About Lake Apopka
Lake Apopka is located west of Orlando and mostly in Orange County, but the western part is in Lake County. It’s the fourth largest lake in Florida and one of the largest in the United States. Unique that it forms the headwaters of the Harris chain of lakes and the Ocklawaha River. It is over 30,000 acres in size, with a drainage basin of 119,773 acres.
Approximately 30% of the lake’s water comes from Gourd Neck Spring; the remainder is direct rainfall and stormwater runoff. The only surface water outflow from Lake Apopka is the Apopka-Beauclair Canal, which flows north into Lake Beauclair and the Harris chain. Apopka-Beauclair Lock and Dam control the discharges from the canals, which influences the lake stage. From Lake Dora, water flows into Lake Eustis, then into Lake Griffin, and then northward into the Ocklawaha River, which flows into the St. Johns River.
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Lake Apopka Fishing
At first look, the lake water is still very dingy except for the area around the natural springs. The lake’s future comes from a massive spring that pumps clear water into the lake, leaving a discolor line surrounding the spring. The water visibility in the rest of the lake is less than afoot. The water’s look would immediately repulse most anglers. Is it not possible this is a hidden secret fishing spot for a small number of anglers and tournament enthusiasts who make the expedition?
Most anglers would be shocked to find that the Apopka bass population has rebounded at all. Slight improvement in habitat has restored some underwater weed growth, and the recent stocking of a largemouth bass shows promise. Recent shocking surveys done by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission show fishable bass populations all along the shortline from the Winter Park boat ramp to the spring.
The Future is Now
Even better, low fishing pressure coupled with a large shad population is producing an outstanding size average. In our opinion, the lake is very likely the home of some of the largest bass in Florida. The lake may hold a world record-sized bass, and that’s not a fish story. Uniquely displayed on antique boxes of Heddon Lures was the famous 17-pound bass caught in Lake Apopka. Wildlife Commission has reportedly shocked and tagged several real giants.
We consistently do fishing charters on Lake Apopka to check the results and status of the lake. Our fishing trip to the lake almost always produces fish limits, with big fish in the 6 pounds range. The fish were very healthily and were strong fighters. Although the watercolor is terrible at best, and the lake isn’t the prettiest to look at, but the bass fishing is worth the effort. In conclusion, we continue to be encouraged by what we’ve seen so far and will continue to do fishing charters on the lake seriously in the coming years.
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Apopka Big Bass
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History of Political Struggles
Lake Apopka has a history of more than 100 years of human alteration, beginning with the construction of the Apopka-Beauclair Canal in 1888. In 1941, a levee was built along the north shore to drain 20,000 acres (80 km²) of a shallow marsh for farming. In 1947, a hurricane destroyed much of the lake’s aquatic vegetation. One month later, the first of many recorded algae blooms occurred.
The added discharge of water, rich in nutrients from agricultural and other sources, produced conditions that created a chronic algal bloom and resulted in a loss of the lake’s recreational value and game fish populations. In the late 1990s, birds at the lake were falling from the sky and dying in large numbers. Most of the dead birds were White Pelicans, but Great Egrets and Ring-billed gulls made up most of the other deaths. The deaths were pesticides that farmers depended on for decades, called organochlorines.
Several watershed efforts have supported Lake Apopka’s restoration, including the 1993 Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Plan for Lake Apopka and, most recently, the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) development. The 1999 Florida Watershed Restoration Act outlines an innovative process for implementing total daily maximum loads (TMDLs) by creating BMAPs with local stakeholders’ participation.
A Future Plan
Completion of the Upper Ocklawaha BMAP happened in August 2007. This plan identifies water quality restoration goals (TMDL targets), management actions (programs and projects), an implementation strategy (funding, timelines, etc.), and an adaptive management approach based on water quality monitoring.
The BMAP addresses a wide variety of pollutant sources in the watershed. For Lake Apopka, the primary focus was on nutrient removal via a marsh flow-way system, management of urban stormwater, management of agricultural nutrient loading, and restoration of the historic agricultural areas on the north side of the lake. Technically feasible, financially viable, and environmentally beneficial were management actions considered in the BMAP.
Using criteria resulted in a list of management actions that integrate a wide variety of programs and activities sponsored by the Working Group members.
The Follow Through
An adaptive management approach is also included in the BMAP to identify and modify when circumstances change or when feedback mechanisms indicate that a more effective strategy is needed. Tracking implementation, monitoring water quality and pollutant loads, and periodic Working Group meetings to share information and expertise are critical components of the adaptive management approach.
This group met nearly monthly from June 2004 through June 2006, with three subsequent meetings through the end of 2007. Through a consensus-based process, they jointly developed the BMAP, with guidance provided by the Department of Environmental Protection and significant support from the St. Johns River Water Management District. Several special briefings and presentations to city councils, county commissions, elected official liaisons from local governments, special interest groups, community organizations, and others.
The estimated cost of the management actions included in the Upper Ocklawaha BMAP for Lake Apopka totals more than $125 million. Funding sources range from local stormwater fees to regional and state cost-share grants and legislative appropriations.
Local partners consist of 22 local governments, six state agencies; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; St. Johns River Water Management District.
Lake Apopka Boat Ramps
Apopka/Beauclaire Canal–Lake Gem Park (#81)
From Tavares, go south on SR 19. Turn left onto 561 and go 1.6 miles to CR 448. Then turn left on CR 448 and go 3.3 miles to the park entrance. Proceeded by a left from CR 448 into the park and follow the road to the ramp.
Parking lot capable of accommodating 20 vehicles, with a single-lane ramp. Bank fishing is allowed. Picnic facilities are available.
Lake Apopka–Magnolia Park (#67)
Head south on U.S. 441 south of Zellwood and turn right on CR 437 in Plymouth. Follow CR 437 for 5.2 miles to Magnolia Park. Turn right into the park entrance and follow the road to the ramp.
Additional information on lake status, go to fola.org/