Today we leave the salty shores to take a look at the top seven choices in Florida fishing lakes. Ranking lakes is always difficult – do you go for biggest trophy fish, the greatest quantities of fish, year round use, scenery, and so forth? Taking popularity into account, we have gone for a combination of these, but mostly we look for trophy fish!
Please note that this list varies according to time of year and time of day, not all fishing locales are pristine 24/7, 365! Use up-to-date local reports whenever possible to find out which spots are currently hot, and which are not.
If you are wondering why there are not many small lakes used on our list, consider this – the internet is universal, it has a far reaching ability to connect to a wide audience. Advising many people to go to a smaller lake could result in overcrowding, which taxes the fish population and can be a hassle for fishermen. For this reason you are unlikely to see smaller, local lakes and ponds on this top seven list.
Lake Toho (Lake Tohopekaliga)
For trophy largemouth, Lake Toho is the place to go. Lake Toho is the most renown part of the Kissimmee chain of lakes. It is a premier bass fishing location that proudly touts many ten pound bass! Catfish, crappie, panfish, Florida gar, and many others are also in ample supple. Most seasoned Floridian fisherpersons have been to Lake Toho and speak its praises fondly.
These are so good they are tournament waters! Tournaments like Bassmaster’s and the Professional Anglers Association are held on Lake Toho. It is also a beautiful location with few homes along the lake and plenty of vegetation; Fish just love to hide in its reeds!
Lake Toho tops our list due to an ample supply of particularly large trophy game fish, multiple boat ramps, and plenty of public access from the shore. Several publications have named Lake Toho one of the best in the nation in terms of trophy bass, as well as an all around great fishing lake in Florida.
The Big O, as locals call it, is a veritable paradise for bass and it consistently finds its way in the top of Bassmaster’s list of the Top 100 Bass Lakes in America. There are plenty of catfish and crappie in its waters, plus oscar and blue tilapia. Lake Okeechobee is also one of few locations to catch a peacock bass. Its merits are so noteworthy that worldwide fishing tournaments have been held in Lake Okeechobee.
Despite its large size Lake Okeechobee has plenty of vegetation within its waters. Sticking close to vegetation leads to large catches. However, in terms of quantity or quality, there is no or with Okeechobee – you get both!
However, Okeechobee falls to the number two spot on our list as you may one remove five over 18” bass (only one over 22”) per day. Crappie must be over 10” to be kept. For all-day anglers this can be a bit of a let down. If this limit does not daunt you then consider this number one!
We rank the second largest freshwater lake in Florida number three for fishing! This naturally occurring lake has fantastic bass, fresh and saltwater species, a flat bottom, and a sunken ship! Although bass fishing is its primary attraction one can do well with crappie on Lake George. The best catch on these waters are the largemouth and striped bass. Bluegill and catfish regularly end up pulled out of Lake George, too.
The bottom of the lake is fairly flat,with little to no alteration in topography save for some pilings on the bottom (where fish love to gather) and a sunken ship (near the center piling of the three visible pilings that were once used for military bombing practice).
Lake George has the added benefit of having a substantial salt content. Many rivers flowing into it bring salt with them and the salt content is high enough to support some hardy sea species – which means you can fish for some salt water species without trekking to the ocean!
This lake gets high marks for its consistent, high quantity yields of fish. Largemouth are some of its most prized fish, but you will find plenty of success with black crappie, striped bass, catfish and panfish. Plenty of shad live in these waters, which also means large bass! Although seen less often you may come across a chain pickerel or bowfin in these waters, too.
There are room for a variety of fisherpersons within this large lake – fly fishermen will find areas to wade in, while boaters can take advantage of one of several public ramps. Stick to the shores where fish hide in vegetation or choose to chase them out in the open waters. It is an easy lake to catch on, and a consistent one, which makes Kissimmee is a great family lake, too (although its proximity to Disney helps in that department).
Kissimmee is a great all around lake – plenty of fish including some bass around seven pounds (though most are two to three), not too pressured nor overcrowded, a variety that appeals to many fishermen, and it’s good for the whole family to enjoy!
This nearby town of Crescent City calls itself the bass capitol of the world due to the sumptuous seven plus pound bass inhabiting the waters (largemouth and striped). Of course you can find other fish like crappie, catfish, warmouth, Florida Gar, and more. Nice clear water makes it a more enjoyable trip, too.
Crescent Lake also gains popularity points due to its variety. Plenty of vegetation, logs, and underwater ledges, create a variety of environments to fish in. Whether you feel up for shallow waters off a dock, or heading out in a boat to get near a ledge, Crescent Lake can accommodate your tastes.
Lake Walk-In-Water (Lake Weohyakapka)
Lake Walk-In-Water is widely known for its sizable largemouth. It also has plenty of catfish, chain pickerel, and bluegill. This lake does have regulatory limits, which puts it lower on our list; Any 15-24” black bass must be released, but you may keep two under 15” and one over 24” per day.
This is a beautiful location without much pressure on its waters. Sometimes you can see down to the lake bottom while trolling along! Being a spring-fed lake means it is entirely freshwater and very clean. While not as well known as other lakes, such as Kissimmee and Toho, it can still produce similar catch sizes.
Lake Talquin is known for large fish – bass, chain pickerel, and Florida gar. This lake holds the prestigious state record in chain pickerel. With plenty of panfish, crappie, and striped bass there is a lot of variety. Not to mention this is one of few lakes that hold the hybrid striped bass called wipers. This lake falls low on our list due to its bag limit on both bass and crappie.
Honorable mentions include Lake Tarpon, Lake Seminole, Lake Marion, Lake Marian, and Lake Harris. As with any ‘best’ list the most important thing to remember is your own personal needs. If you are after a specific type of sport fish, are looking to use a certain bait, or want a particular environment to relax in, then pick what you think is the best for your desires or particular circumstance. After all, if you love crappies but a lake on this list does not have them then you’ll be unhappy no matter how many trophy bass you catch!
When you catch a big one make sure to add it to our SportFish Junkies catches!