerning Four Alternatives for Rodman Reservoir and The Oklawaha River, Volume 15- Pages 14, 15, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 39, 40, & 52 Florida GFC Recreational Use and Fisheries Report, Pages 15, 16, 17,& 18)
Rodman Reservoir does not block the movement of fishes and the Oklawaha River Is not a major spawning area for migratory fish.
Migratory fish such as striped bass, eels and mullet are found upstream of Rodman Reservoir. Although the dam impedes movement fish move through Buckman Lock. The Oklawaha River is not used for spawning by fish such as mullet and eels. St. Johns River Water Management District states it has been “suspected” that the collapse of the St. Johns River population of striped bass “may be” related to the construction of Rodman Dam because the Oklawaha was “probably” a major spawning ground, The District incorrectly cites the 1955 study of McClane’s, because McClane never stated the Oklawaha was a major spawning ground for striped bass, McClane stated local abundance fluctuates considerably form year to year, (St. Johns River Water Management District Environmental Studies Concerning Four Alternatives for Rodman Reservoir and The Oklawaha River Volume 14- Pages 4, 5, 12, & 13- Florida GFC Recreational Use and Fisheries Report, Page 16 & 21)
Removal of Rodman reservoir will not provide large amounts of habitat for the Florida black bear of the Florida panther.
St. Johns River Water Management District found that the reservoir does not inhibit the north/south movement of bears. The Oklawaha River and the Ocala National Forest are not considered by the Florida GFC as a potential reintroduction area for Florida panthers due to the density of human development. The existing Rodman Reservoir Complex, however, could act as a wildlife corridor for panthers if they should ever enter the area. If restoration is undertaken, the Rodman reservoir would provide habitat for less than 2 bears and habitat for less than 1 panther. (St. Johns River Water Management District Environmental Studies Concerning Four Alternatives for Rodman Reservoir and The Oklawaha River, Volume 18 – pages 33, 34,& 39)
Rodman Fishing Report
The summer time fishing continues to be excellent! We are generally doing half day and 6 hour trips right now to beat the heat. These trips are still producing 15-30 fish. The key right now on Rodman is water clarity. The fish are considerably more active in the clearer water and seem to back off a bit after a couple days of rain. The key has been fishing floating vegetation in the old river channel or shallow water flats close to deeper water. Baits of choice have been Wild Shiners, Speed Worms, and Swim Senkos.