Disney World Orlando is one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions. Every year, over 50 million people visit “the Happiest Place On Earth” in search of magic and adventure. What most don’t realize is that the fishing Disney World has access to is as unforgettable as the park itself.
Florida was sportfishing central long before the Magic Kingdom built its capital here. From monster Largemouth Bass to ocean predators like Sailfish and Tarpon, you’ve got it all. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the top fishing spots within easy reach of Disney World.
Each spot offers something a little different. Some are defined by their variety, while others are all about a certain species. Some are freshwater, some are salt. What they all have in common is incredible fishing and stunning nature – everything you need for the perfect family fishing charter.
Local Waters: Fishing Within 30 Minutes of Disney World
Orlando may be smack in the middle of the state, but you’re never far from water in Florida. These spots offer great angling opportunities that are perfect for some extra family fun. They’re also close enough to sneak off for a little peace and quiet before the kids wake up.
The Butler Chain of Lakes
You can’t get much closer than this. The town of Windermere sits just outside the gates to the kingdom and right in the middle of the Butler Chain of Lakes. A dozen different lakes cover over 5,000 acres in total, all designated “Outstanding Florida Waters” by the state’s Department of Environmental Regulation.
Outstanding is the right word. The chain is famous for its steep ledges, thick vegetation, and exceptional water quality. If that sounds like your checklist of Bass fishing essentials, you’re not mistaken. The Butler Chain, and Lake Butler in particular, is the perfect place to spend a few hours battling lunker Largemouth Bass.
Just 10 miles south of Disney World you’ll find the county seat of Kissimmee. The town shares its name with the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, a string of fishing spots sprawling all the way from Orlando to Okeechobee. Lake Toho is at the top of the chain, right next to town. It’s a well-loved fishing spot for Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, Crappie, and much more.
The great thing about Lake Toho is that it’s just a stone’s throw from Disney World but it doesn’t feel like it. The lake covers of 22,000 acres – more than enough to lose yourself in. And if you somehow get bored, East Lake Toho is just a short hop away, offering even more action.
Fishing in Disney World Itself
Hankering for a fishing trip but don’t want the fairytale to end? You’re in luck. You can actually go fishing in Disney World itself. Trips leave from a dozen different docks, taking you out for a couple of hours of catch-and-release Bass fishing.
You pay a premium for fishing in Walt’s own waters. Trips here can be almost double what you’d pay elsewhere. The Disney soundtrack may also spoil your fishing bliss if you’re a serious angler. However, if you’re looking for a family-friendly charter and you don’t want to travel, it doesn’t get more convenient than this.
Making a Day of It: Fishing Within 60 Minutes of Disney World
The local waters hold plenty of fish, but things really start to get exciting when you look a little farther afield. You can hit the coast, opening up a world of opportunities. You can also visit some of Florida’s top Bass fishing spots and get well away from the crowds. All this, in less time than it takes to line up for Space Mountain.
Florida’s Space Coast is best-known for its NASA launches, but the real action is in the water, not the sky. Take a charter out of Cape Canaveral, and you can battle everything from Speckled Trout and Redfish to Snook, Tarpon, and monster Sharks. And that’s just the inshore bite. Head offshore, and you’ll find Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna, and even Sailfish!
Cape Canaveral gets the most visitors thanks to its large port and easy access to open water. It’s not your only option, though. Nearby towns like Cocoa Beach and Titusville also offer plenty of fun under an hour from Disney World. All in all, the Space Coast blows Tomorrowland clear out of the water.
If you want to get the most out of the Kissimmee Chain, where better to go than Lake Kissimmee itself? The lake is a regular stop on both the Bassmaster and Florida Bass Federation tournament circuits. You don’t need three guesses as to what brings them here.
Lake Kissimme is home to some of the largest lunkers alive. Don’t take our word for it, ask the guy who released a 19 lb Bass here in 2015. And there’s more than just fish. The area is also known for its wildlife, with everything from bald eagles and cranes to alligators and bobcats living in Lake Kissimmee State Park.
Head north out of Disney World and you soon reach the deep waters of Lake Harris. Guides run trips out of a handful of local towns like Tavares and Leesburg, and fish both Big and Little Lake Harris for the same mix of Bass and Panfish you’ll find farther south.
If the fish are the same, what makes this worth the drive? Honestly, putting more distance between you and the city can be its own reward, and the fishing here sure feels a million miles from the lines and noise of Disney World. On top of that, Lake Harris’s many deep holes and ledges give you a lot more options than you’ll find in other spots nearby.
Going All Out: Fishing Within 90 Minutes of Disney World
Even in Walt Disney’s own backyard, you’ll find plenty of fun and hard-fighting fish. However, if you’re willing to go all out and head beyond the usual spots, you can visit with some of the most iconic fishing grounds in the state. You can also lose the crowd in stunning places that most tourists never get to.
New Smyrna Beach
You can actually reach New Smyrna Beach in around an hour in light traffic. The sands are so beautiful, though, that you’re pretty much forced to stop and take in the view before hitting the dock. New Smyrna Beach straddles the protected shallows of the Indian River and the open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. It makes for a great photo, and even better fishing.
Mosquito Lagoon is famous for its inshore predators like Redfish, Speckled Trout, Snook, and Tarpon. Heading out of Ponce Inlet on a deep sea charter, Kingfish, Cobia, and even Sailfish join the lineup. Then there are the delicious Snapper and Grouper waiting on the reefs. In short, New Smyrna Beach has it all.
Tampa Bay is one of those iconic places that every angler should visit at least once. Inshore fishing just doesn’t get much better. Launch out of Tampa itself or head to nearby St. Petersburg for some of the biggest Snook you’ll ever see. You can also hook into Tarpon, Trout, and Bull Redfish. It’s a real rodeo.
But wait, there’s more. Head out from nearby Clearwater and you can catch Gulf Coast classics like Hogfish, Sheepshead, Triggerfish, and Sharks. The sea doesn’t get very deep, so big game species are off the cards on most trips, but it’s an amazing place to drop lines for tasty reef fish.
We’ll be honest, the drive to Crystal River or nearby Homosassa may push the 90-minute mark. However, you’re rewarded with a glimpse into a forgotten side of the Sunshine State. The area has a friendly, small-town feel which is the perfect escape from the noise and crowds of Disney World. It also means that the waters are uniquely unspoiled.
Take a skiff into the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge to fish for Florida’s full cast of inshore A-listers. Splash around as you harvest Scallops on a perfect family day out. You can also spot manatees, dolphins, and other marine life basking in the morning sun. If this doesn’t tick all the boxes of a Florida fishing trip, we don’t know what does.
And so Much More!
We’ve tried to present an even mix of the best fishing Disney World has access to. However, there’s so much more to discover. Some spots are past our 90-minute cut off, but worth the journey a hundred times over. Even within casting range of the park itself, there are way too many lakes to list.
Truth be told, you’ll be hard-pressed to find bad fishing in Florida. There’s water everywhere and it’s always full of fish. That being said, these spots offer more than a fish on your line. They’re classic examples of what makes Florida so good: Beautiful views, warm waters, and world-class angling. All this, just a short drive from the Most Magical Place on Earth.
These are our top picks, but what about yours? What’s your favorite place to go fishing near Orlando? Have you ever tried fishing in Disney World? Let us know in the comments below!