Making up our minds where to go fishing is a highly involved conversation, sometimes lasting over a few days until a coin is finally flipped as the ultimate decider. Just this week I had one of these conversations with my fishing partner Andy. The coin finally had to be flipped and the winner, was Lochloosa Lake.
Lochloosa is a 6,000 acre lake in Alachua County Florida, about 4 miles south of Hawthorne. When we arrived it was crowded for a Thursday. We waited for 3 boats to put in before us. Having never fished it before we brought artificial baits only, like small rapalas, beetle spin, and in an assortment of colors and variations.Leaving the boat ramp at Lochloosa State Park there are Lilly pads covering that whole side of the lake.
Best bait to use
Trolling along the outer edge we caught 5-6 Crappie and Bluegill within the first 15 minutes. There were several boats nearby catching double that amount using live bait. We asked around and the most common baits for catching a bucket full are crickets and shrimp. With a bait shop located across the street from the boat ramp, even if you don’t have a good source for bait, you can pick some up right before heading out.
After realizing we brought the wrong gear to land a boat full, we went to explore the lake to find the right spot for next time. Leaving the boat ramp and heading straight across Lochloosa, you will find Cross Creek connecting in to Orange Lake. The 1.8 mile creek is great to troll and fish as well, so don’t miss out on this opportunity trying to make it to Orange Lake faster. Taking this canal will lead you to some of the best panfish and bass habitat found in central Florida. Orange Lake has an extensive variety of aquatic vegetation dominated by lilly pads and hydrilla. The shallow marsh areas are inaccessible unless you have an airboat. But the canals leading to the docks throughout them are where the fish are numerous. As the water starts warming up this year, this thick vegetation should provide a great place for the bream to gather to spawn.
Our best catches in the morning were on brightly colored beatle spins. The orange and green produced the most fish. After the sun was up and the water temperature rose, we noticed the fish were feeding the top of the water very aggressively. After that, we switched to floating lures and had great results. If you are addicted to cast and retrieve fishing with artificial baits, THESE work great, but the best way to land a boat full is still crickets and grass shrimp under a bobber.
Big bass are abundant
If Largemouth Bass are what you desire, the FWC has a program that documents bass 8 pounds and larger. They list bass up to 9.9 pounds being caught in Orange Lake. Taking a day to fish either lake will have you hooked, and I will be taking another trip this month to show you results with live baits.