A Fishing Guide to Ocala/Marion County

With many lakes, rivers and ponds, Ocala/Marion County is a great place to cast away for recreational freshwater fishing. Whether visitors bring their own boat, want to fish with a charter or just from a dock or river-bank, there is an experience for all levels. Here is a brief guide to fishing with all the popular spots, types of fish and best times to cast a line.

Types of Fish in Ocala/Marion County

  • Largemouth bass
  • Schooling bass
  • Black crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Panfish
  • Sunfish (redear, redbreast and spotted)

Where to Fish in Ocala/Marion County

Ocala National Forest

With approximately 600 lakes, the Ocala National Forest is a destination for all things outdoors, including fishing. Some favorite spots to fish in the national forest include Lake George, the Ocklawaha River, Rodman Reservoir (ranked one of top largemouth bass lakes in the state), Lake Kerr, Lake Bryant, Lake Eaton, Lake Jumper, Mill Damn Lake and Sellers Lake.

Types of Fish: largemouth bass, schooling bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie, catfish

When to Fish
: The best time to catch largemouth bass in the lakes is during the cooler months (February-April) in sawgrass pockets and lily pads. On Ocklawaha River, the peak time to fish trophy bass is December-March. The best time to catch black crappie is January-March. During the spring and summer, at dawn and dusk, fishermen can catch schooling bass. Sunfish and bluegill are good to catch in late spring and summer (April-August) along vegetated banks and beds of lily pads.

How to Access:

People standing on a boat in Oklawaha River

Orange Lake

Orange Lake is located in the north end of the county and is the biggest lake in North Central Florida at more than 12,000 acres. The expansive lake averages a depth of 5.5 feet and contains lily pad dense areas and tussocks, making a great environment for many fresh water fish, including largemouth bass. Tussocks are rafts of plants that pull loose from shallow mud flats and drift in the lake. With the tussocks and many shallow, vegetative parts of the lake, airboats and flats boats are most popular to use and easiest to navigate with. Fishermen don’t even need a boat however— there is a pier at Heagy-Burry Park near a fish attractor where you can cast a line.

Types of Fish: largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, catfish, black crappie

When to Fish
: Bass fishing is good year round, but the best time is normally winter and early spring in Orange Lake. Black crappie is also popular to catch in the winter.

How to Access: Heagy Burry Boat Ramp is the only public-use ramp on Orange Lake that provides access during the majority of low water conditions. Address: 5040 NW 191st Pl., Reddick, FL 32686

Women holding a fish at Orange Lake

Lake Weir

Lake Weir is a deep water lake covering more than 5,600 acres near Belleview and Weirsdale. The bands of grass along the shoreline are good for bass fishing, as well as the beds of grass in the deeper areas.

Types of Fish: Bass, redear sunfish, crappie

When to Fish: Peak bass fishing is February – April. Redear sunfish are good to catch in March and April. Crappie fishing is excellent at Lake Weir during the cooler months.

How to Access: Hope Boat Ramp is a Marion County public access boat ramp (users must have a Marion County Park Pass). Address: 16050 SE 115th Ave, Weirsdale, FL 32195. Carney Island Recreation & Conservation Area offers an extra wide boat ramp for easy in and out, event for larger boats. 13275 SE 115th Ave, Ocklawaha, FL 32179

Man driving a boat on Lake Weir

Rainbow River­

Located in Dunnellon, in the southeast of the county, Rainbow River is almost 6 miles and has crystal clear waters making it easy to see the fresh water fish. Fishing is prohibited from the springs’ head waters to 1,700 feet downstream.

Types of Fish: Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, catfish

When to Fish: Most all times of the year is good for bass fishing but the best time is during the spring months. The water temperature never changes so the bite is fairly consistent.

How to Access: Public access is available at US 41 Bridge in Dunnellon and KP Hole Park. The Marion County boat ramp at KP Hole Park costs $25 per motorized vessel to launch. KP Hole Address: 9435 SW 190th Ave. Road, Dunnellon, FL 34432

Aerial view of Rainbow River

Fishing Charters:

For more information on fresh water fishing in the area, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offers guides, tips, and regulation resources at MyFWC.com/fishing/freshwater.

Sources: MyFWC.com

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