The Best Fishing in Florida: Our Top 8 Lakes
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Where Can I Find the Best Fishing in Florida?
Earlier this year, when the Premier Angler team decided to compile a list of the best fishing lakes in Texas, it was a monumental feat that involved collaboration with anglers from across The Lone Star State.
In a similar manner, when looking at the best fishing lakes in Florida, there are over 3,000 lakes (spanning roughly three million acres) to consider. There will surely be some lakes that, for numerous reasons, will not be able to vie for a top spot.
As we did during the construction of our lists of top fishing lakes in Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, and other states, we took a handful of factors into considering when attempting to narrow the thousands of Florida lakes into a comprehensive list of the best eight.
So, how do we narrow the list down from 3,000 to 8?
How We Decided Where to Find the Best Fishing in Texas
While these type of articles are some of our favorite to put together, they are also among the most time-consuming. Quite simply, putting together a list like this required a lot of time and a lot of research.
It’s important to preface that any such list will always be subjective. That said, we tried our best to pair data with as many voices-in-the-know as possible.
Regarding particulars, however, we looked primarily at several of the following factors:
- History of Success: Over the past fifty years, Florida has become one of the most popular destinations for freshwater sport fishing in the United States. While the state might not pull the biggest fish in the world, Florida has established a reputation for providing exciting, trophy-level fishing year-round.
- Professional Reputation: Some lakes and chains (like two-time Bassmaster Classic host Kissimmee) have earned a spot among the pantheon simply by nature of consistently hosting high-level tournaments on a regular basis. For others, inclusion may be supported by a multi-species aggregate of local and regional tournament hosting.
- Quantity and Quality of Species: Needless to say, avid muskie and northern pike anglers won’t be visiting Florida to land once-in-a-lifetime fish. That said, the Sunshine State offers plenty of high-quality (and quantity) fisheries. When considering species like the butterfly peacock bass (which should not be confused with the much larger Brazilian speckled peacock bass), Florida also offers an exotic element that entices many anglers.
- Accessibility: To Florida’s disadvantage is the fact that it is a long, thin state. A drive from Pensacola to Miami could take around twelve hours. Likewise, only a select portion of the state is easily accessibly to out-of-state anglers coming from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. That said, being such a narrow state, anglers located near Central Florida has access to some excellent fishing within a few hour radius.
- Social Signals: Florida is home to over 21 million residents. Roughly 500-600 thousand people purchase freshwater fishing licenses each year, with another 1.3-1.5 million purchasing saltwater licenses. While the sea may be king in the Sunshine State, social media groups, web forums, and popular periodicals weigh in heavily as to which lakes take the cake in Florida. We have considered this data as well when compiling our list of top Florida fishing destinations.
What Lakes Were Considered For this List?
As mentioned above, with roughly 3,000 lakes in Florida, the reality is that some (see: a lot) simply cannot make the cut. With apologies to the small, serene, 20-acre fishing spots tucked away in the back end of your county, we had to look at lakes that have a legitimate claim as the best fishing spot in Florida.
We narrow our list down to roughly 150 fisheries, which include the following:
Blue Cypress Lake
Little Red Water Lake
Lake Mary Jane
Red Lake (Orlando)
Lake Hell ‘n Blazes
Lake Santa Fe
Tsala Apopka Lake
Lake Buena Vista
Little Grassy Lake
East Lake Tohopekaliga
Little Bonnet Lake
Up and Down Lake
Little Lake Jackson
Little Lake Bonny
Lake June in Winter
Seven Seas Lagoon
Honorable Mentions: Excellent Florida Fishing Lakes That Just Missed the Cutoff
As with most states, there are a couple lakes that are absolute, no-questions-asked inclusions on any “best of” list. These would be the “first ballot hall of fame” entries.
Rounding out the top eight, however, is always a challenge. There are always some factors that could sway the rankings in one direction or another.
For Florida, one lake in parricular just missed out on the top eight. As such, we have decided to include it in our honorable mentions section:
- Lake Tarpon: Located just west of Tampa, Lake Tarpon is known as one of Florida’s many excellent largemouth bass fishing destinations. The center-of-the-state location provides a quality fishery to residents in the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area. That said, the alligator population is also high here, so fish with caution.
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Finally, we will take a look at the eight lakes that have been the best fishing lakes in Florida. Note that these lakes are not listed in any particular order.
Lake Seminole Bass Fishing Video
Located northwest of Tallahassee, Lake Seminole is considered a top-notch largemouth bass fishery. Covering over 37,000 acres, the lake — named for the Seminole Indians — is also home to quality catfish, crappie, and chain pickerel.
Sitting right on the northern border of the state, Lake Seminole is only a short drive for anglers coming down from western Georgia or the Dothan, Alabama area. It is also far enough west that anglers heading over from Pensacola and the Gulf Coast could make a day-trip.
Lake Seminole plays home to the Florida state record sunshine. Thomas Elder caught a 16.31 pound sunshine on Seminole back in 1985.
Lake Talquin Fishing Video
Situated on the Ocklockonee River, Lake Talquin provides high-level fishing near Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida. Much like Lake Seminole, Talquin’s location serves a sizeable population in the Florida panhandle. Anglers coming down from Georgia, and even those heading north from University of Florida/Gainesville area can visit within an hour or two.
Covering roughly 10,000 acres, Talquin is home to crappie, panfish, largemouth and striped bass, and catfish. Less popular species like gar, pickerel, and bowfin can also be found here.
Unsurprisingly, however, Lake Talquin is yet another Florida hotbed for largemouth bass. Like many other lakes in the state, Talquin also plays home to some quality panfish and crappie.
Talquin currently holds two Florida state fishing records:
- Chain Pickerel: 6.96 pounds in 2004 by Jep Dove
- Black Crappie: 3.83 pounds in 1992 by Ben Curry Sr.
An unofficial state record chain pickerel weighing 8 pounds was also caught on Lake Talquin by Jimmy James in 1971.
Lake Toho Bass Fishing Video
Formally known as Lake Tohopekaliga, or colloquially as West Lake, Toho is situated in Central Florida, just south of Kissimmee. As with many other lakes on this list, Toho is a fine bass fishery. It’s history of producing both quality and quantity of largemouth is enough to earn it a distinction in the Top 8 Florida fishing lakes list.
Just one of the Kissimmee Chain lakes featured on this list, Toho’s proximity to other top-flight fisheries certainly works in its benefit.
While official records from the lake remain inconsistent, there has been talk of a potential world record largemouth revealed during a shock survey back in the 1970s.
Pair this myth with Dean Rojas’ record-setting single-day, 5-bass limit during the a 2004 B.A.S.S event (weighing 45-2), and it’s easy to see why Toho is so highly regarded.
Surprisingly, however, Lake Toho has no current Florida state fishing records to its credit. If the rumors are true, however, there might be some mammoths lurking in Toho’s water, just begging to be caught!
Lake Kissimmee Fishing Video
The other Kissimmee Chain lake to make the list of best fishing spots in Florida, the chain’s namesake has carved a reputation for producing whopper largemouth.
That said, Jim Brown holds the distinction of catching the largest recorded bowfin in Florida history on Lake Kissimmee. Brown’s 1984 whopper weighed in at 19 pounds.
The Kissimmee Chain holds the distinction of being the only lake/chain in Florida to have ever held a Bassmaster Classic as well. 1977 saw Rick Clunn pull a 27-7 bag, while Luke Clausen won in 2006 with 56-2.
Harris Chain of Lakes
Harris Chain Fishing Video
Anglers of a certain age will remember the early 1990s cartoon Captain Planet. The basic premise is that five fairly average teenagers each rad a magic ring. When they combined those rings, they would summon Captain Planet — a blue’ish superhero who fought pollution.
So what does Captain Planet have to do with fishing in Florida?
Very little. But, when considering the fact that a collection of seven solid lakes formally combine to make a renowned chain, there is a workable parallel here.
The Harris Chain Lakes — Big Harris, Little Harris, Griffin, Eustis, Carlton, Beauclair, and Yale — often play host to some of bass fishing’s biggest tournaments. In 2020, the FLW College Fishing National Championship was held on the Harris Chain — an event that was won by Hank Harrison and Ethan LeGare of Stephen F. Austin University.
Located near Orlando, the Harris Chain’s central location provides ample freshwater fishing opportunities to tens of thousands of anglers each year.
Lake Istokpoga Fishing Video
Located roughly an hour northwest of Lake Okeechobee (more on that later), Lake Istokpoga offers many of the same species, structures, and patterns of Florida’s most popular fishing lake without all the attention.
As both lakes fall into what could officially be consider southern Florida — not disrespect, USF, but Tampa isn’t southern Florida — many of the conditions that you will experience on Okechobee will hold true on Istokpoga.
While the name Istokpoga translates loosely to “people have died here,” that should not be enough to dissuade you from fishing here if you want to land some massive largemouth.
One added bonus Istokpoga has over some other top fisheries in Florida is the fact that numerous anglers have noted luck catching bass from the shore.
Rodman Reservoir Fishing Video
While some may know this popular Florida fishing spot as Lake Ocklawaha, one thing is for sure regardless of the name: this is a fine place to catch fish!
If you don’t believe us, just research the lake for a few minutes and you will see countless big, dark, beautiful largemouth bass that have been caught on Rodman Reservoir.
Located within half an hours of Palatka, Rodman is also accessible to anglers coming inland from St. Augustine or even down from Jacksonville. With a history of producing trophy-sized bass, even those looking for a change of scenery might consider a two-three hour drive north or east.
Lake Okeechobee Fishing Video
When it comes to fishing, a lot of states have that one lake that anglers from around the country know and recognize. In some instances, the lake transcends even the fishing community so much so that the general populous knows the name.
In Florida, it’s safe to say that Lake is Okeechobee.
As the eighth largest natural freshwater lake in the country, Okeechobee is the largest in the southern United States and covers an extensive 730 square miles. The lake is surprisingly shallow, however, with an average depth of only nine feet.
Staying consistent with the rest of Florida, largemouth bass are the top prize on Okechobee, with crappie and sunfish being popular secondary species.
Despite its size and reputation, though, Okeechobee only has one current Florida state record to its record. Jimmy Cook caught a 2.34 pound oscar on Okee back in 1994.