Big Water Bodies
In addition to the FAB FIVE and URBAN PONDS, Fish Orlando offers some world class fishing on Big Water Bodies (BWB). They are relatively deep (15' - 40' foot holes) for Florida lakes and are best fished with careful attention to the depth finder. Because they are lined with houses there is relatively no bank fishing other than on the docks associated with the boat ramps.
Butler Chain of Lakes (4,700 acres)
This chain is made up of 11 interconnected lakes. Boat access is available only on one Orange County ramp (R.D. Kene park on Lake Isleworth just south of the town of Windermere). Orange County charges a $5 daily boat ramp fee and the ramp is open sunrise to sunset. The chain is primarily known for its largemouth bass fishing and is frequented by guides and out of state visitors. However, Lake Tibet and Butler are occasionally fished for black crappie (speck) and it is not uncommon to catch a speck greater than 14 inches.
Live shiners free lined over grass edges, humps, ledges and drop-offs is one method to consistently catch fish greater than 5 lbs. Those that prefer to use artificial lures should try the same areas with Carolina, Texas and wacky rigged plastics. The water is very clear in the upper end of the chain so in the winter/spring spawning bass can be targeted in the submerged vegetation next to the deep water Because of the water clarity bass will easily spawn in 10 feet or even deeper. For information on R.D. Keen Park call Orange County Parks and Recreation at 407-836-6200.
Conway Chain of Lakes (1,800 acres)
Four interconnected pools (east, west, middle and south) are collectively referred to as the Conway Chain. The larger of only two public boat ramps is located off Hoffner Avenue, two blocks east of Orange Avenue (SR 527). The chain has some of the clearest water in Florida with hard sand bottom and beds of eelgrass, peppergrass and hydrilla scattered offshore. The chain's "claim to fame" is its schooling bass during the cooler months. Jigging spoons, swim baits and soft jerk baits can catch these schoolers but remain flexible as what works one day often is ignored the next. In addition to the schooling bass, guides and out of town visitors can be seen fishing live threadfin shad cast netted and kept in circular live wells during cold, post-front conditions. The shad are hooked through the nose using small circle hooks free lined on light line (8 - 10 lb test). In the 2011 creel guides caught approximately 6 bass per man-hour using live shad! Conway's clear water also makes it a popular sight fishing lake during the spawn which runs in central Florida from December to April. Although the majority of bass caught are less than 16 inches, occasionally a trophy is caught like the picture shown here.
Soft plastics repeatedly tossed into the beds are typically the method used. For information on the two Orange County public boat ramps on Lake Conway call Orange County Parks and Recreation at 407-836-6200.
Johns Lake (2,424 acres)
This water body lies in Lake and Orange counties on SR 50 west of Winter Garden. It only has one public boat ramp located just off SR 50 in the north west corner of the lake. Hit especially hard by the 2001 Florida drought (it basically dried up); lake water levels were extremely low until 2003 when heavy rainfall refilled the lake. At this time the FWC stocked over 200,000 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings to aid in recovery of the bass fishery.
Although inconvenient in the short term, these natural water level fluctuations are the key to creating the habitat that produces excellent fisheries in Johns Lake. Creel results in 2011 showed largemouth bass catch rates that were just over one bass/man-hr (state average is approx. 0.3 bass/man-hr). Trophy bass were also common (approx. 800 plus caught in January - April) making it one of the best locations in the state to catch a "bass of a lifetime."
Plastic worms, swim baits and topwater lures fished around vegetation and brush is an excellent choice during the winter/spring. In the summer, most bass are caught in open water structure (changes in bottom depth, etc.) using crankbaits and Carolina rigged plastics. Although success varies from year to year, Johns is known for its black crappie fishery and drifting the open water with minnows and jigs is usually how most are caught. The bluegill and redear sunfish (shellcracker) fisheries are also good and catches of fish greater than 8 inches are common.
Look for them on beds before the week before the full and new moons (February - September) in the lake's many shallow bays and coves.
Winter Park Chain (969 acres)
This chain is located in downtown Winter Park. Lakes Virginia, Mizell, Osceola, Maitland and Minnehaha are interconnected with narrow, but relatively deep channels.
Boat access is available via a $6 daily launch fee at two spots: behind Rollins College and off 17-92 across from the Maitland Civic Center. Hard work by the Winter Park Lakes manager has produced good water quality and abundant submersed vegetation despite urban pressures. Consequently the chain has good bass and black crappie fishing for those that know how to use their depth finder. Texas rigged seinkos and wacky rigged finesse worms fished where the edges of the deep water meet up with dense areas of submersed vegetation is a good place to start for the bass. Drifting with minnows in the open water is the most popular method of capturing the speck.