Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest freshwater lake within the continental United States, is a vast shallow lake with a surface area covering 730 square miles. “Okeechobee” comes from the Seminole words meaning “big” and “water.” Lake Okeechobee has been a premier fishing destination for decades, and multiple fishing tournaments are held on the lake every year.
One of the things that makes fishing on Okeechobee so special is just its sheer size. With the lake being nearly half the size of the state of Rhode Island, the ecosystem of the lake can be wide-ranging.
“This lake has the most diverse ecosystem of any I have ever seen,” said Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters owner Mike Krause. “And I’ve fished in Florida all my life. You can go from one side of the lake where it’s solid rock to another side where it’s nothing but muck, then you will find another corner that’s sand. It’s special.”
Derrick Moore, tournament director of the Lake Okeechobee Crappie Series offers this advice, “Lake Okeechobee is one of the best fisheries in the world. Early in the year, the crappie move into the shallow parts of the lake in vegetation, this holds true for the entire lake, whether you are fishing the south end near Pahokee, the west side near Lakeport, the north side in Okeechobee, and the east side near Port Mayaca. You can find some nice quality and quantity when jigging in the vegetation and using minnows around the outside edges. A nice long light rod and small reel are ideal for catching crappie on Okeechobee and some jigs that can be purchased from any bait and tackle store around the lake. This method is used by the majority of the anglers who compete in our Lake Okeechobee Crappie Series.”
For those with boats, there are multiple boat ramps in the area that provide access to the big lake.
• Clif Betts Jr. Lakeside Recreation Area (once called Lock 7) at 200 SR 78 W. includes boat ramps, a fishing pier, parking areas, access to the scenic trail and restrooms.
• Okee-Tantie Campground and Marina at 10430 SR 78 W. includes a parking area, open fields, marina and boat ramps. It also has an amphitheater.
• Scott Driver Recreation Area at 10101 S.R. 78 W. includes an enclosed area for meetings, parking area and boat ramps. It is the Okeechobee Fishing Tournament Headquarters.
• Kissimmee River C-38 complex at 8400 S.W. 99th Drive.
• Platts Bluff Park at 15925 N.W. 56th St., boat ramp.
• Nubbin Slough, Rim Canal facility at 6206 U.S. 441 S.E. includes a parking area, boat ramp, fishing area and access to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail.
• Henry Creek Boat Ramp at 10654 U.S. 98 S., which provides access to the rim canal and fishing opportunities.
• Taylor Creek boat ramp at 700 S.E. Fourth St. is a popular area for boaters.
• City of Clewiston public boat ramps are located on Hoover Dike road. There are four ramps and two floating docks in the lagoon on Hoover Dike Road with access to Lake Okeechobee.
• Pahokee Marina and Campground at 190 North Lake Avenue is pet-friendly and contains a 125-site Pahokee Campground.
For those without a boat but are still eager to set out on Lake O, there are boat rentals available:
• The Roland & Mary Ann Martin Marina and Resort, 920 E. Del Monte Ave. Clewiston, offers boat rentals.
• Eaglebay Adventures at 900 State Road 78 W, Okeechobee, offers airboat tours through the marshlands of Eagle-Bay to the tall Cypress trees up Limpkin Creek.
• Okeechobee Airboat Rides, located on Hwy 78 West, Okeechobee, offers a thrilling Everglades airboat ride, eco-tour, and wildlife adventure experience.
This tourism feature was brought to you by Handy Food Stores, who encourages you to get out and explore your own backyard and all the things our region has to offer!