HomeFlorida LakesHarris Chain of Lakes Fishing Guide

Harris Chain of Lakes Fishing Guide

If there are two things the peninsula of Florida has it is an abundance of fish and natural waterways. While the coasts are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, inland Central Florida is home to some of the most unique lakes for fishing. Here is our guide for bass fishing the Harris Chain of Lakes.

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And if you love bass fishing, you’ll love this bass fishing guide Harris Chain . A must-visit is the Harris Chain of Lakes, a unique located in the Oklawaha River basin.

This beautiful, scenic lake chain made of nine lakes is a birdwatcher’s paradise– and a popular spot for bass fishing. Plus it a regular stop for many fishing tournaments, including the FLW, Bassmaster Eastern Open, Cabellas Big Bass Tour and more.

While the Harris Chain of Lakes has had its share of environmental issues decades ago, it has made a full recovery in many areas. And it’s becoming one of  Florida’s favorite destinations for bass fishing once again.

In this post, you’ll discover the details and history of the Harris Chain of Lakes. Here is your guide to fishing the Harris Chain of Lakes.

The History of Bass Fishing along Harris Chain

 The Harris Chain is home to nine lakes situated on 76,000 acres. This fishing destination along the Oklawaha River draws tourists and locals for charter fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and powerboating.

The lakes sponsored abundant bass tournaments 20 years ago, including the B.A.S.S. Megabucks, and recent FLW Tour.

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Harris Chain of Lakes Bass Fishing FLW Tour

But after a national tournament was held on the Harris Chain reported the lowest average catch rate of other national tournaments.

When a 1992 magazine article reported the environmental problems of the area, bass fishing tournaments came to a sudden halt in the area.

Some of the reasons for the decline of bass include aggressive weed spraying and bass viruses in the early 1990s as well as other causes.

Harris Chain Restoration Effort

What many people don’t know is these lakes have made a profound recovery in the last decade. Part of the reason is due to the Harrison Chain Restoration Council

The council with the help of the locals has made a big attempt to protect the environment and attract tourists and locals to this wonderful fisherman to the region. 

The initiative for the Harris Chain bass fishery is easy to understand. During the early 1990s, Florida put forth a daily limit of catching five basses a day that needed to measure 14 inches or less.

Daily Limit Helps Bass Angler’s Catch Rate

This daily limit enhanced the catch success of bass anglers in Florida. But after a serious drought destroyed shoreline, lily pads, and eelgrass, locals and game officials had to replant acres of reeds in the Harrison Chain of Lakes.

As a result, water levels in most areas are back to a normal level. And the lakes are home to large numbers of Trophy Bass. Many basses weighing 10 and 11 pounds regularly.

Today, local anglers can boast big bass catches every week. For the last decade on Sundays, Captain Mike Antley conducts a tournament on the Harris Chain. The waters have produced plentiful bass.

Nine, ten and eleven-pound Trophy Bass are the norms for the majority of catches. In the spring, we see bigger basses weighing up to 13 pounds.

Harris Chain of Lakes Overview

The Harris Chain of Lakes is composed of mostly dark stained water. And the waters are fertile. The lakes are peppered with eelgrass, Kissimmee grass (named after Kissimmee Florida), reeds, lilypads, and bulrushes.

You’ll see crystal clear water in areas behind residential canals and in the spring creeks flow into the lakes. It’s exciting.

Patterns of Bass Fishing

On the Harris Chain, you’ll discover two different patterns of largemouth bass fishing: canal fish and lake fish. Anglers make their decisions based on the weather and the season.

These two conditions help you know the best pattern. You know for sure if one pattern doesn’t deliver, the other will.

Big and Little Lake Harris

Big Lake Harris flows into Little Lake Harris. Stretching more than 15,500 acres, Big and Little Lake Harris combine into one is a large body of water. They’re considered to be one of Florida’s largest lakes.  

The depth of Big Lake Harris is greater than Lake Okeechobee to the south with its ledges and holes.

Lake Harris Chain of Lakes
Lake Harris, Leesburg Florida

And the view is breathtaking. One can’t help to stop to admire the picturesque cypress trees engulfed by beautiful green hills and aquatic birds along the lake.

And there’s a name for the hills. The Orlando locals call them “the mountains.” You might need to be a local to understand the joke if you don’t know the terrain.

In addition, the state of Florida is relatively flat throughout the state, so a hill looks like a mountain to Floridians.

Grassy Patches Holding Big Bass

Big and Little Lake Harris is encircled with  Kissimmee grass and reeds. The grass’s depth measures from two to five feet. On the bottom of the lake, you’ll find a lot of hard sand.

Furthermore, there are also some marshy and muddy areas at the bottom. You can find great bass fishing in the Dead River and the Ninth Street canals. During inclement weather, these spots make a good place for fishing.

Big Lake Harris offers three launching ramps open to the public. Here are their locations:

  • Venetian Gardens in Leesburg
  • Right off US Highway 27 to the west
  • Near the Howey Bridge off State Road 19 in Hickory Point
  • A small ramp is situated in Astatula on the east of Little Lake Harris

You’ll see people on jet skis and water skiers in the lakes. They started coming five years ago after the lakes became a draw for boating activity.

But they don’t seem to interrupt fishing because the population of boaters is still small.

Lake Eustis

Connected to Big Lake Harris through Dead River and Lake Griffin by Haines Creek is Lake Eustis. This large lake extends 7,806 acres. Both the mile-long Dead River and Haines Creek offer exceptional bass fishing during the season.

In the area, you’ll also see the notable “Gator Hole,” a deep sinkhole that lies at the end of a natural canal. It’s right off the main lake. If you’re there when they’re biting, you can catch abundant Trophy Bass.

The canals produce the majority of the fishing in Lake Eustis. In this lake, you’ll find two boat ramps open to the public.

  • The most popular is the Buzzard Beach ramp situated between Leesburg and Tavares on Hwy 441.
  • There’s also a ramp on Lakeshore Drive south of the city of Eustis appropriately named “The Eustis City Ramp.”

Bass Fishing Harris Chain East: Dora, Beauclair, & Lake Carlton

The East Harris Chain lakes include Lake Dora, Lake Beauclair and Lake Carlton. The East Lakes extend 4,475 acres and connect to Lake Apopka to the South through the Apopka Beauclair Canal and on the north side through the Dora Canal.

New reeds in these lakes were planted by local anglers and game officials. Recently flooded, they’re starting to fill the shoreline.

Lake Dora

Lake Dora comes alive in the spring. It also seems to house the biggest bass out of all the lakes. While on your boat, you’ll see reeds, bulrushes and Kissimmee grass in Lake Dora.

Fishing along the boat docks around this lake can produce abundant bass in the middle of the afternoon. You’ll catch many of them along the Northshore.

There are two lakes to the south of Lake Dora: Lake Beauclair and small Lake Carlton. To get to Lake Carlton, you’ll need to go through a small inlet on the southern shore of Lake Beauclair.

Currently, both Lake Carlton and Beauclair are famous Trophy Bass. And fishing these holes produce many tournament winners. Anglers like to catch them by flipping and pitching the reeds.

The locals are famous for putting brush piles in the lakes to create what they call “secret holes” that aid them in their wins.

The Apopka Beauclair Canal System

Additionally, you can catch year-round bass in the clear water of the Apopka Beauclair Canal System. To enter the canals, head to the southwest shore of Lake Beauclair.

This area in the “Clear Canal” with exceptional fishing water produces bass at all times of the year. If you’re up for the run, you might be able to win a tournament here.

There are three ramps on the Eastern Harris Chain Lakes open to the public

  • The Lake Jem ramp is located on the Apopka Beauclair Canal
  • You’ll find two public boat ramps on Lake Dora

Lake Griffin

Last but definitely not least is Lake Griffin. This lake is located at the end of the Chain. Lake Griffin is the final major lake before you hit the Ocklawaha River where the water runs north through the Ocala National Forest. Finally, it moseys toward Saint Johns and Jacksonville.

The lake took a hit in the 1990s. But the restoration of run-off controls and shad removal are beginning to heal the lake.

The water quality continues to improve and anglers can catch good bass here among Kissimmee grass, eelgrass, and hydrilla return.

Final Thoughts on the Harris Chain of Lakes

The Harrison Chain of Lakes has been through a major restore. Additionally, there is bass there for everyone. So pack your bags and your fishing poles! 

Guidefishing.com are your expert captains to guide you and your family through the Harrison Chain’s beautiful winding waters. Book a charter today for a fun and safe vacation.

Jason George
Jason Georgehttps://guidefishing.com
Jason George, with a remarkable career spanning over 30 years, stands as a paragon in the world of fishing journalism. Jason fishes the Bassmaster Opens as a Co Angler and is an Active Member of Outdoor Writers Association of America. Jason is edicated to sharing the joys, techniques, and news of the fishing world with all of you.

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