As a family holiday destination, Orlando must be one of the most popular in the world – but have you ever considered fishing there? As well as Disney world, great food and alligators, Orlando has some fantastic fishing opportunities, both fresh and saltwater.
When you look at Orlando on google maps, or whilst landing at the airport, the first thing you will notice are the lakes. They are literally everywhere – ranging from puddle sized drainage ponds, canals and mid sized waters, all the way up to huge inland seas of many thousands of acres. These lakes look incredibly fishy – because they are. They are literally full of largemouth bass, and their smaller cousins the sunfish. These species are very keen to hit artificial lures and flies.
Lakes in the Orlando area tend to be clear, with prolific weed growth. Many of the larger lakes in the area need to be fished by boat – this is where a guide comes in handy. There are plenty of guides available, including Captain Dean Puller of Gator bass, who can take you on the world famous Lake Toho and supply all the gear you will need.
For a budget option, or if your time is limited, numerous small urban lakes and canals can be easily fished from the shore. Generally, as long as there is access from a bridge crossing or a road you are able to fish with the state license (look out for private property signs!). This license is available for a non-resident at just $30 for 7 days; and is easily available online or at a fishing shop such as Bass Pro. Google maps is the best way to scope out likely looking fishing spots near to where you are staying.
Become a Bass Pro
Largemouth bass are predators that like to patrol marginal areas, weed-lines and drop offs in search of any food item they can fit into their cavernous mouths. They will eat anything – from small fish to ducks, mice and frogs. The bass is a hard fighting sportfish known for leaping clear of the water when hooked and can grow to double figures in weight, with Orlando being home to fish of this caliber in some of it’s lakes. Generally though, fish of a pound or two are what you are likely to encounter, with the odd bigger specimen thrown into the mix.
Bass really like to hit surface lures if they are in the mood – floating plugs and lures can draw fierce, exciting strikes. The surface lures from Savage Gear, such as the 3D rat and 3D suicide duck make for perfect topwater bass fishing lures.
If fly fishing, large deer hair bass bug flies will work well. It is also worth getting hold of some weedless popper patterns. As well as the big bass flies, UK stillwater trout fishing lures can be deadly, especially if the bass have seen it all. For example Minky boobies fished on the surface proved to be a winner on a heavily fished lake.
The key to surface fishing for bass is to hit the edge of thick cover, then twitch your lure violently to entice the bass out of hiding. Then it pays to pause the retrieve, sometimes for a minute or two – bass will often hit while the lure is stationary.
Sinking your lure or fly is the way to fish if the bass are not interested in breaking the surface. Woolly buggers and Clouser minnows are great flies to fish on a floating fly line, whilst rubber ‘Senko worms‘ rigged ‘wacky style‘ can be lethal on a spinning outfit. Allow these to sink to the bottom and twitch them back – the action can be irresistible to bass.
Sunfish are fun if the bass ain’t biting…
Sunfish can be found in almost any body of water in Florida. There are numerous species, including bluegill, longear, redbreast, warmouth and crappie. What they lack in size they make up for in character, colour and willingness to take lures and flies – provided they are small enough. For example, a size 12 Hares ear nymph or a size 16 jig head/worm combo would be perfect. Allow your lure to sink near structure and you will usually find them eager to bite.
What about Saltwater?
Orlando is just under an hours drive from same fantastic saltwater flats fishing – the world famous Indian river and Mosqito lagoon are well known for their tarpon, redfish, snook and sea-trout fishing. Here you can fish in the shadow of NASA off cape Canaveral using flies or lures, with abundant bird life, dolphins and manatees to keep you company. The services of a guide are essential, and many offer a pick up service from Orlando, such as the extremely knowledgeable Capt. Dustin Link of Xtreme Sight Fishing Charters.
Watch the wildlife and the weather
The summer weather in Florida is very hot and humid, making daytime fishing very tough. The fishing is always better at dawn and dusk, so as well as being more pleasant to be out in, the chances of you catching are very much improved. This also ties in nicely if you are on a family holiday, allowing you to grab a few hours on the water before the day gets underway.
Wherever you are fishing, it pays to look out for dangerous wildlife. Alligators are present in most lakes and inshore areas of Florida. Generally they are harmless, but take care not to fish near them, or disturb them. Look at for furrows in the weed and banks where they crawl out of the water. While you fish, stand a bit higher up on the bank than usual – so you get a good view of what is in there. Mosquito’s and no-see-ums (midge) are a constant menace so make sure you pack some repellent. Finally avoid walking through high brush and grass – where snakes and ticks like to hang out.
What tackle to bring?
For fly fishing, a multi section 9 foot 7 weight should have you covered for both fresh and saltwater action; a fly line such as Airflo’s bass/muskie taper or bonefish tropical will work best in the heat, and for turning over large and heavy flies.
For lure fishing a lightweight multi section or telescopic rod (e.g Saveggear Finesse) with a fixed spool or baitcasting reel fitted with 15 or 20lb braid will do the job well. Rubber worms and bass specific surface lures can be purchased in Bass Pro Orlando, or in supermarkets such as Walmart, at very reasonable prices.
In the video above, Fishtec’s Tim Hughes catches a largemouth bass in an Orlando lake using a light baitcasting outfit.
Above all Orlando is a great place to catch fish. Wherever you wet a line, action is sure to come. So next time you are on a family holiday, sneak in a rod.