Santa Rosa County
Bear Lake is a 107-acre man-made impoundment constructed in 1959, opened to fishing in 1961, and designated as a Fish Management Area. The lake has an average depth of 8 feet with a maximum depth of 23 feet. Deepest areas are located near the dam and along the old streambed. A considerable amount of flooded timber remains, providing fish habitat. This lake has been stocked with Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish (shellcracker), Black Crappie, Hybrid Striped Bass, and Channel Catfish. Bear Lake is located in northeast Santa Rosa County with in the Blackwater State Forest, approximately 2 miles east of Munson, FL on SR 4. A dual-launch concrete boat ramp is located within the Bear Lake Campground. Ample parking, a handicapped accessible fishing pier, and an informational kiosk are located near this ramp. The Florida Forest Service maintains the campground, which includes bath/restroom facilities, along with camping and picnic areas. The Florida Forest Service charges a $2.00/car fee to all persons entering the Bear Lake Campground area. Two primitive dirt boat landings are accessible from Hurricane Lake Rd. and are not currently subject to this fee. A limited number of small jon-boats and canoes are available to rent from DOF for use on the lake. Information regarding these rentals can be obtained by calling 850-957-6140. Bear Lake is subject to the rules and regulations currently in effect for Fish Management Areas. Please refer to a current copy of Florida Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations. Gasoline boat motors are prohibited from use on Bear Lake; however, use of electric trolling motors is allowed.
For additional information regarding fishing opportunities at Bear Lake contact Blackwater Fisheries Center in Holt, Fl. Phone 850-957-6175.
For reserving campsites and cabins in Florida State Parks check the Reserve America website or call 888-622-9190.
Bear Lake should produce plenty of Largemouth Bass this summer the ideally size for eating. Bass have long since left their beds and are becoming plumper. Anglers should target these fish in deeper water near the dam and around stumps in some of the coves. During recent sampling events, bass were found in water deeper than five feet. As water temperatures move into the 80’s, anglers will be more successful during the early morning and the early evening hours. In the hours mentioned above, noisy topwater or Rat-L-Trap style crankbaits can prove effective. While throwing the bait out and rapidly retrieving it may produce an occasional bite, anglers should find better success with an erratic action. As water temperature rises throughout the day, fishers may want to switch to soft plastics and try a slow retrieval to entice the lethargic bass. Fishers should avoid the shallow, densely vegetated patches around the lake. Ideally, anglers will find better luck targeting the open water edges near shoreline vegetation where bass often cruise.
As with Largemouth Bass, the most productive bream fishing seems to be early morning and evening. Larger Bluegill and Redear Sunfish may continue to bed, look for lighter colored areas on the bottom which indicate spawning activity. Anglers should fish these areas with live baits such as red worms, wigglers, and crickets. Fish the live baits on light tackle in three to six feet of water. Another productive method for catching hungry bream are artificial baits such as beetle spins, rooster tails, or curly-tailed grubs. When not targeting spawning aggregates, fishers should target deeper holes or the old creek channels. During recent sampling events, most bream were in water deeper than four feet. Bream often remain deep to escape the summer heat.
Black Crappie fishing may not be very productive this time of year. However, if an angler is determined to fish for Black Crappie, they should aim deep. The fish have moved out of shallow water and are in deeper areas with plenty of vertical structure. Fishers should concentrate on places with submerged structure, brush, or timber piles. Anglers might need to be persistent, but in the right spot crappie jigs or live minnows will induce a few bites. Remember that deeper does not always mean better fishing. Frequently, the deepest waters contain little or no oxygen.
As always, Channel Catfish will be hard-pressed to resist a juicy beef or chicken liver, and earthworms. Fishing these baits on the bottom, in deep water off the fishing pier or near the dam, or with a float, suspending the bait over any available timber pile, should produce results. Anglers having trouble keeping messy livers on the hook should try wrapping it in surgical gauze or pantyhose. Additionally, using longer rods will add casting distance and, concurrently, increase the amount of water available for fishing.
The FWC recently installed 400 tons of gravel into Bear Lake at six gravel bed locations. These gravel beds will provide clean, firm spawning habitat for fish. The FWC also plans on installing mossbacks, or artificial trees as additional habitat near the gravel beds. Artificial trees last longer than brush piles. The artificial limbs grow algae which provide a source of food for insects and then the bream feed on the insects. The bream hide in the trees from larger predators such as Largemouth Bass which congregate around the habitat to try and find a meal. The FWC will mark fish these attractors with buoys once they have been installed. Both types of attractors have improved catch rates for anglers on Hurricane Lake and Lake Stone.
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 Bear Lake!
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 4
Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 2