Visiting and Fishing Florida’s Kissimmee River and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

The Kissimmee River has long served as one of the primary waterways of central Florida and acts as a northern source for Florida’s Everglades wetlands. Prior to canal digging and flood control projects during the 1960s, the river wound for nearly a hundred miles through a fifty-mile floodplain located between the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Lake Okeechobee to the south. Despite canal and water management projects changing the path of the Kissimmee River, the river remains a top freshwater fishery in the state of Florida.

Traveling the River from Lake Cypress to Lake Hatchineha

Entering the river through the Lake Toho lock, the Kissimmee River flows south initially as a ten-mile long, wide and deep canal before emptying into Lake Cypress. Lake Cypress, the northernmost of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, is a round shallow lake of approximately four-square miles that tends to top out with hydrilla. A marked boat channel enters and exits the lake on the west side. Water also enters the lake from a canal on the east side just south of the public boat ramp.

Bass fishing in Lake Cypress can be excellent depending upon the severity of hydrilla growth and the amount of current flowing through the Chain. The shoreline is covered with reeds, bulrushes and aquatic growth. Weedless artificial lures and top water lures are effective. If current is flowing through the Chain, plastic worm lures are a good option for catching bass lurking in the moving water.

Exiting Lake Cypress, the next lake in the Kissimmee Chain is the 5,000-acre Lake Hatchineha. There is a boat ramp on the far west side at Lake Hatchineha RV resort and Park that can be reached from Highway 27.

Lake Hatchineha is a shallow lake lined mostly with cypress trees. The trees stain the lake water darker than the other Kissimmee Chain lakes. Both Lake Cypress and Hatchineha have little bass holding bottom structure making aquatic growth the main fishing pattern. Both are excellent bass fisheries.

Continuing to follow the Kissimmee River south of Lake Hatchineha, the river is again more of a canal and contains abundant bass-holding bottom structure. In this section of the river, canal digging more than a half century ago left draglines in one side of the canal, making one side of the waterway steeper than the other. Where the stretch of canal intersects with side canals and estuaries, there are often eddies and sections of slower moving water that attract bass looking for an easy meal.

South of Lake Hatchineha is a major Kissimmee fishing landmark, Camp Mack. The location is a major ramp and launching point for anglers who wish to fish Big Lake Kissimmee, accessible by road from Highway 27 near the City of Lake Wales. Numerous bass tournaments are held at Camp Mack.

Fishing from Lake Kissimmee to Lake Okeechobee

Lake Kissimmee is one of the best bass fishing lakes in the State with 34,948 acres of bass holding grass, pads, reeds, cattails, submerged bushes, aquatic vegetation and the ever-present hydrilla. The average depth of Lake Kissimmee is five feet with some areas up to 12 feet in depth. When entering the lake from the canal to Lake Hatchinea, the first point on the right is Philadelphia Point. The abundant grass and boat trails in this area are especially productive.

Directly ahead on Lake Kissimmee is Grassy Island, a large area of reeds and grass. To the left is Lemon Point and Storm Island. An airboat trail (or pig trail as it is called locally) runs behind Storm Island leading into productive North Cove. Traveling south past the Seven Palms, anglers will find Overstreet Landing Boat ramp and parking area. Overstreet is accessible via a partially paved road in the City of St. Cloud. Two small islands, Rabbit and Bird, are located in the central part of the lake. In the far end of the lake is the larger Brahma Island across from Jack’s Slough. When water is running from Jack’s Slough, fishing can be excellent. The protected end of Brahma Island is a good place to fish in rough weather.

It is possible to fish this lake for a lifetime and not fish every bass hold spot on the Kissimmee River. Current flowing through the Chain is a major contributor to good fishing, especially in and around the islands, canals and feeding creeks. Any artificial lure that has ever caught a bass will work here. Top water fishing is excellent in the spring months of March and April. Lake Kissimmee is a large lake which can become rough for boaters during winter cold fronts and summer thunderstorms. Thankfully, the numerous islands provide areas of relative calm. Florida can be cold in the winter and the wind can be strong at times, so it is advisable to dress warmly and use caution when running in the open lake.

At the bottom of the lake is a manned lock providing access to the restored lower river. Six navigation locks are located between the city of Kissimmee and Lake Okeechobee. Each lock measures 30 by 90 feet and has an average depth of six feet. The lower Kissimmee River is relatively unknown as a bass fishery due to being overshadowed by the Chain of Lakes and Okeechobee. This part of the river is generally fished less than better known areas except for locals who are well aware of its potential as a bass fishery. While local guides prefer fishing with large native shiners, anglers of most any level can turn to spinnerbaits and soft plastic baits for fishing waters leading into Lake Okeechobee.

The Kissimmee River and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes are among the most accessible of the top fishing locations in Florida. Within a two-hour drive from Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, or West Palm Beach anglers of different levels can fish sections of the river and Kissimmee Chain. No matter where on the river or the Chain a line is cast a great day on the water can be found. And with some planning and the right gear in hand a trophy fish can be found.

Check out the Baitstick Box – Florida to get many of the basic essentials needed for a day on the Kissimmee River and Chain of Lakes. Experienced anglers and professional guides have weighed in on the gear inside the Baitstick Box. Seasoned anglers can resupply with essentials and new anglers can fish a lake right out of the box. All fishing is local and Baitstick is committed to bringing you products to make your next fishing trip the best trip.

Baitstick supports efforts to build the next generation of anglers nationwide, including the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and The Outdoor Foundation