By: Captain Tony Weatherman
on November 1, 2002, something magical is going to happen. There will
be a drawdown on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee Florida. While the effects
of a lake restoration project of this magnitude is often disputed, one
thing is certain, Fishing is going to be incredible, breathtaking,
wonderful, exciting and above all else, extraordinary. While there are
always two sides to the lake restoration project, and neither side will
ever agree, during the time that the water levels are low, the fish will
be concentrated into a smaller version of what was once a great body of
water, and everyone will agree that fishing is fantastic.
In the Mid eighties, a similar project was done on this exact same lake
and fishing was great. While actually getting to the water was a bit of a
job in itself, once in the water, fish were everywhere. Most trips on the
water during the mid eighties drawdown would find a daily catch of 50 to
100 bass per day, and several of these were monsters over 10 pounds.
Sitting around listening to some of the people who fished the eighties
drawdown sounds like fishing lore of yesteryear. you will hear stories of
13 pound bass saddling up big devil horses and riding them into the
sunset. You will here about fish with mouths big enough to hide watermelon
in. Now, this all sounds like folklore, and fishing stories of a time gone
by from and imaginary place, but remember this was in the eighties, not
the sixties. While some of the stories are given to slight exaggeration,
one cannot help but believe that fishing will take your breath away.
project is expected to bring the water down about 5' to 6' from normal
pool. It will be down from November 1st 2002 to around mid July 2003
depending on the rain and drought conditions. The plans call far a
complete shoreline cleaning, and muck removal with heavy equipment. The
purpose of this project is to improve aquatic habitat in the lake by
removing bottom sediments and establishing new aquatic vegetation which
will allow bass access to shallow spawning areas otherwise out of reach.
In 1987 after the drawdown when water levels were brought back up to
normal levels, fishing peaked at 608 pounds of fish per littoral acre in
1989, an increase of 74% when compared to 1986 data. Trophy bass fishing
peaked in 1989 with 93 pounds per littoral acre, up from the 29 pounds per
acre collected in 1986. Fish population and creel survey data collected
following the 1987 drawdown indicate the sport fishery in Lake
Tohopekaliga will be a great sport fishery in the future.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission heads up the project. They say that
this project is necessary to keep the fishing quality high, and I am
inclined to agree. After looking at the plans, and being on the lake every
day, I can say that it does need to be managed. While I personally do not
agree with several of the disposal plans for the muck being removed, and
islands created around the lake. I am also not happy with the amount of
money allocated for replanting around the shore line of good vegetation. I
believe that if they stick to the plan, and do not try to eradicate all of
the hydrilla from the lake, Leave some of the grass islands that are not
near the shores, this lake will come back stronger than ever. It will most
likely take some time, as with any major surgery, there will need to be a
time of healing for the lake when it is over.
our focus back to the drawdown itself. The water levels will start to
lower on November 1st, and will probably not reach a significant low level
until January 2003. Boat access will be limited, and navigation very
difficult for bass boats. Most boat ramp access to this lake will be
unreachable, and any navigation at all will have to be from shallow water
boats. For our guide service we fish from a 20 foot 2001 Eagle Flats boat.
It has a 10 inch draft which will make navigation easier, and more
comfortable. There are a lot of people from all over the US who come down
with their own boats every year who will be very disappointed in that they
may not be able to fish from them during the drawdown. The best thing to
do if you would like to fish this lake during the drawdown is to hire a
guide service to take you out, most guides in the area will know more
about navigating the water than anyone else.
As a professional guide, native Floridian, and a Fisherman I am looking
forward to this drawdown. I expect someone during this time to actually
break the State record for largemouth bass which currently is just over 17
pounds. If you want to fish this drawdown, and create your own legend of
14 pound bass riding your Zara Spook off into the sunrise, call us to make
a reservation for a couple of days of fishing that will be spectacular.
You can contact us at
http://www.championbass.com, or call us toll free at 1-888-715-7661.
Information on fishing statistics after the drawdown of 1987 was gathered
from the "2003 Lake Tohopekaliga Habitat Enhancement Project". More
information can be received by going to the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission's website at
Capt. Tony Weatherman
Champion Pro Guide Services - Central Florida
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