Lake George has long been considered one of the top fishing lakes in Northeast Florida. While that status has remained a constant for decades, much about this lake has changed through the years.
Broad and shallow, Lake George spans 46,000 acres, making it the second-largest lake in the Sunshine State. It’s a natural impoundment on the St. Johns River, and several features make Lake George unique.
First is its brackish water, with heightened salinity that originates from several salt springs that feed the lake along its western bank. This salt content has allowed Lake George to support some saltwater species, including a healthy population of blue crabs.
Second is its virtually featureless bottom. Besides a minor shoreline drop that parallels the bank and a channel that stretches from the St. Johns River inlet to its outlet, the lake is one big, broad flat ranging from about 8 to 10 feet deep.
The biggest change has been the virtual elimination of aquatic vegetation from Lake George. Hurricanes Matthew and Irma wiped out thousands of acres of submerged plant life. Restoration efforts are underway, but greenery remains scarce in most areas.
That can make fishing Lake George a challenge. Most anglers find success by targeting artificial structures, of which there are many.
Lake George supports diverse fish populations, including striped bass, catfish, and panfish species. Still, it is known first and foremost as a largemouth bass lake.
Lake George continues to support an abundant population of largemouth bass. While it isn’t generally considered a trophy bass lake, it is one of the better spots to tangle with an 8-pound-plus bass in the northern part of the state.
Healthy bass between 14 and 18 inches are abundant, and bigger fish are out there too. Largemouths over 10 pounds are rare but not unheard of.
Bass will hold on Lake George’s few natural features. However, for the most part, anglers target largemouths around structures like old wooden pilings, which they use as ambush points.
Old pilings are common along much of the shoreline. The best ones tend to be those closest to the main lake drop-off, where the depth rapidly shifts from 4-5 feet to 8-10 feet. Remember that while many pilings are visible, many more hide beneath the surface.
Remnants of an old World War II-era bombing range are also located at various points out in the middle of the lake, and these structures also attract quite a few bass. Signs above the water mark their locations, pointing the way for anglers.
Fishing docks and piers can also be productive. Isolated sections of the lakeshore have quite a few boat docks, and jetties mark both the inlet and outlet of the St. Johns River. The jetties sit adjacent to some of the lake’s deepest water, making them perennial hotspots.
Plastic worms are popular for targeting bass around wooden structures. Try a Texas-rigged 7″ Berkley Power Worm in any pattern with some purple or blue. Wacky-rigged Senkos work well too.
Bass often travel in packs, moving from one group of pilings or pier structures to another, so stay mobile until you start getting bites, and then continue to work the area until it becomes clear that the fish have moved on.
Three major creeks (Juniper Creek, Silver Glen Spring Run, and Salt Springs Run) feed into the west side of Lake George. The mouths of these creeks attract bass any time there’s significant current. So fish these areas if there’s been recent rainfall.
Some bass spawn as early as December in Lake George, and many continue to do so in stages throughout January and February. During the winter, look for them in the spring creeks and anywhere vegetation like reeds and eelgrass grows near shore.
At times, even the slightest variation in bottom structure is enough to attract bass in Lake George. Check out Black Point, the flat on the south side of Rocky Point, and the drop-off on the west side of Drayton Island.
Along with plastic worms, some of the best lures for targeting bass around piers and pilings are tube jigs, crawfish imitations and curlytail grubs. Crankbaits are excellent when bass are out in deeper waters away from cover.
Live bait has its advantages too. As in many Florida lakes, live shiners account for some of the biggest bass caught in Lake George. White shrimp are also excellent bait, especially between May and September when they make a spawning run from the Atlantic.
Catch More Bass
Lake George earned a spot in our Best Bass Fishing Spots in Florida, which features the most exceptional lakes across the state.
Still learning a thing or two about bass fishing? Check out our simple overview of bass fishing techniques and tips.
Other Fish Species
Striped Bass & Sunshine Bass
Lake George represents roughly the southernmost extent of striped bass’ natural range. But these fish have also been stocked heavily here, as have sunshine bass, hatchery-produced hybrids between striped and white bass.
Spring provides some of the best striped bass fishing as stripers school up around jetties and wooden structures along the river channel. The mid-lake bombing range is also productive, especially right around the pilings.
The stone-and-timber structure known among local anglers as the Cow Pen is a popular area at the south end of Lake George. The structure was built to keep sediment from filling in the channel where the river enters the lake.
In summer, cool flows draw stripers and sunshine bass to the spring creeks that feed Lake George along the western shore. They feed heavily on shad and shrimp, which are excellent live baits.
Jerkbaits and topwaters that imitate shad are great lure choices, along with jigging spoons and soft plastics.
It’s common to catch a mixed bag of stripers and hybrids, some weighing over 5 pounds, with a few largemouths possibly in the mix.
Bluegill & Sunfish
Known as one of Florida’s best bream lakes, Lake George supports huge populations of bluegill and redear sunfish. The latter species, also known as shellcrackers, routinely exceed 12 inches and may weigh a pound or more.
Both species bite readily on red worms and grass shrimp. Anglers commonly catch them in fairly shallow water. Just about any nearshore cover or structure can attract bluegill and sunfish, as well as open water pilings.
As weed beds continue to regrow throughout the lake, they will be some of the best places to fish for bluegill. Shellcrackers, which get their nickname from their fondness for eating snails, are also drawn to hard-bottomed areas like shell beds.
The clear flows of Salt Springs and Silver Glen Spring Run attract a lot of bluegill and shellcrackers to the lake’s west shore. Lots of bream are caught in the streams themselves and around the sandbars that form near their mouths.
Shellcrackers spawn as early as March, with bluegill joining about a month later. Both species spawn in waves throughout spring and summer, bedding in huge colonies. Try working a popper fly over beds of spawning bream.
Catch More Bluegill and Sunfish
Fishing for bream is one of the simple joys of being out on the water. Dial in a few of the basics and these scrappy panfish are almost always ready for a fight. Check out our easy fishing guide for bluegill and sunfish for everything you’ll need.
Lake George is not the best lake on the St. Johns River for crappies, but anglers still catch plenty of them here, especially during the cooler months. Commonly called speckled perch or “specks,” black crappies in the 10- to 14-inch range are common.
The lake’s relative lack of vegetation can make them a bit tricky to find, though, and it’s safe to say that as restoration efforts continue and plant life expands in the coming years, crappie fishing will improve along with it.
One of the key spots is the old bombing range in the center of the lake, especially around the sunken ship in the middle of the circle of pilings that mark the range. Anglers find crappies here year-round.
Juniper Cove is a great area to drift-fish for crappies in the southwest corner of the lake, and Jones Cove is a productive area to the southeast. The best bite is often early in the morning or right around sundown.
Drift live minnows, grass shrimp or jigs around the main drop-off a few hundred yards offshore. Crappies also congregate around pilings, and there’s a solid line of productive pilings from Juniper Creek to the St. Johns River inlet at Volusia Bar.
Catch More Crappie
While Lake George can offer quite good crappie fishing if you know where to drop your minnow or jig, there are better places to catch a mess of these tasty fish. No worries, we’ve curated all of the very best crappie fishing lakes in Florida in a single article.
Also, give our simple crappie fishing techniques and tips a read-through.
The St. Johns River is one of the best catfish rivers in Florida, and the lakes that connect to it—Lake George being no exception—are also excellent. Lake George marks the upper end of what anglers widely consider the best stretch of the river for catfishing.
Channel cats weighing 10 to 15 pounds are caught from Lake George every year, and the lake supports a vast population of smaller fish in the 1- to 3-pound range. Anglers targeting catfish catch them on shell beds and flats, especially near the river channel.
The best time to target channel catfish in Lake George is June and July when they spawn and seek out shallow cover. This time of year, there’s incredible catfish action around the lake’s many wooden pilings, sunken pier structures and jetties in 5 to 8 feet of water.
Shrimp are a favorite bait for catfish in Lake George, but any smelly, natural bait can do the trick. Chicken livers, crawfish, cut bait and nightcrawlers are all great options.
Catfish also occasionally grab bass lures like crankbaits near pilings.
Catch More Catfish
Yes, there are places with more catfish than Lake George, although this big water can sometimes offer some great catfishing. If you want to boost your odds of catching channel catfish by the buckets or maybe land a giant flathead or blue catfish, check out the best catfish fishing lakes and rivers in Florida.
While you’re at it, see our simple guide to catfish fishing for tips on bait, tackle and tactics.
Planning Your Trip
Getting to Lake George
Lake George is about 90 minutes north of Orlando via I-4 East and Highway 17 North. It’s also a little less than two hours south of Jacksonville via I-95 South and FL-207 South.
Aside from a few parks, marinas, and small residential communities, much of Lake George’s actual shoreline is undeveloped. However, nearby towns, including Georgetown, Salt Springs, Astor and Pierson, offer lodging and other amenities.
Bank & Boat Access
Anglers can choose among several public parks and boat ramps around the shoreline of Lake George, in addition to privately owned marinas and fish camps. Some of the best public access sites on Lake George include:
- Lake George Boat Ramp: Owned and operated by Lake County, the Lake George Boat Ramp is an ideal launch site at the south end of the lake, just west of the St. Johns River inflow and east of Juniper Creek and Cove.
- Shell Harbor Park: The free boat ramp at Volusa County’s Shell Harbor Park is convenient to some of the best fishing spots in the Jones Cove area and also offers bank fishing access on a canal that connects to the main lake.
- Lake George Park: A Volusia County park on the east side of the lake, Lake George Park is home to the Lake George Fishing Pier, one of the best spots for shore-bound anglers to get their lines into deep water. A canoe/kayak launch is also available here.
- Welaka Boat Ramp: Located on the St. Johns River just north of Lake George, the public Welaka Boat Ramp is a short trip to and from the main lake and is convenient to Drayton and Hog Islands.
- Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area: Much of Lake George’s western shore is within Ocala National Forest, which offers limited access. Inside the forest, Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area offers a kayak launch and fishing access on Silver Glen Springs Run.
More Nearby Fishing
Check out our Complete Guide to Fishing the St. Johns River.