If you want to get to the heart of why Lake Okeechobee has endured as a Floridian freshwater powerhouse, just split its name in two. It comes from the indigenous words oki and chobi, which literally translate to “big water.” Simple, we know, but extremely effective! Big waters? Even bigger fish – and plenty of room to cast off on your dream Lake Okeechobee fishing trip.
Covering a whopping 730 square miles, it’s the Sunshine State’s largest lake, and is nicknamed “Florida’s Inland Sea.” While its oceanic qualities definitely aren’t in doubt size-wise, it differs in one major aspect – the fish. It’s home to one of the most beloved freshwater species around, as well as some cooler-filling favorites!
Lake Okeechobee offers up a real slice of serenity. Casting a line here will see you surrounded by stunning nature and a sense of tranquility that can be hard to find in other South Florida locales. There are the many tributaries, creeks, and rivers that feed into the lake, the incredible scenic trail that runs 110 miles around it, and the fact that it’s accessible from five separate counties.
Before you grab your best rods and reels and set off on the freshwater fishing trip of a lifetime, read on to find out what you’ll be targeting, how you’ll be casting your line, and our favorite hotspots.
Best Fish to Catch in Lake Okeechobee
Remember earlier when we mentioned that Lake Okeechobee is home to one of the most popular freshwater game fish around? If you’re a fishing fanatic, we’re guessing that your mind jumped straight to the Largemouth Bass. You’d be right!
It’s fair to say that Lake Okeechobee is pretty synonymous with Bass fishing for anglers in the know. Some locals say that a huge part of the reason why Florida is the “Fishing Capital of the World” is thanks to this lake’s incredible Bass fishery. Who are we to disagree?
Not only does this famous fish put up plenty of action, but it also inhabits pretty much every corner of Lake Okeechobee. Both of these factors contribute to the lake’s reputation as an iconic Bass fishery! Another big selling point is that anglers of all ages and skill levels can target this species. Fly fishing is an especially popular technique for more experienced fishermen.
Best Largemouth Bass Bait
Don’t worry if you’re not ready to fish on the fly, though. The Largemouth Bass is attracted to a huge range of live bait and lures. For monster Bass, cast off with worms and crawfish during winter. Bass hit around 10 pounds in this season! In contrast, the smaller varieties on offer in summer are perfect targets for newbies and little ones.
Speaking of little ones, the next species on our list has really stood the test of time as a firm family favorite. Also known as Speckled Perch, Black Crappie inhabit Lake Okeechobee in their millions. That’s the first tick on the family-friendly checklist covered!
Add to this the fact that they’re both delicious and easy to catch, and it’s easy to see why a Lake Okeechobee Crappie fishing adventure is the perfect way for your kids to discover their love of fishing. This doesn’t mean that only newbies and families should target Crappie, though. Looking to really stock your freezer full of tasty table fare? A Crappie-chasing adventure is the way to go!
So how do you go about hooking these delectable dinner options? Well, they tend to flock to shallow, calm waters with little or no current. As Lake Okeechobee’s waters rarely reach depths greater than 9 feet, it’s the perfect place to cast a line for these fish. They especially love the shoreline waters, where there’s plenty of vegetation.
You’ll find Crappie inhabiting these waters year-round, but winter is by far the most fish-filled time to visit. Hooking lots of Crappie on one of the most beautiful lakes around? We think it’s the perfect Christmas gift.
Best Crappie Bait
Live minnows are the go-to bait when Crappie fishing in Lake Okeechobee. Specialist Crappie jigs also work wonders on light spinning gear. You can find a way that works for you no matter your angling preferences.
…And Some Other Panfish, Too!
The Black Crappie falls under the “Panfish” family. This subspecies of fish species are known for their taste and ability to fit perfectly into a frying pan. Although it might be the most popular member of the family in Lake Okeechobee, it’s by no means the only one you’ll come across.
If the aim of your angling game is food, and plenty of it, then you’ll also want to set your sights on the lake’s other Panfish members. We’re talking about Bream and Bluegill.
The beauty of Panfish fishing is that you never quite know what you’ll find at the end of your line. One thing they all have in common, however, is that you won’t regret reeling ’em in and frying ’em up!
When it comes to catching these species, local anglers all agree on one thing: go light! Use 2–6 lb lines with small hooks and minnow as bait. Fly rods with light tippets will let you test your skills a little more.
How to Go Fishing Lake Okeechobee
On a Boat
Lake Okeechobee’s local fishermen like to say that there’s one thing you need to explore these waters: a fast boat! We agree that hopping aboard a charter is the best way to discover the lake. You’re just more likely to see a Bass boat than a high-speed sports vessel!
You’ll be joined by an experienced guide who knows these waters well and will be able to escort you to the best spots around. You’ll save on traveling time, which means there’ll be plenty more fishing time. In addition to this, fishing on board a charter usually means you’ll be decked out with top-quality rods and reels.
Lake Okeechobee is serene, but it’s also a beloved hotspot for anglers and visitors alike, and local guides know this. Thanks to the lake’s popularity, you’ll find a plethora of charters docked along its shorelines, catering to guests of all ages and skill levels. Want a serious Bass-chasing-only trip? You got it. Looking to introduce your kids to the magic of a first-time catch? You’ll find a charter offering your perfect Lake Okeechobee fishing adventure!
First things first. If you’re a newbie looking to get a general taste of the lake’s angling action, we wouldn’t recommend fishing on foot. Know exactly what you want to catch, and looking for a lazy lakeside experience? Casting a line from the shore can be the perfect way to discover an even more tranquil side of Lake Okeechobee.
From grassy banks to fishing piers, to concrete walkways where local anglers often just set up shop, there are plenty of options when it comes to fishing on foot. Lake Okeechobee is also home to plenty of creeks and tributaries, which are often easily walkable (and fishable).
One thing to be aware of is that fish aren’t the only wildlife that inhabits these waters. Yep, the famous Floridian gator can also be found lurking here! Because of this, we recommend choosing to fish from one of the designated piers the lake has to offer. After all, the only bite you want to experience is from your target fish!
From a Kayak
Freshwater kayak fishing offers up a real escape to nature that very few get to experience. If you’re looking for a slice of tranquility and some “back-to-basics” angling, what could be better than paddling your way around the largest lake in Florida?
Although it might look simple at face value, one thing to be aware of is that kayak fishing isn’t easy! Bear in mind that you’ll have to navigate your vessel, as well as your fishing rod – often at the same time. It requires strength and focus, especially on a body of water as large as Lake Okeechobee. If you have the skill, however, then it’s worth the effort.
Kayaking on Lake Okeechobee can be somewhat risky, thanks to those pesky ‘gators. However, most ‘yakkers here choose to explore the lake’s creeks and tributaries instead. These are narrower, easier to navigate, and less croc-filled. You’ll still be able to target Largemouth Bass in these waters, as well as tasty Panfish.
Lake Okeechobee Fishing Spots
Yes, Lake Okeechobee’s vast size may mean that it’s stuffed to the gills (pun intended!) with some prized fish, but it also makes knowing where to go a pretty daunting task. Don’t worry. Below, we’ve outlined some of our favorite spots around the lake. All you need to do is grab your rods and reels and pick your destination!
Of course, we had to begin with the lake’s namesake! Located at the very tip of Lake Okeechobee, this small city provides access to the lake’s northern Panfish and Bass-filled waters. It’s the perfect starting point for families and newbies, thanks to the huge variety of charter boats on offer here. If you’re looking for on-land action, you’ll be able to access the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail here, too.
Located right on the opposite end of the lake to Okeechobee, Clewiston also offers up plenty of boat-based fishing action. You’ll find plenty of charters docked here, offering adventures for new and experienced anglers alike. Unsurprisingly, Largemouth Bass are the most popular target in these parts, and you’ll also find plenty of Crappie and other Panfish to reel in, too.
Spanning the stretch of the lake between Belle Glade and Grassy Island, this location is one of the most lauded Bass fishing spots in the area. It’s also the perfect place to get your fish on from shore, thanks to the calm waters. You’ll want to visit during winter when temperatures are cool but the bite is hot, so make sure you wrap up warm!
This huge area covers most of the west side of Lake Okeechobee, so it might feel a little bit like we’ve cheated by including it. However, we simply couldn’t leave it out! It’s home to thick grassy waters, which are a haven for Largemouth Bass, especially during the fall and winter months. You can cast a line on foot, thanks to the piers, or from a vessel. Oh, and it’s also home to the lake’s meeting point with the Kissimmee River. Need we say more?
The clue’s in the name, right? Stemming out from the lake’s western side, Fisheating Creek is a “must visit” for any angler looking to capture a piece of freshwater fishing at its most tranquil. Kayaking and fishing on foot are the most popular ways to explore this idyllic creek, where you’ll come across Crappie, Bluegill, and Largemouth Bass.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lake Okeechobee: “Big Water,” Big Opportunities!
Lake Okeechobee’s fame means that it has a big reputation to live up to – but we think it’s more than deserving of the praise it receives. Big water, big Bass, and some seriously big memories – what more could you want from your perfect angling adventure? The “Big O” is out there waiting for you, so grab your rods and reels and come join anglers from far and wide on an unforgettable freshwater adventure. There’s plenty of room for all of us!
Have you ever been fishing on Lake Okeechobee? What did you catch? Any tips, tricks, or favorite hotspots we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!