Vanhunks put together a list of our top freshwater kayak fishing spots in Florida, to try from your kayak.
Freshwater kayak fishing makes for a great day out in nature. Without the perils of strong currents and waves, freshwater is the ideal place for beginners to learn the basics of kayak fishing. Your fishing tackle and especially bait will change quite radically from offshore fishing, so make sure you do some research and visit the local bait shop.
Florida is one of the best states for freshwater kayak fishing trips. It has over 7,500 lakes in addition to numerous reservoirs and rivers, with dozens of different fish species to catch.
Some of the most popular and well-known fish caught off of a fishing kayak in freshwater, are Large Mouth Bass and Catfish. These are the staples of freshwater kayak fishing in Florida.
Another popular target in the area are Panfish. Whether you call them bluegill, bream or panfish, this species is a variety of deep-bodied panfish belonging to the sunfish family that have kept families fed and anglers entertained for centuries. The most common of these fish are bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), redbreast sunfish (red bellies), spotted sunfish (stumpknocker) and warmouth (goggle-eye).
Almost any water body in the Sunshine State, regardless of size or locale, will be brimming with some form of bream, especially the popular bluegill and, to a lesser extent, redear sunfish.
You’re so spoiled for choice that it can be difficult to pick the best spots for freshwater kayak fishing. We put together a list of our top freshwater locations for you to try on your fishing kayak.
Kayak Fishing at Lake Tohopekaliga
Also known as Lake Toho, this is an 18000 acre lake that is part of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, just south of the city named Kissimmee. The West Lake, or simply Toho, native name meaning “we will gather together here”, is the largest lake located in Osceola County, Florida. It is the primary inflow of Shingle Creek, which rises in Orlando. It covers 22700 acres, and spans 42 miles in circumference.
It is well known for both a high catch rate and enormous largemouth bass. Trophy fisherman love this location, which is why it is used for many large tournaments. Fishing Kayak launching is made easy by having five ramps, two piers, and numerous spots along the shore. A lot of enhancements have been added to help attract fish in concentrated areas, to make it easier to find fishing spots while out on your kayak.
Aside from being one of the best bass fisheries in the country, Lake Toho also supports one of the best bluegill/redear fisheries in the state. Almost 80 percent of the shoreline was scraped and enhanced following the extreme drawdown and muck removal project in 2004. These enhanced areas have provided miles of freshly vegetated littoral areas, and have exposed shell beds that provide excellent spawning habitat for panfish. Lake Toho’s bluegill and shellcracker can be taken on a variety of baits including earthworms, crickets, beetle spins, minnows and dough balls.
Kayak Fishing at Lake Okeechobee
Also known as Florida’s Inland Sea, it is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida. It is the eighth largest natural freshwater lake in the United States and the second largest natural freshwater lake (the largest being Lake Michigan) contained entirely within the contiguous United States. Okeechobee covers 730 square miles, approximately half the size of the state of Rhode Island, and is exceptionally shallow for a lake of its size, with an average depth of only 9 feet (2.7 metres). The Kissimmee River, located directly north of Lake Okeechobee, is the lake’s primary source.
Some of the largest global fishing tournaments are held at Lake Okeechobee, which helps boost its profile for international anglers. Its size helps to prevent it becoming too crowded, and a number of restorative measures are taken to ensure the fish population can continually thrive. For bass fishing on a fishing kayak, the north and west sides have the biggest concentrations but there are also plenty of good spots along the shoreline. This is a mainly catch-and-release fishing spot, however, so keep that in mind if you want a trophy. Also worth noting is that there are Alligators in Lake Okeechobee. While there have been no fatal encounters, some incidents have occurred over the years.
The best way to protect yourself if you are paddling a fishing kayak is to keep your hands and feet inside the boat and to be cautious and aware when entering or leaving the water. You should be especially cautious at dawn, dusk, and at night, because that is when alligators are most active. If you fish from a fishing kayak, be careful when retrieving fish from the water, and if you keep any fish, do not keep them on a stringer in the water. When back on shore, avoid throwing fish scraps in the water when you clean your fish.
Kayak Fishing at Lake Harris
Lake Harris is a lake in Lake County, Florida, United States, 31 miles northwest of Orlando. It is part of the ‘Upper Ocklawaha River Basin’, a sub-basin of the St Johns River. It is known by locals as the ‘Harris Chain of Lakes’ or ‘Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes’. Lake Harris is the largest lake entirely in Lake County, at 13,788 acres with an irregular shape when viewed from the air. An adjoining bay, Little Lake Harris, east of SR19, is a smaller version of the lake. The combined area of the two lakes exceeds 15000 acres. It might not be as big or as popular as the first two lakes, but that can have its own appeal. You’ll see far fewer boat traffic at any time compared to more popular lakes, and for a specific reason. This makes for quiet fishing on your kayak without many motorized boats. Around 20 years ago it was much more popular, but due to numerous factors, the fish population plummeted. Most anglers avoided it.
However, in the last several years, a concerted effort to replant reeds and other plants has helped to replenish the fish population. Now you’ll find lots of lily pads and grass as well, making it great quiet and scenic spot for good quality kayak fishing once more. If you’re in the Leesburg area and have a hankering to tussle with some heavier-than-usual bluegill and shellcracker, both Big and Little Lake Harris will be to your liking. Some of the better locales include the grassy areas in four to six feet of water near Astatula and the Howey Bridge spanning Little Lake Harris, plus the lily pads and spatterdock patches near the Ninth Street Canal out from Leesburg. These are great for casual fishing off a kayak. Bluegill also will be found in shallow waters tight to sawgrass shorelines. Another great area for kayak fishing is just downstream from Lake Harris. Lake Eustis has some of the best quality sunfish populations sampled by FWC in the Harris Chain of Lakes.
Kayak Fishing at Orange Lake
Orange Lake is in Alachua County, Florida, about 10 miles south of Hawthorne. It has an area of about 12,550 acres (5080 ha), and is part of the Orange Creek Basin, which is in turn part of the Oklawaha River watershed. Orange Lake also receives water from Newnans Lake that has been diverted from its historic destination of Paynes Prairie. Orange Lake is noted for kayak fishing, especially bass, with many fishing camps on its shores. The lake also has many natural floating islands, which have an unusually high diversity”, especially of amphibians.
The quality of kayak fishing here is characterized by peaks and valleys. During a drought, its connection to the Floridan Aquifer causes Orange Lake to enter a drawdown period. During such a period, the quality of fishing declines sharply, but when the water levels return to normal the fishing opportunities increase a lot too. If you’re planning a kayak fishing trip, check the status of Lake Orange’s water levels before you leave. If they’re good, it can be a great spot to visit.
With the help of habitat enhancement efforts, and a lot of help from Mother Nature, the shoreline habitat is thriving in Orange Lake. Submersed vegetation has increased dramatically in the lake, especially in the west arm and south portions of the lake.
The result has been regular catches of bluegill, redear sunfish and chunky warmouth. In August of 2006, one angler hauled in hefty bluegill just shy of 12 inches and weighing two pounds. Most anglers use crickets and minnows as bait. A fantastic destination for kayak fishing.
Kayak Fishing at Choctawatchee River
The Choctawhatchee River is a 141-mile-long river in Florida, flowing through southeast Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida before emptying into Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
The Choctawhatchee contains several species of fish, including several species of sunfish, channel catfish and spotted bass; other species include Redhorse Suckers and Carp Suckers. Gulf Sturgeon use the river for spawning activities, making for great freshwater game fishing on a kayak.
For kayak fisherman who love rivers and streams in Florida’s Panhandle, this river is ideal. Particularly for shellcracker aficionados, as Shellcracker usually bed in quieter waters during April and remain active through the early-fall months.
If kayaking around in smaller creeks off the main channel and sloughs during the late spring and summer months, also be sure to try for some redbreast sunfish, stumpknocker and warmouth. Worms, crickets and grass shrimp are favorite baits. The variety of fish to catch off of your fishing kayak will keep you coming back.
Kayak Fishing at Lake Lochloosa
Lake Lochloose is very close to Orange Lake, but very different. It is smaller and is surrounded by cypress trees draped by moss and patches of grass rather than lily pads. Lochloosa Lake is about 6100 acres (2500 ha) in area in Alachua County, Florida, about four miles south of Hawthorne, and is up to 10 feet deep.It is drained by Cross Creek into Orange Lake. It is largely surrounded by the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area, and is a Fish Management Area. The lake is noted for bass fishing.
There is a public pier south of the town with the same name, as well as a public boat ramp off the highway. This is a great place to launch with your fishing kayak. Due to its smaller size, it is not frequented as much as other bigger and more popular lakes, but the cypress trees make it a very scenic fishing spot, full of largemouth bass in the 8 to 12 pound range. It is a very calm and easy location for kayak fishing and absolutely perfect for beginners.
With the help of habitat enhancement efforts, and a lot of help from Mother Nature, the shoreline habitat is thriving in Lake Lochloosa. As a result, bream populations rebounded to high numbers, and kayak fisherman are once again adding these lakes to their favorite hot-spots. From March to October, bream anglers should concentrate in the grasses and pads around the Lochloosa shoreline for bluegill, redear sunfish and warmouth. The area around Burnt Island and the west shoreline should be particularly productive.
Kayak Fishing at Suwannee River
The Suwannee River(also spelled Suwanee River) is a major river that runs through South Georgia, southward into Florida in the southern United States. It is a wild blackwater river, about 246 miles long. The Suwannee River is the site of the prehistoric Suwanee Straits which separated peninsular Florida from the panhandle.
Although bluegill and shellcracker can be caught readily in the Suwannee, this river is second to none for quality-sized spotted sunfish and redbreast sunfish. These scrappy fish provide good action in the middle river section and even better fishing in the lower portions. Try near tree banks on deep shores, the mouths of creeks and along water lilies. Use crickets, mealworms, beetle spins or fly fishing tackle with small popping bugs. Catalpa worms are a big favorite if they are available.
Now that you know some of the best freshwater kayak fishing locations in Florida, load your kayak up and get out there. With the flat waters of the lakes, our Whale Runner will be ideally suited for leisurely fishing the calmer waters. You could also make use of the Manatee, especially if you are a more casual kayak fisherman.
If you are going to challenge the moving waters of the rivers, we highly recommend our open water fishing kayaks. The Silver King is easy to control and is a great kayak to start your fishing journey on. If you take your kayak fishing seriously, you will want the Black Bass kayak. Load up, visit the bait store and enjoy the amazing freshwater fishing of the Sunshine State.