Even anglers who consider themselves saltwater-exclusive should take a ride to the fresh side on central Florida's Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. This network of 20 public lakes ranging from 200 to 44,000 acres and interconnected by rivers and canals provide some of the best fishing on the planet for largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker and black crappie. The largest of the chain is 44,000-acre Lake Kissimmee, where in February a Tennessee angler caught, weighed and released a 14-pound, two-ounce 'hawg' using a spinnerbait. Nearby Lake Tohopekaliga, known as Lake Toho or "West Lake," is where Dean Rojas, a professional angler from Arizona, made BASS tournament history in 2001 with a one-day total of five largemouth weighing 45 pounds, two ounces. A good central launching point is downtown Kissimmee's Lakefront Park on 18,000-acre Lake Toho, which has a large boat ramp and shore fishing. Bass anglers favor live shiners and artificial lures such as light-colored spinnerbaits; Texas- or Carolina-rigged plastic worms in colors of watermelon, black grape and junebug on bait-casting gear. Hot spots include Makinson and Little Grassy islands, Goblets Cove, North Steer Beach and Lanier Point. The Kissimmee Chain is close to a private fishery like none other in Florida and perhaps the country. Barramundi, a snook-like fish native to Australia, is being cultivated for food and catch-and-release in a small network of freshwater ponds on a private ranch in the small town of Holopaw. Visit osceolaoutback.com for fees and availability. This outstanding freshwater fishery is close to Disney World and features much cheaper lodging than can be found at the Mouse. Go to VisitKissimmee.com for lodging, fishing and other information.
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