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. Water levels have remained stable throughout the spring, but help from summer rainfall as the days get hotter will be welcomed. The boat ramps are open, and the lake looks fantastic. The pads are starting to emerge once again in the southern part of the lake and these are great places to target some nice size bream during these warmer months. Try fishing for bream up near the pads or shoreline and use 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. Submersed vegetation has really taken off this year, 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, there were 22 submissions for bass over 8 pounds that were caught and released by anglers in the first half of this year, with the largest submission for a bass that was 13 pounds 10 ounces. During their annual spring sampling, FWC biologists captured another monster bass that weighed over 12 pounds. Top water jerkbaits, frogs, and soft plastics have been the baits of choice for most bass anglers. Orange Lake is loaded with trophy fish!
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): 52
Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 26
Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 7