For as long as anglers have been traveling to Florida waters, the names of Orange Lake and Lochloosa have been synonymous with great bass fishing experiences. As of lately considered by many as the best trophy bass lakes in the state, these two bodies of water are very similar, yet have their own individual personalities.
They both lie north of Ocala and southeast of Gainsville. Respectively, Orange lake and Lochloosa covers some 13,000 and 6000 acres of stained water, with great bass habit by infested vegetation. A narrow neck called Cross Creek, connects the Orange and Lochloosa bodies of water. Low water can sometimes make navigation a problem in the creek, as well as the summer masses of vegetation, particularly at the entrance into Lochloosa. Since many anglers fish from the two lakes on foot, there are lily pads along the shorelines, to maximize your catch it’s always better to hire a bass guide. Where Cross Creek joins Lake Lochloosa, you will find a small expanse of water, which opens out and then, because of a point of land on the north side, narrows back down. This open area is locally known as Little Lochloosa and the protruding point is known as Allen’s Point. It is mostly lily pads, hydrilla, and cypress trees. Numerous trophy bass have been taken from the area on live wild shiners, but artificial lures are often too difficult to fish in areas all across the lakes. Large beds of spawning bluegills often show up in the shallow backwater areas during June-August. While the fish undoubtedly love all the cover, there is always things for too much vegetation that can block sunlight and prevent adequate photosynthesis in the plant life. The result can be a major lack of oxygen production and a possible fish kill. We have to trust the appropriate agencies of the State of Florida that they will insure the vegetation is kept in check.
Clockwise, up the West shoreline of the main Lochloosa lake, we find a long run of cypress trees and grass. This grass line, and some of the hydrilla beds just off it, provides good bass fishing. Some speckled perch (crappie) will also use the grasses for spawning. In the extreme northwest corner of Lake Lochloosa, a small creek can be found. The area around the creek mouth can provide excellent bass fishing if water is flowing. Horace You may also find a series of sandbars approximately 200 yards to the east of the creek mouth, this is an excellent spot for large bluegills.
The North end of Lake Lochloosa is grass and cypress, with some good fishing expectations. Look for early season bass spawns to occur here, as the waters will warm faster. The eastern shore is grass, cypress and some pad fields. Local anglers indicated that good success was possible along this entire stretch, particularly for those using wild shiners during the Winter/early Spring months. There are a few fish camps located on this shore, just off Highway 301. These, coupled with the camps on Cross Creek, provide the best access to the lake.
The lower portion of the East shoreline has a cove at its base. The pads and grasses in this location can be good for spawning speckled perch and bluegills. As you continue along the South shore, you will find a thick cover area, around this main area produces good bass numbers. It’s not uncommon to see in the larger cypress trees at the end of the lake one of the majestic bald eagles that inhabit the region.
Due to the density of the vegetation, shoreline fishing often requires the dedicated bass angler to use the flipping technique. We commonly use wild shiners in these same areas with great success.
Moving back into Cross Creek and passing through Orange Lake, you will pass under the Highway 235 bridge. There is camping and cabin facilities, a restaurant, and a Jiffy Mart located on both sides of the creek and next to the bridge. Just before you reach Orange Lake, Cross Creek flows by Marjorie Rawlings Park on our left (eastern side). This facility has excellent launch ramps and a huge parking area. In addition, there are picnic tables under the cool shade of towering hardwood trees.
Cross-Creek enters Orange Lake at approximately the mid-point of the lake on the eastern shoreline. From the lake, this entrance can often be difficult to relocate, primarily due to the reeds, pad fields and floating vegetation that the winds moves in and out. Therefore, for first timers it recommended that you mentally mark the area as well as hit a shot on your GPS.
The eastern shoreline provides very good year-round bass fishing. Flipping, spinner baits and lightly weighted plastic worms all work fairly well, depending on the density of the vegetation at that time of the year. Bluegills are also excellent during their spawn in this area.
A couple of miles down the eastern shoreline, you’ll find a marshy point and Orange Lake turns back to the East. This point is locally referred to as Cane Hammock. The large basin to the east is called Pee Gee Run.
Pee Gee Run is usually so densely covered with vegetation as to be impassable. However, when the water is high or during the winter period, it may be navigable. Fishing can often be good here, especially for spawning speckled perch. During the early spring, bass will readily chase spinner baits in the stained waters of the boat trails.
While it appears to be very shallow curve in the lake, Gator hole actually has 6-7 feet of water in portions of it. Some good strings of tournament bass have come from its waters, as well as trophy bass that come by the way of wild shiners.
A lot of grass, reeds and lily pads are found in the area between the island and the camp. There is also a goodly amount of open water, some of which has 11-12 foot depths. The local people often refer to this southwest corner of the lake as the McIntosh Area. It is here that we discovered what is often referred in bass fishing as the ‘honey hole’.
Continuing around this area and heading back northwards, we note that there are numerous boat trails through the seemingly never-ending lily pads fields. However, if you point your boat bow towards the main lake, all these trails eventually seem to wind up there. As you come back to the main lake and round Samson Point, you will see a few houses along the West shoreline. As a good reference reminder, the first (southernmost) of these is almost directly across from the Cross Creek entrance. That might be nice to know on a dark night. This West shoreline has a lot of cover, but was not very highly recommended by the local anglers we talked to.
From this point and on to the North end of Orange Lake, you’ll find numerous grass beds and some lily pads areas. The more significant items of interest to the angler are the smaller hydrilla beds that are scattered throughout the open water. These can be expected to produce bass well and are possibly the most predictable fishing locations in this lake.
When the vegetation growth allows, the number one bass lure for both Lakes Orange and Lochloosa is the free-running, vibrating rattle trap. This lure is at its best during the winter and early spring seasons, when the vegetation is reduced.