When Lake Orange was formed back in 1967, a Florida strain of largemouth bass was stocked as well as the northern strain. Game biologists hoped that with proper management and a fertile lake, bass would grow big. And have they ever. How does 13.3 pounds sound? That Lake Orange largemouth was just 3 pounds short of the state record. This spring, an 11 pound, 7 ounce bucket mouth was caught, photographed and released. One thing for sure, there are some “hawgs” in Lake Orange.
And this didn’t come by accident. The Game Department has been carefully managing and monitoring the 124-acre Orange County lake since its inception. Biologists found conditions at Lake Orange to be ideal as a trophy lake, meaning that the goal was large bass, not large numbers of smaller fish. The regulations now in effect at Lake Orange include a 16- to 22-inch slot limit. Any bass caught in that slot must be released. One fish over 22 inches may be creeled, but the vast majority of anglers release all the big bass. After all, it’s a shame to catch a trophy bass just once.
To grow big, bass need two things – food and cover, and both are plentiful at Lake Orange. For starters, there is a large population of gizzard shad in the lake. An oily baitfish, the shad have become the preferred prey for Lake Orange bass. But there are also lots and lots of small crappie, perhaps a bass’s second favorite meal. Later in the summer, schools of bass may be seen in the surface chasing and rounding up schools of shad and crappie. This can be some of the most exciting fishing of the year.
Other foods available to bass are frogs, small bluegills and yellow perch, dragon flies, terrestrial insects and even snakes. Some anglers at Orange have success tossing 10-inch worms toward the banks to imitate small snakes.
Cover is also readily available at the lake. Man-made reefs are found throughout the lake and new fish structures consisting of discarded Christmas trees and old pallets have recently been installed. These structures draw baitfish like a magnet and that in turn keeps the bass close by. There is also lots of natural cover in the form of beaver huts and blowdowns.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of joining Biologist John Odenkirk in an electro-shocking expedition. We were looking primarily for walleye, but measured and recorded any gamefish that popped to the surface. I will never forget when we approached a long log at the upper end of the lake and lowered the electrodes into the water. We managed to scoop up 17 bass and 4 were over 5 pounds. I also saw two more big bass escape. If you come across a submerged log like that at Lake Orange, assume there are lots of bass in the area and if you catch one, don’t leave. Stay there. There are more where that one came from.
Darrell Kennedy, who runs Angler’s Landing at Lake Orange, says the bass have just completed their spawn and have moved towards deeper water. They are coming shallow early in the morning and will blast a topwater lure. As the sun comes up, they move to deeper structure and will go for a soft plastic lure or a crankbait.
If you don’t have a boat, remember, you can rent a jon boat at Angler’s Landing and try your luck with the monster bass of Lake Orange.
Who knows? Perhaps the new state record largemouth may be within casting distance.
Contact Jim Brewer at email@example.com.