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.
Largemouth Bass fishing has been on fire at Orange Lake this past year and will continue to be the place to go in North Central Florida to tighten up a line and hope for that big one. Catches of over 40 fish a day, winning tournament weights of over 30 pounds, and numerous trophy catches of fish weighing over 10 pounds have been the consistent report for the past year. The pads haven’t fully recovered since the water levels have come back up, but areas of pad cover are increasing and these are always great spots to find fish. Overall the habitat looks as good as it has been in a very long time. The southeast portion of the lake in and around PG Run have been the top locations where FWC fish biologists have seen the most fish in their samples and have also produced good reports from the anglers. This spring will continue to provide excellent bass fishing opportunities at Orange Lake. If you are more into fishing for Black Crappie or as the local anglers call them, speckled perch, Orange Lake should offer some good bites this year. Black crappie anglers should drift or troll live minnows or artificial jigs in open water. As the water starts to warm up this spring, try moving in shore near vegetation where crappie will be gathering up to spawn. FWC and other management authorities have regular meetings to seek stakeholder input on future lake habitat management strategies. For those interested, please visit the Orange Creek Basin Interagency Working Group page for future meeting updates and progress.
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): 11
Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 3