Alligator Lake (approximately 800 acres) is located in Columbia County near Lake City. Nearly two-thirds of the total lake surface area is within the city limits. Prior to 1997, only 338 acres were accessible to the public. Subsequently, Columbia County purchased an adjacent 987 acres with money obtained through the Preservation 2000 Communities Trust. This purchase included nearly 450 acres of former lake bottom that were diked and drained for agricultural practices in the 1950's and 1960's.
Several sinkholes are located in the north and south basins of the lake which provide direct connection to the aquifer. One of these sinkholes has been responsible for frequently draining the northern lake basin. This results from increased hydraulic pressure upon sinkhole sediments as groundwater levels subside during periods of drought. During these events, the southern areas of the lake retain water, as a shallow connection exists between north and south basins.
Columbia County's Alligator Lake Park opened in April 2002. The entrance to the park can be found off of Old Country Club road in Lake City. A small boat launch on the north marsh central drainage canal and walking access or boatless fishing will provide unique angling opportunities.
Note: Alligator Lake is a Fish Management Area (license is required to fish in north and south lake basins and north and south marshes).
There is current water level information available.
Note – Anglers and Hunters: The north and south marshes are established as Alligator Lake Small Game Hunting Area (ducks only). The north marsh area is restricted on Mondays and Thursdays until noon. The south marsh area is restricted on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday until noon.
Water levels are still up, allowing navigation between the both basins and the marsh. Emergent vegetation is dense in the north basin, but navigation lanes are open. Submersed vegetation like hydrilla is fairly dense in the south basin. Feeding ducks are helping to keep it below topped-out levels. Algal mats are also present along much of the shoreline in the south basin. The deep hole behind the high school is open at the moment and may be tucked away enough to remain that way. The marsh may remain your best bet for fishing, but keep in mind, the fish that survived the lake going dry are now able to spread out across much the lake. The fishery needs time to recover, but the newly available habitat and abundant nutrients are expected to allow recovery in a big way. As expected, less bass than usual were seen during routine bass sampling. However, larger bass that clearly survived the drought were present and successfully spawned, as young bass were also present. The bass sampled were in good condition. In fact, a nearly 10-lb bass was submitted to TrophyCatch just last month! Bass should be spawning and panfish are preparing to spawn. Snagless frogs or vibe-tailed worms rigged weedless would be excellent picks for target bass holding close to overhanging brush or stick-ups. As water temperatures warm and the summer weather pattern begins, spinner baits and top water plugs during mornings and evenings always produce strikes. Turn to golden shiners if all else fails. Use a variety of live baits, including crickets, worms, grass shrimp, and small artificial lures to tempt hungry panfish as they prepare to spawn. Black crappie anglers should focus their efforts offshore trolling or drifting minnows or small jigs. If you’re not having much luck, try moving closer to shore. Anglers looking to catch catfish should fish earthworms or cutbait on the bottom.
TrophyCatch is FWC's citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger. The following TrophyCatch bass have been submitted from Alligator Lake:
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 95
Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 18
Hall of Fame Club (13+ pounds): 1