An Angler's Guide to Fishing the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Sunise over Lake Tohopekaliga.
Sunise over Lake Tohopekaliga. Experience Kissimmee
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It’s safe to say the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes is a freshwater angler's dream come true—particularly those in search of their next big bass. With more than 80,000 acres of water, the lakes offer plenty of amazing places to cast a line, and every local fisherman has a favorite spot. You can choose from a vast menu of options, from quick little drop-ins to full-day trips. This wonderland of fish camps and boat ramps welcomes every kind of angler, from first-timers to old-timers and everyone in between.

The Lay of the Land

Lake Hatchineha is one of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes that draws anglers from all over the country.
Lake Hatchineha is one of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes that draws anglers from all over the country. Keenan Adams, USFWS

The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes comprises eight main bodies of water in descending order of size: Lake Kissimmee, Lake Tohopekaliga (aka “Lake Toho”), East Lake Tohopekaliga (aka “East Toho”), Lake Hatchineha, Lake Marion, Lake Cypress, Lake Gentry, and Lake Jackson.

Lake Kissimmee is the chain’s biggest whopper, spanning nearly 35,000 acres in size. Thanks to its specific varieties of vegetation, it’s home to an impressive amount of crappie and wall-hanger sized bass. That’s without a doubt the reason the Bassmaster Classic and Florida Bass Federation Tour call Lake Kissimmee home. During those events and most days in between, the areas around North Cove and Brahma Island are known as reliably generous spots for anglers to try their luck.

The almost 19,000-acre Lake Toho (also referred to as “Big Lake Toho” or “West Lake Toho”) is known around the globe for its world-class bass fishing. Winter and early spring are prime time for reeling in the big ones with live bait, while the summer months are generally a better time of year for plastic worms and crankbait.

East Toho is known for its clear water and good visibility.
East Toho is known for its clear water and good visibility. Ricardo Mangual

Lake Toho’s little sister, East Lake Toho, takes up just under 12,000 acres and, while smaller than its adjoining lake, is far clearer, with visibility up to 10-feet deep. The outer reeds of its Boggy Cove area are a known bass goldmine during the season, while July and August see lots of bluegills and shellcrackers there.

At this point, the lakes decrease rapidly in size; Lake Hatchineha, for example, spans about 6,600 acres, followed by Lake Marion (just over 5,700), Lake Cypress (a little above 4,900) and Lake Gentry, itself just shy of 1,800 acres. Last but not least (except in terms of volume), Lake Jackson is a 1,500-acre jewel of nearly untouched primitive beauty. Each lake in the chain has its own mythical array of secret spots frequented by locals and return visitors alike; to find your own, you’ll just have to pay the smaller parts of the chain a visit and stake out a winning hole.

Fresh Catch: The Best of What’s Around

The large mouth bass that draws so many fishermen to central Florida.
    Jonathunder
The large mouth bass that draws so many fishermen to central Florida. Jonathunder

Florida isn’t known as the “Bass Fishing Capital of the World” for nothing. Or as ESPN puts it, the area is “bass fishing’s magic kingdom” and “amazingly… Lake Toho is only one big drop of water in a zone of bass-thick central Florida lakes.” Still, in addition to trophy-worthy largemouth bass found in abundance across the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, the area also offers up everything from bluegill and black crappie to shellcrackers and speck.

For an up-to-date tips and information as you plan your trip, check in with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s forecast system online, where you’ll find most of the chain’s lakes in the northeast region of the map.

While you’re in the area, be sure to register with the conservation commission’s TrophyCatch program, through which you can win prizes and help the state collect scientific information about its breeder fish, and in doing so contribute to the continued longevity of Florida’s bass fishing legacy.

Who Loves It

Lake Kissimmee is the largest lake in the chain, and offers plenty of docks and piers where you can drop a line.
Lake Kissimmee is the largest lake in the chain, and offers plenty of docks and piers where you can drop a line. Ebyabe

The vastness of the array of lakes in the Kissimmee chain lends itself well to all levels of fishing experience; in fact, strategic use of multiple ramps can grant access to several lakes in a single day, making even a diverse group outing with varying levels of expertise satisfying for everyone by the time the day is through. Loved equally by casual local fishing enthusiasts, visiting amateurs, and professionals alike, these lakes honestly have something for everyone. That—coupled with its abundance of bass, of course—is why it’s as attractive to famed events like the returning Bassmaster Tournament that takes place every year as it is to nearby residents who love spending an occasional morning on the water with their lines quietly cast, waiting for the next big catch.

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