If you love to fish, Highlands County may be the place for you. Home to over 100 lakes ranging in size from 10 acres, to the fifth largest lake in Florida, 27,600 acre Lake Istokpoga, the fishing possibilities are almost endless.
Over the past few months I’ve written about a number of the lakes, but this month, I wanted to cover 10 different lakes in Avon Park and Sebring, ranging from large too small. I’ve fished most of the lakes over the years and I’m confident saying they all have healthy populations of bass, crappie and bluegill.
LAKE JACKSON Located in the heart of Sebring, Lake Jackson covers 9,212 acres with shallow sandy beaches and deeper areas of 25-26 feet. The water clarity is very clear and over the last couple of years the water level remains high, providing plenty of shoreline cover for baitfish and bass. The lake has many boat ramps, most of which are private and is considered to be a recreational lake by many fishermen. There are a lot of bass in this lake, most in the 12-15 inch size range, but occasionally fish of 6 to 9 pounds are reported. The public boat ramp is located at Veterans Beach on the lakes west side. The lake is almost round with the exception of the north cove which is a smaller rounded area. A public fishing dock is to the north side of the swimming beach near downtown. The lake is bordered by U.S. Highway 27 to the southwest. A small channel leads into Little Lake Jackson which has no public boat ramp. Rating 7.
LAKE LOTELA One of my favorite fishing lakes, Lake Lotela has a surface area of 802 acres with a maximum depth of 36 feet. Approximately 1 mile across, Lake Lotela consists of three adjoined circular areas. The water clarity is clear with areas of reeds, lily pads and assorted vegetation covering much of the shoreline. There are two public boat ramps; one located on the south side and the other on the east side. I’ve caught a number of bass in this lake from 7 to 10 pounds, but it also has a strong population of crappies roaming the deeper sections. Rating 9.
LAKE LETTA This is one of those lakes that gets little fishing pressure, but with 478 acres, it has a strong population of bass. The lake is bounded on the east and north by State Route 17 and on the southeast by Lake Letta Drive. There is a public boat ramp on the north side of the lake, just off SR 17. I don’t fish this lake very often, although I should. It has a strong population of bass in the 3 to 5 pound range. Rating 7.
LAKE PYTHIAS This is a circular lake in northern Highlands County, just north of Pioneer Lake and east of Lake Damon. It has a surface area of 270 acres, but does not have a public boat ramp. River Greens Golf Course is just beyond the west shore. I’ve driven around the lake a number of times and seen people fishing from shore. It’s a shame it doesn’t have a public boat ramp. I’d like to fish it. No rating.
BONNET LAKE Bounded on the north by Lake Bonnet Village, the lake covers 268 acres and has a maximum depth of about 10 feet. The boat ramp is located in the middle of Lake Bonnet Village and requires a fee collected by the Village administrative building up the hill from the lake. I’ve only fished this lake a few times, years ago but we caught some really nice bass in the lily pads that encompass a large area of the lake. Rating 6.
LAKE GLENADA My favorite small lake, it has an irregular shape with a surface area of 197 acres. It’s roughly three-quarters of a mile long and about a half mile wide. I’ve always considered it to be three lakes in one. Similar in many ways to Lake Lotela, the three circular areas rise up from depths of 35 feet to form ridges between the sections and when the fish move up on these humps, the action can be fantastic. Water clarity is dark with plenty of reeds and other vegetation covering most of the shoreline. The boat ramp is easy to find, located on the west side of the lake, just off State Route 27. There is also a T-shaped fishing dock located near the ramp. Lake Glenada RV Resort has their own boat ramp located on the south end of the lake, just off Route 27. I’ve caught more bass between 8 and 11 pounds on this lake than on any other small lake. Most of the local fishermen consider this a big bass lake. Rating 10.
LAKE OLIVIA When I moved to Avon Park back in the 90’s, I lived right down the street from Lake Olivia. This small, 89 acre lake has a strong bass population and receives very little pressure. Located on the northwest corner of Avon Park, this lake is off the beaten path enough that most fishermen have never fished it. The water clarity is good and the lake has depths exceeding 45 feet. Due to the heavy rains the last couple of years, a swampy area surrounds a large portion of the lake. This lake has some big bass in it and is particularly good early in the year when the bass move in to spawn. Beds are easy to see in 3 to 8 feet of water. Rating 7
PIONEER LAKE Located in northern Highlands County, south of Lake Viola and to the north of Lake Pythias. It has a surface area of 83 acres and a maximum depth of 30 feet. A public boat ramp is located on the north side of the lake. There is no public access to the lake; fishing can only be done from the boat ramp or from a boat. I haven’t fished this lake in over 10 years but it has a healthy population of bass in the 2 to 4 pound range. Rating 6.
LAKE VIOLA One of the smallest lakes with a public boat ramp,Lake Viola is a round lake with a surface area of 56 acres and a maximum depth of 26 feet. The public boat ramp is located on the northwest shore and public fishing is allowed by boat. The only public access to the lake is via the boat ramp. Another lake ignored by most fishermen, this lake has a healthy population of bass. Rating
The bigger lakes, Okeechobee, Istokpoga, June and Placid tend to get a lot of pressure but these smaller lakes may surprise you with the quantity and quality of fish. With the exception of Lake Jackson, many of the lakes mentioned get very little fishing pressure so don’t be surprised if you have the whole lake to yourself.