Tsala Apopka is 19,111 acres of shallow, heavily vegetated marshes intermingled with open water pools. Water control structures separate the lake into three main pools named after nearby towns: Floral City, Inverness and Hernando.
Since Tsala Apopka is the largest freshwater resource in Citrus County, efforts have been made to improve recreational opportunities, meanwhile equality trying to providing land for residential development. Constructing canals, impounding the Withlacoochee River and installing water control structures were considered necessary to accomplish some of these goals.
Extreme vertical water level fluctuation of 9 to 10 feet occurred in the lake prior to installation of water control structures during the 1960s. Benefits of water level stabilization were reasonable predictability of water levels. Increased fish production, and improved angling success. The first of these anticipated benefits has been realized, improvements to the fishery have not occurred, since they are not consistent with water level stabilization.
Prior to installation of water control structures approximately three decades ago, natural water level fluctuation was caused by drought and flood. Droughts exposed shallow areas and floods temporarily inundated adjacent lands that were normally uplands. With the exception of Floral City Pool, which that may still experience draw down conditions during a drought, the remainder of the system is not allowed to reach either high or low pool stages that natural conditions create.
Fish population surveys indicated that the poundage of all fish produced per acre varied from pool to pool. Floral City yielded the lowest standing crop of combined fish species, then Hernando Pool and followed with Inverness Pool that had the highest surveys. Production of 10 inch largemouth bass was also variable from pool to pool. Floral City Pool produced less than four 3.5 bass per acre, Hernando Pool produced nine bass per acre, and Inverness Pool produced over 20 bass per acre.
Reproduction of largemouth bass in Tsala Apopka has not been a problem, although survival and growth into trophy size bass has been poor based on available data. Low natural productivity of the lake, stabilized water levels and harvest by anglers may be reasons for poor bass recruitment in the pass.
Public boat ramps are available 1/4 mile east of the intersection of U.S. Highway 41 and S.R. 200 (Hernando Pool); ¼ mile east of City of Inverness on S.R. 470 (Inverness Pool); and on Duval Island Road off C.R. 48, one mile east of U.S. Highway 41 (Floral City Pool).
Shiners are always good in this system. Use bait on the bottom for bluegill and redear sunfish. Water moving through any canal (whether by wind or current) is a likely spot for largemouth bass to congregate. However, until water levels rise these canals can be very shallow and difficult to navigate. Continue to target submerged willow tree bases for these sanctuaries are known holdouts for largemouths. Texas-rigged rubber worms with no weight will allow anglers to flip baits within the security of these shaded environs. Black crappie fishing picks up this time of year and many successful anglers dip hooked minnows close to lily pads. Casting white plastic grubs at the edge of maiden cane grass seems to work also. If water clarity is good, use a smaller diameter tippet to hide your line from discerning fish eyes.
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