Orange Lake is the largest lake in the North Central Region at 12,550 acres. It is designated as a Fish Management Area and is located about 20 miles southeast of Gainesville. Orange Lake averages 5.5 feet deep with a maximum depth of 12 feet. Water levels fluctuate an average of 2 feet, annually. Outflow is controlled by a fixed-crest weir located at Highway 301 (southeast portion of lake). Orange Lake receives inflow from Newnans Lake through River Styx and from Lochloosa Lake through Cross Creek. Cross Creek (1.8 miles) is navigable to most boats during normal water levels.
Orange lake has an extensive aquatic vegetation community, dominated by spatterdock (lily pads) and periodically hydrilla. Shallow marsh areas are inaccessible to anglers due to the dense growth of vegetation. Bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie and largemouth bass are generally caught in the deeper spatterdock, emergent grasses and hydrilla.
Marion County and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allocated funds to establish a fishing pier at Heagy-Burry Park (southwestern part of the lake). The pier is handicap-accessible. A fish attractor is located near the pier, which provides for good fishing.
For updated information please call:
South Shore Fish Camp 352-595-4241
Sportsman Cove Fish Camp 352-591-1435
The fisheries in Orange Lake are still recovering from the extended low water conditions that caused fish kills and drastically altered the habitat. Although lake levels are their highest since 2005, much of the habitat has shifted to expansive areas of floating vegetation mats that has made access, navigation, and fishing difficult. Some of these floating mats, or tussocks, can be quite large which can potentially block passage through trails and access to boat ramps. Anglers should be mindful of shifting floating islands while on the lake, particularly during windy days. Management strategies to restore access, improve fish populations, and improve fish habitat are underway. FWC stocked over 100,000 largemouth bass fingerlings in May, in addition to the 100,000 fingerlings that were stocked last year in an effort to jump-start the fishery. Also, floating vegetation mats at Marjorie Keenan Rawlings and Mikes Fish Camp are routinely being monitored and shredded to maintain at least one access point open on each side of the lake while a formal vegetation management plan is being developed. In the interim, FWC is holding regular meetings to seek stakeholder input on future lake habitat management strategies. For those interested, please visit www.Orangecreekbasin.wordpress.com for future meeting updates and management progress. For those that are able to access the lake, bluegill and redear sunfish will spawn through September with peaks in spawning activity during the full moons. Anglers should look for bedding bluegill and redear sunfish in shallow water areas throughout the lake. Black crappie can also be caught along with bluegill and redear sunfish. Grass shrimp is your best choice for bait.