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Lake Okeechobee

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For largemouth bass try spoons and spinnerbaits in the grass flats, and plastic worms and flipping jigs in the heavier cover. Golden shiners are ... Continued

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Lake Okeechobee is a Lake in Palm Beach, Florida.

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Lake Okeechobee is Florida's largest lake and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. The word Okeechobee comes from the Seminole Indian language "Oki" (water) and "Chubi" (big) and means "big water." These early Floridians chose the name well. Vast surface area (730 sq. mi.), shallowness (averages only 9 feet) and enormous habitat diversities make the ecosystem unique on the North American continent. The lake is a multiple use resource, which supports valuable commercial and sport fisheries, provides flood control, and acts as a reservoir for potable and irrigation water for much of south Florida.

Lake Okeechobee is located on the south-central portion of the Florida peninsula at latitudes 27o 12'N to 26o 40'N and longitudes 81o 07'W to 80o 37'W. Major natural tributaries to the lake are Fisheating Creek, Taylor Creek and the Kissimmee River. Sheet outflow occurred originally across the entire southern rim into the Everglades. Prior to the 1900's, water quality was characterized as clear and alkaline, and bottom sediments were described as "clean sand." Levee and canal construction during the first half of the century confined the lake to a smaller area, eliminated overflow along the south shore, and facilitated backpumping of excess water from the Everglades agricultural area into the lake.

During the past 30 years, rising nutrient levels and periodic increases in the lake stage regulatory schedules have decreased habitat quality and pushed the system nearer a hypereutrophic and ecologically undesirable state.
Primary sources of lake water include rainfall (30%) and major tributaries, canals and runoff (70%). Evaporation accounts for 70% of water loss, with the remainder exiting through engineered outflows. High water levels are maintained from October through March (dry season), while low water levels are maintained from June through August. Shallow depth, long fetch and moderate winds combine to preclude thermal stratification. Regular mixing by wind and wave action ensures dissolved oxygen levels adequate for biological processes throughout the water column. Water temperatures average between 59o F(14o C) in January to 86o F (30o C) in August.

Lake Okeechobee is nationally recognized as supporting high quality largemouth bass and black crappie fisheries. The lake also supports a commercial fishery dominated by catfish species. However, the commercial fishery is also nationally unique in that a limited entry fishery (10 nets) exists for haul seine gear which is permitted to legally harvest and sell bluegill and redear sunfish. Freshwater fishing retail sales in the five counties surrounding Lake Okeechobee were estimated at more than $117 million during 2000. Biologically, Lake Okeechobee can successively support recreational and commercial fishery interest. Fishery management concerns on Lake Okeechobee not only require allocating available fishery resources between recreational and commercial interests, but must also be concerned with resolution of socio-political issues that result from user conflicts.

Aquatic plant communities benefit fish by providing spawning habitat, serving as refuge areas from the environment and predators, and support an intricate food web by providing nutrients for invertebrates and herbivorous fishes, which serve as forage. Despite ecological advantages provided by aquatic plants to fishes and wildlife on Lake Okeechobee, controversy over management of vegetation continues among federal and state agencies with regulatory authority for aquatic plant management, water quality and supply, flood control, and fish and wildlife management.

Fishing Tips, Tactics, How-To info: 

Largemouth bass regulations changed on July 1, and all bass less than 18 inches must be released; in addition, you may only keep one largemouth bass over 22 inches. The bag limit remains the same, at five. Try spoons and spinnerbaits in the grass flats, and plastic worms and flipping jigs in the heavier cover. Golden shiners are the best live bait for largemouth bass. The fishing should be best on the rim canals and on the outside edges of the shoreline vegetation (mainly bulrush, eelgrass and knotgrass). Because of the quickly rising waters bass may also be found in vegetation further from shore.

Black crappie (speck) regulations also changed on July 1st; any fish under 10 inches must be released. The bag limit is the same, at 25 fish. Black crappie fishing usually starts out slow in the fall, but improves as winter approaches. The best fishing for black crappie is in deeper waters near edges of the canal shoreline drop-offs and the pilings under the Highway 78 bridge. Fishing in the Kissimmee River will be best during times the river is flowing. Angling effort should be concentrated near the edges of vegetation stands. The best angling will occur early and late in the day. Use the usual fishing techniques for crappie throughout this time. Minnows should be suspended at various depths to locate schools. Jig fishing is most productive, as you can cover a great deal more area very quickly. The secret to successful crappie fishing is to move often, until you locate a school.

Bluegill and redear fishing is usually fair during the fall and early winter. Excellent areas to seek bream during this time will be the rim canals around Lake Okeechobee, the numerous canals leading to the lake and the Kissimmee River. Most redear are taken on live worms. Beetle spins and crickets are the preferred baits for bluegill.


Ortona South Campground

Located on the Caloosahatchee River section of the Okeechobee Waterway, the Ortona South Campground offers 51 sites with electric and water hook ups. Additional amenities include a dump station, hot showers, public telephone, and fishing piers. The campground is open year round. Attendants are on duty and the campground telephone number is (863) 675-8400.

St. Lucie South Campground

Located on the St. Lucie Canal portion of the Okeechobee Waterway, the St. Lucie South Campground offers 9 RV/tent sites and 8 boat campsites with electric and water hook ups. There are also 3 tent sites with no hook ups. Additional amenities include a dump station, hot showers, public phones, a playground, a boat ramp, and a picnic shelter. A large picnic pavilion located in the day use area can be reserved. The campground is open year round. Attendants are on duty and the campground telephone number is (772) 287-1382.

W.P. Franklin North Campground

Located on the Caloosahatchee River section of the Okeechobee Waterway, the W.P. Franklin North Campground offers 30 Class A Tent/RV sites and 8 Cruiser (boat) sites, all with electric and water hookups. Additional amenities include a trailer dump station, hot showers, public phones, a fishing pier, boat ramp.

Campsites and Group Picnic Shelters can be reserved up to 180 days in advance but no earlier than 3 days in advance. For reservations call toll free at 1-877-444-6777

Lake Okeechobee
Waterbody type: 
Palm Beach
United States
Surface area: 
Average depth: 
Standard elevation: