March 10, 2020
They say “the happiest place on earth” is Disney World – and for some people it just might be. But for others, they would say that a nice day on the lake, river or ocean is the happiest place on earth. Again, for some, being on the water really is the happiest place on earth. For families in the Orlando area, you can have the best of both worlds. You can have your day in the theme parks AND get out on the water.
Here’s the best fishing in the state, just minutes away from theme parks, tourists, and characters…
Walt Disney World may be a city all on its own, but when you look at a map you’ll see that it’s near a city called Lake Buena Vista. That translates to “Lake Good View” – which is an accurate description of the area. There are lakes to the north, south, east, and west of Disney World – all freshwater and filled with largemouth bass, crappie, and smaller baitfish.
To the North of Disney are the Butler Chain of Lakes, a group of lakes all connected together near the town of Windermere. These are probably the closest lakes to Disney World, just a short twenty minute drive if you are near Disney Spring area hotels.
Kissimmee (pronounced Kah-SIM-mee) is located on the southside of Walt Disney World and is a great place to vacation as there are several hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Anglers may be familiar with Lake Tohopekaliga (nicknamed and more commonly referred to as “Lake Toho”); it’s one of the top-producing bass lakes in the state. There’s also the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, with multiple areas to cast your lines.
Head west towards another theme park, Legoland, and the city of Winter Haven. Believe it or not, there’s another chain of lakes in this area as well, one of the largest chains in the state: Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes that has over 16 lakes and covers three cities.
Pick any nearby lake (or chain of lakes) and you’ll have your pick of ole’ bucketmouth, also known as largemouth bass. This is the most desired fish in the area, and Florida regulations have them as a catch-and-release species, so the population throughout is very healthy. Spring is spawning season (mid-February to April) and is the best time to fish for large, trophy sized bass. Fall temperatures will have you seeing good numbers as well.
If you’re willing to drive a bit farther, you can reach the coast of Florida within an hour or two, depending on which direction you drive.
Mosquito Lagoon on Florida’s east coast is a favorite fishing spot for local anglers. The lagoon is untouched by civilization and provides one of the most unique habitats for fish in the world. Fly fishing for tarpon, sight fishing for redfish, or drifting for gator trout (speckled trout that reach over 27”) are the norm when fishing Mosquito Lagoon. There are certain regulations when fishing this area, so it’s best to hire an approved licensed guide that knows the ins and outs of this special waterway.
While the east coast offers some fantastic fishing grounds, the west coast of Florida is technically closer to Walt Disney World. Just drive down Interstate 4 and you’ll reach Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater in just about an hour, depending on time of day traffic. Tampa Bay is one of the best places to fish for tarpon, also known as the silver king. It’s one of the hardest fish to target, but the reward can be legendary as these local tarpon grow upto 100 pounds. Like the bass, tarpon are catch-and-release, and if your catch is over 40” you must keep it in the water while you take your picture.
Of course offshore charters are available to those visiting Walt Disney World. You just need to travel a bit farther to get to the monster size fish. Both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico provide some incredible fishing opportunities. The closest cities on the east coast are Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna Beach, or Daytona Beach. On the west coast, again consider Tampa, St. Petersburg, or Clearwater to start your offshore charter. Species such as mahi mahi, marlin, wahoo, kingfish, sailfish, snapper, grouper, triggerfish, tripletail, and shark are found off both coasts. Just pick your coast and set sail for a great day of fishing!
There’s more to do in Central Florida than hang out with a bunch of characters. Well, captains can be characters too… just of a different sort. FishAnywhere makes it very easy to find a local captain that can guide your group to a great day on the water. There’s no need to pack your favorite rod or tackle, local guides will take care of everything you need. Anglers opting for freshwater trips will need to first get a fishing license, but most saltwater guides can cover your fishing on their own license. Remember to bring some sunscreen, bottles of water to stay hydrated, and of course cash to tip your guide. And have a great day at the happiest place on earth!
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