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.
Orange Lake should continue to provide some of the best fishing that Florida has to offer this summer and early fall. The water levels have remained high, the boat ramps are open, and the lake is looking the best it has in many years. While pads are starting to pop up in new locations, there is still some desire for increased pad coverage. Submersed vegetation has increased, and patches of hydrilla and coontail can be found near much of the shoreline around the lake and throughout McIntosh Bay in the SW part of the lake. Orange Lake is known for providing great catches of bass and there were quite a few big bass caught this past spring. In fact, the largest bass reported through FWC’s TrophyCatch program this year came from Orange Lake. That fish was almost 16 pounds. During their annual spring sampling, FWC biologists captured another lunker that weighed 13 ½ pounds less than a week later. There was also a five fish bag weighed in during a tournament that went 45 pounds. That’s a nine pound average per fish. Top water jerkbaits, frogs, and soft plastics have been the baits of choice for most bass anglers. Orange Lake is also a great place to catch some bream during the warmer months. These can usually be found in large groups up near the shoreline while spawning and should feed on a grass shrimp or cricket under a cork. If you catch one or two, stick around and you may end up with a cooler full.
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 Orange Lake:
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 17
Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 7
Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 1