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.
Even though Orange Lake water levels have dropped some in the past few months with not much rainfall in the area, there is still plenty of water to launch at any boat ramp and easily access your favorite fishing hole. The habitat looks fantastic and pads are starting to work there way back in around different parts of the lake. Submersed vegetation will provide great habitat for fish and it is coming on strong around the parameter of the lake with a mixture of coontail and hydrilla. Orange Lake produced a terrific crappie bite in the winter and spring and there are lots of bream waiting to get on a hook for the summer. As the water gets warm, try moving in shore near vegetation where bream will be gathering up to spawn. They should feed on a grass shrimp or cricket under a cork. The bass bite should continue to be terrific for anglers and some of the biggest bass in the state will be caught out of Orange Lake this year. There have already been nine submissions to FWC’s TrophyCatch program from bass over 8 pounds that were caught and released by anglers from Orange Lake in the first 2 ½ months of 2020. That includes three bass over 13 pounds, with the biggest weighing in at over 14 pounds. To add on to that, FWC biologist collected six bass over 8 pounds in their spring bass samples at Orange Lake, with the biggest individual weighing over 14 pounds! We expect to see some more huge fish come out of Orange Lake this year and some unbelievable tournament weights. Topwater plugs and soft plastics are the bait of choice for many bass anglers fishing Orange Lake.
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): 26
Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 11
Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 3