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 is still offering up some outstanding fishing with good water levels, open boat ramps, and your favorite fishing hole easily accessible. Black Crappie have offered some great fishing the past few years and spring 2021 should be no exception, with reports of good catches already in the fall 2020. Try drifting or trolling with minnows, jigs, and grass shrimp in open water and move up to the shoreline vegetation as the water temperatures start to warm and the fish move in to spawn. There is more Hydrilla this year then the past few years, but there is still a lot of open water you can target when spider rigging or trolling. The bream bite should pick up by March with good numbers of big fish ready to tighten a line. Try using crickets and grass shrimp to catch bream up close to the grass and in the pads. During the past few years, Orange Lake has been one of the best bass fishing lakes anywhere in the country, especially for anglers wanting to catch a big fish. We expect to see that again with lots of trophy fish being caught and impressive winning tournament weights. Topwater plugs and soft plastics are the bait of choice for many bass anglers fishing Orange Lake. For those interested, please visit www.Orangecreekbasin.wordpress.com for future meeting updates and management 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): 40
Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 18
Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 5