Welcome to Kenansville Reservoir, a 2,500 acre shallow water lake in east central Florida that is sometimes so scary good for bass fishing, it has earned a movie-worthy nickname.
There’s a reason that Kenansville is often called “Jurassic Park”. Not only do big bass show up all over the lake on a regular basis, there are also big numbers of fish to be caught here. It isn’t unusual for anglers to catch 40 to 50 fish a day and have fish up to 10 pounds. No need for genetic scientists to recreate any species here. These big bass are all natural!
The lake only averages 3-4 feet deep and is basically an old cattle pasture that was flooded in 1993. In fact, boaters are urged to be careful because there are still rows of old wooden fence posts in several areas of the lake. It is impounded by levees and has a single boat ramp. But bass fishing on the unique lake is not extinct by any means. In fact, it’s just coming to light as a fantastic fishery.
The town of Kenansville in Indian River County is the nearest spot to the lake. It is just off the Florida Turnpike east of the Whittier exit. Other than that, it’s pretty much right out in the middle of nowhere. And that suits a lot of fishermen just fine. The town is small and offers the only nearby place to obtain gas, food and bait and there are no facilities on the lake. Fishing in the lake is most popular by boat, but it is also not unusual to find anglers catching numbers and big size bass from the bank. The access canal along the north end of the lake provides walking access, or anglers seeking to get further away from the crowds can even ride a bicycle to bank fishing spots.
One important note here: Lake Kenansville is a special regulation lake and all largemouth bass caught must be released immediately under the state’s no-harvest regulation. There has been some discussion of changing that, so anglers need to make sure and understand all the rules and regulations pertaining to harvest before entering the lake.
Bass aren’t the only species that get angler’s attention here. There is also some excellent bream and crappie fishing on the lake as well.
Because the lake is chock-full of largemouths, anglers can catch fish on almost any type of lure and presentation that they would want under normal conditions. Of course, the most successful anglers here have their favorites that work for anybody.
For the biggest of the Jurassic bass, most anglers like to use wild caught live shiners. The live shiners are the natural bait of these fish and if they get finicky with artificial lures, you can always count on the shad. The most popular size is 2-3 inch baits, but some anglers fish them up to six inches or more if they can get them to try and entice trophy bass with a big lunch all in one bite. Anglers are beginning to notice that the catch-and-release format is also making some of the larger bass more wise every year.
Other popular lures include swim jigs, swimbaits, Senko’s and topwaters. During the spawn, creature baits in six to nine inches of length work. Popular colors are tequila sunrise, watermelon red and black/blue tail. But anglers find that they fish will hit just about any color when they are hungry. Plastic lizards also work well.
Kenansville is in the middle of a group of lakes called Stick Marsh/Farm 13 and Blue Cypress Lake. There are also canals in the area that produce fish, but the bodies of water are not connected.
Kenansville is mostly flat, but heavy aquatic vegetation gives bass and baitfish plenty of places to hide out. There are variances in depth in many drainage ditches that criss-cross around various parts of the lake. The edges of grass beds or reed lines are known for the best bass fishing. Popular fishing structures include maidencane, sawgrass, willows and buttonbush and some small humps and “tree islands” around the lake. Anglers fish the points of vegetation for the biggest numbers of fish and the big ones are often found holding up back in holes in the grass where they can easily ambush prey.
Part of the lake is in the Upper St. Johns River Basin project that has been implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of engineers. The Corps also works on projects that help reduce flooding and maintain good water quality at the lake.
Early spring is the best time to fish for fishing redear sunfish on the lake. Worms work well for them and the big bluegill that roam the flats looking for shallow spots to spawn.
Crappie fishing is also good on the lake with the best method to catch fish being pushing minnows on spider rigs with two to four poles. Crappie tend to find the deep holes in the winter and summer months.