Recently, veteran bass pro Terry Segraves invited me to fish Lake Toho with him, a few days ahead of the full moon and the spawn.
This ecosystem is stunning and vitally important to the health and vitality of southern Florida. The watershed encompasses more than two dozen lakes plus the Kissimmee River and its tributaries. It all starts near Orlando in Orange County as the headwaters of the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades system. There’s more high-quality water to fish and explore here than you can imagine. Here are the major lakes by the numbers:
Lake Tohopekaliga - 18,810 acres
Lake Kissimmee - 34,948 acre
East Lake Tohopekaliga - 11,968 acre
Lake Cypress - 4,097 acre
Lake Hatchineha - 6,655 acre
Lake Jackson - 1,500 acre
Lake Marian - 5,739 acre
Lake Gentry - 1,791 acres
I met Terry at the Big Toho Marina, located at the northern end of West Lake Tohopekaliga, which means appropriately, “We will gather together here.” The marina is located right in Historic Downtown Kissimmee Florida, just minutes from Florida’s Turnpike, and a short distance from the Orlando International Airport. While we waited for the sun to rise, we enjoyed coffee and egg sandwiches while joshing around with the merry band of guides that fish out of that marina. Those guys have it good, and they know it!
Could you imagine going to “work” every day on 22,000 acres of water that is widely recognized as one of our country's premier largemouth bass fisheries? This is where professional angler Dean Rojas broke all existing BASSMASTER records with a mind-blowing one-day, five-fish limit weighing 45 pounds, two ounces. Rojas won the overall competition and $110,000.00 with a four-day, twenty-fish total of 108 pounds, 12 ounces. Break down that math and you’ll realize that he caught five nine-pound-plus fish in one day, and the average weight of the fish he caught in those four days was more than five pounds.
Terry and I got on a good topwater bite early, and we caught a few nice fish. I lost one that I had trouble turning away from the vegetation. With high sun, a warm day and the spawn obviously dead ahead, Terry decided to take my 10-month old hunting dog, Kuno, and me down through the locks and run to Lake Kissimmee, where we flipped heavy vegetation until we came upon some schoolie bass ravaging the shad.
On the way back, Kuno took great interest in the rafts of waterfowl on the lakes. I counted five swallowtail kites, two Everglades snail kites—which are unique to this part of Florida—and four bald eagles. It is truly a stunning boat ride through old oak and cypress hammocks that open out into some of the healthiest, most verdant waters in the country.
I can’t recommend a fishing trip to the Kissimmee area strongly enough. It is stunning, conveniently located and inhabited by some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet. Make sure you register with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s TrophyCatch program, so that you can register any lunker(s) you catch, win great prizes and help us with critical scientific information about our breeder fish to keep Florida the Bass Fishing Capital of the World.
For more information on the area, visit Experience Kissimmee.