When it comes to largemouth bass lakes, Texas isn’t the only state that knows how to do it “big”. Take Florida’s Lake Okeechobee for instance. When most people think of central Florida, Disney World automatically comes to mind. Located about 100 miles south of Orlando, it’s the “Big O” that is close to being the most magical place on earth for fishermen. The name Okeechobee comes from the native Hitchitti Indian words okie (water) and chubi (big). Lake Okeechobee fits that bill, covering 448 acres in parts of five counties — Glades, Okeechobee, Martin, Palm Beach and Hendry. It’s half the size of Rhode Island. It is the second largest natural freshwater lake contained entirely in the country (Lake Michigan is no. 1). The average depth of Lake Okeechobee is about 10 feet. And when they say size matters here, it isn’t just the size of the water. It’s the size of the monster largemouth bass. The Lake Okeechobee lake record largemouth weighed 15 pounds, five ounces. The lake is chocked full of five to eight pound bass and 10-12 pound bass are common. The biggest fish seem to be caught in the spring, when big females can have up to a pound of eggs in them to bolster their weight. Aquatic vegetation is the main structure in the lake. Anglers routinely fish pockets, points and edges of bulrush, hay fields, hydrilla, and eel grass for largemouths. The entire lake has massive amounts of aquatic vegetation. They key to the big lake’s continued success is obviously the many types of vegetation that provide habitat for forage fish, such as minnows shiners, and small bream as well as the gamefish. A beneficial relationship between hydrilla and production of juvenile game fish and forage fish has been documented by fisheries biologists. If you ask local anglers about which areas are most productive, areas like King’s Bar, Eagle Bay Island and Little Grassy Island are top hotspots on the northern end of the lake. Popular spots on the southwestern end of the lake include Uncle Joe’s, Blue hole, the shoal, Monkey Box and the shallow Moonshine Bay area. Anglers fishing the south end consider South Bay, Rita Island, East Wall, and Coots Bay as go to areas.
Artificial lures are the easiest baits to fish and catch a good percentage of the bass on the lake. Just about any style of plastic worms or monster boats, frogs and other soft plastics work well. Anglers flip them into the vegetation using heavy tackle and line. Perhaps the best way to catch the biggest fish is using live golden shiners. A popular method is using partially blown up balloons as a “cork” to hold shiners up out of the grass. Regular corks can work, but if bass feel resistance when they take the bait, they spit it out before anglers can set the hook. The shiner usually swims about freely and when the balloon starts bobbing up and down and acting erratically means a big bass is after the bait. One fact that flies under the radar for most fishermen is that Lake Okeechobee is one of the best panfish lakes in the world. Big bluegills and giant shellcrackers provide good fishing just about all year around. Bream can be caught in just about any area of the lake. In the summer when they are bedding, an angler can often sit in one place and limit out. Crappie fishing is also superb here. Drifting and casting small crappie spinnerbaits is an effective way to locate and catch crappie in open water. The Rim Canal is a good place to give it a try. Shiners and a multitude of plastic and hair jigs in almost any color will also produce good catches of crappie. Okeechobee City, Clewiston, Port Maraca and Belle Glade are also popular crappie destinations. With the advance of new electronics that pinpoint schools of crappie, fishing has even become more easy and successful in the big waters. Lake Okeechobee also has enormous catfish populations. Sports fishermen don’t target them often, but the commercial fishing of catfish is a multi- million dollar industry on the lake.
Whatever or wherever anglers decide to fish, navigating to and from the spots can be tricky, especially if the water level is low. There is an area called Rim Canal that is a deep channel running the perimeter of the lake. It was dug out to form the rim around the lake that impounds the reservoir today. There are many channels running off the canal into the main lake. There are abundant facilities on the lake and plenty of fishing guides and resorts that cater to fishermen’s every need. Access to the lake is easy from the north at Okeechobee, to the west at Lakeport, the south at Lewiston and the east at Pahokee.
A day of fishing on Lake Okeechobee is unlike any other. Your group will have a day of bending rods and making memories. Don’t wait! Start your adventure today with a search of local Lake Okeechobee guides.