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  • Lake Tohopekaligia Drawdown

    Starting 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. The 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.

    The 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. Turning 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".