Florida Fishing Regions
The city of Clermont lies along the shore of this 11-lake chain. Lakes range in size from 20 to 3,634 acres, and most are tea-colored. Lake Minneola (1,888 acres), in the center of the chain, is the only lake that normally has clear water. Threadfin shad are a productive bait for bass. Worms, crickets and small spinner baits are good for bluegill and shellcracker. Minnows and jigs are good for speckled perch. Channel catfish are abundant and 20 pounders are not uncommon. An unusual bait for catfish is freshly caught gar, filleted and cut into one-inch cubes and fished near the bottom.
A fishing pier on Lake Minneola provides access to bank anglers. Most of the lakes have fish attractors that are marked with a buoy to indicate the center of the attractor. Public boat ramps are located on Lake Minneola ($5 fee); and on the Palatlakaha River, on Hull Road off C.R. 561A, just upstream of Lake Louisa (3,634 acres). All lakes are Fish Management Areas so a fishing license is required for most anglers; check your Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Sportfishing Guide and Regulations Summary for rules pertaining to Fish Management Areas.
A three-lake chain just north of Umatilla, with access via a public boat ramp on S.R. 450. Bass, bluegill, shellcracker and speckled perch are the dominant sport fish. These lakes feature unusual contours for Florida lakes. The deepest water is found near shore, with a ridge rising in the center. There is little vegetation or other structures on the lake bottoms. A border of cattails and intermingled grasses rings each lake. Bass often are found near the deep water closest to shore and where the bottom rises to the center ridge. There are six fish attractors in Lake Ella (467 acres), the largest and most distant lake from the public boat ramp. Good catches of bass have been reported by anglers fishing the edge of attractors.
Lake Griffin (16,505 acres) in the Ocklawaha Chain has suffered from water quality and habitat problems due to surrounding development, and bass fishing is very poor. Despite these problems, black crappie fishing is good during winter, beginning in November with January through April the peak months. Anglers should try around the Bird Island, Treasure Island and areas northward. Both shellcracker and bluegill fishing is good in April and May along the western shore and in the northwest quarter of the lake around Bird Island. Hurlong Park on U.S. Hwy 441 in Leesburg provides an excellent access site.
Harris (13,788 acres) has been known as the best bass lake in the Ocklawaha Chain, although unexplained disease problems in the early '90s led to a decline in the fishery. Bass fishing has rebounded with fish up to six pounds taking artificials in tributaries in the southern portion of the lake (Helena Run, Double Run). Black crappie fishing picks up January through April. Early in the season, look for specks in the grass, with fish moving to open water later in the year. Anglers may pick up sunshine bass working deep holes for crappie.
The hotspot for bream has been the S.R. 19 bridge between Tavares and Howey-in-the-Hills, and in Little Lake Harris to the south. Public access to Lake Harris is available on U. S. Hwy 27 south of Leesburg and at Hickory Point on S.R. 19 south of Tavares ($2). Both areas feature pier fishing with GFC fish attractors within casting distance of shoreline anglers.
This 4,042-acre lake is healthier than others in the Ocklawaha Chain and has a good largemouth bass fishery. Access is at the county park off C.R. 452 on the outskirts of Eustis and C.R. 450 north of Umatilla.
Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes
The Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes (Harris chain) has its principal headwaters in Lake Apopka through the Beauclair Canal and the Clermont Chain of Lakes through the Palatlakaha River into Lake Harris. Lake County waters include Beauclair (1,111 acres), Dora (4,475 acres), Eustis (7,806 acres), Denham (269 acres), Griffin (16,505 acres), Harris (13,788 acres) and Yale (4, 042 acres).
Lake levels are regulated by dams located in the Beauclair Canal between lakes Apopka and Beauclair (controls water level of Lake Apopka), in Haines Creek between lakes Eustis and Griffin (controls levels of Eustis, Harris, Dora, Beauclair, Carlton and Denham), and in the Ocklawaha River (C-231 Canal) at Moss Bluff about 11 miles downstream (North) of Lake Griffin (controls Lake Griffin). All of the dams have locks which allow boat passage during normal operating hours.
At 1,765 acres, this deeply tannin-stained lake is one of the larger lakes in the Ocala National Forest. Public boat ramps are located on the western shore just off S.R. 19. The northern ramp is in a fee area operated by the U. S. Forest Service. Bluegill, shellcracker, and speckled perch fishing is good seasonally. Largemouth bass generally are small but an occasional trophy-size fish is caught.
This is a clear 147-acre relatively deep Ocala National Forest lake. A public boat ramp is located on the western shore about l/2- mile east of S.R. 19 and 3 miles south of S.R. 40. A public fishing pier adjacent to the ramp provides bank fishing opportunities. Like most forest lakes, largemouth bass typically are small, but a few bragging size fish are caught. Although deep water pools exist, a small boat is recommended to reach expansive, grassy flats.
This 258-acre lake is clear and unusually deep, near the intersection of S.R. 19 and S.R. 40. A public boat ramp, park, swimming beach and picnic area are available on the north shore. Largemouth bass over 14 pounds have been caught, but most bass are 10 to 14 inches long. Speckled perch, bluegill, and shellcracker are good seasonally. This lake is very popular for water skiing and swimming. Fishing trips should be scheduled on weekdays, early and late in the day.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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