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It’s only natural for a place named Lake County to have a great fishing lake. That’s the case in Florida, where Lake Harris covers 13,788 acres of prime fishing habitat in Lake County.
Lake Harris, known locally as the Harris Chain of Lakes, is a basin of the St. Johns River located about 30 miles northwest of Orlando. Little Lake Harris is just east of the main lake and the two areas exceed 15,000 acres of fishable waters.
One thing that makes Lake Harris different from many central Florida lakes is that it has much greater depths in some areas and these deep holes and ledges offer a stark difference to the cypress trees, cattail and bullrush that lines the edges of the lakes. There are a few boat houses, docks and seawalls, but for the most part, the lake is surrounded by grasses in 2-5 feet of water. The bottom is mostly hard sand, which makes excellent habitat for largemouth bass. There are some marshy areas where the bottom is more muddy, but that offers variety to the lake, too, and contributes to the good food chain on the lake.
The deeper areas of main Lake Harris have some water that is up to 30 feet deep. Dropoffs there offer good fishing, especially in the warmer months of the year. The lake averages about 10-12 feet in depth with a deep 20-30 foot trench running along its southern shoreline. This part of Florida is known as the ‘Central Florida Ridge’. This region of Florida has the highest elevations in Central Florida.
Fishing is good for largemouth bass, striped bass, channel catfish, white catfish, black crappie, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish or shellcrackers, spotted sunfish, warmouth and chain pickerel in Lake Harris. But the go-to fish for most anglers is the largemouth bass. Starting in the winter, deeper areas like Johnson’s Point is a good spot to fish, but it’s a wide open area. In the spring, fishing is really good around the grass, pads, reeds and cattails, which is great for flipping jigs or creature baits. The best areas are those with at least two feet of water and a variety of plant types. Usually the fish bed up in pockets or around points.
Fishing is good in all the pockets and smaller coves in each lake. Even the canals of Venetian Gardens have been known to give up good bass. There are also good bass in the Ninth Street canals, but they are extremely popular and heavily fished.
The entrance to the Palatlakaha River, Helena’s Run, the bay at Hickory Point Park, Dead River and Green Cove, plus any of the canals are good to fish. Remember to fish the shallower areas in the spring and out further after the spawn. Fish will follow the baitfish, too, so that is a key to finding the largemouths.
It may be the smaller area of the lake, but Little Lake Harris comes up big when it comes to bass. This may not be the quietest place you’ve ever fished, since the lake’s northern shore is a landing approach zone for the Leesburg International Airport, but it’s worth the noise to catch seven, eight and nine pound lunkers. This lake is full of large lily pads and is also ringed with reeds and cattails. The deeper areas of the shore are popular for flipping all year long.
Bass do attract most of the anglers here, but crappie fishing is really good too, especially in spring when the fish go shallow and in the winter, when they school up over cover in the deeper water. Fish don’t run really big here, but can provide a lot of action. Bream fishing is good in the inlets and coves, especially around where docks and wood are combined with the fields of grass. Lake Harris primarily receives flow from the Palatlakaha River coming from the Clermont Chain of lakes to the south. Other water flows into the lake from Helena Run and the springs in Yalaha. This keeps the water fertile and prime for producing trophy largemouths.
There are several marinas on the lake, including Venetian Cove Marina, Banana Cove Marina, Palm Gardens Restaurant and Marina, Fisherman’s Cove, Marina Del Rey and Lake Harris Lodge. Public launching areas on Lake Harris include just off of U.S. Route 27 to the west; Venetian Gardens near the Howey-in-the-Hills bridge off SR 19 and a small ramp located on the east side of Little Lake Harris in Astatula.
Lake Harris is located just to the east of the Florida Turnpike near the towns of Leesburg and Okahumpka to the west. Other lakes in the Harris chain of lakes include Lake Eustis, Lake Dora, Lake Griffin, Lake Yale and Lake Apopka. The lake is about halfway between Orlando and Ocala, so there are lots of things to do, places to stay and plenty of good food within a relatively short drive away.