Lake Panasoffkee's Big Bass

    By Terry Tomalin

    Florida has more than 7,000 named lakes and ponds, and only one is bold enough to call itself the state’s “Great Lake.” But Sumter County residents aren’t stretching the truth when they talk about Panasoffkee. Located just five minutes off the highway, this lake is known for its panfish and big bass.

    In its heyday, Lake Panasoffkee was one of Florida's top bass fishing lakes. But over the decades, the lake lost some of its luster. But a $30 million restoration project by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and local governments helped bring back much of the lake's former glory.

    To help get the word out, the locals have tagged an 11-pound monster bass and released it in the lake. The lucky angler who catches “General Sumter” between now and April 30, 2014 will win $10,000. But "The General" isn't the only fish worth something.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has tagged more than 150 fish that have been released into the lake, each worth different prize values. Nine of these fish, in addition to General Sumter, have specific names including Lieutenant Pan, Admiral Amos, Sergeant Shellcracker, Colonel Crappie and Captain Coleman.

    But if you fish Panasoffkee, don’t overlook the bream. Florida’s most common species  are the bluegill, redear sunfish (also called shellcrackers) and the redbreast sunfish (sometimes called stumpknockers). Technically, the black bass is a member of the sunfish family, but it is never referred to as a “bream.”

    If you are a fan of the bass fish, consult the Ultimate Guide to Largemouth Bass Fishing in Florida

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