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 excellent fishing days this spring and summer. 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 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. FWC has observed some big bass in our March fish surveys and some tournaments have had winning weights of over 30 pounds. The best catches of bass have been reported off of small clumps of pads mixed with hydrilla and coontail.
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): 12
Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 3
Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 1