Orange Lake: A Closer Look at the Habitat Management Guidelines and the Stakeholder Engagement Process — April 2
BY MELANIE MARTIN
Orange Lake is the largest lake in the North Central Region at 12,550 acres. It is designated as a Fish Management Area and is located about 20 miles southeast of Gainesville. Orange Lake averages 5.5 feet deep with a maximum depth of 12 feet. Water levels fluctuate an average of 2 feet, annually. Outflow is controlled by a fixed-crest weir located at Highway 301 (southeast portion of lake). Orange Lake receives inflow from Newnans Lake through River Styx and from Lochloosa Lake through Cross Creek. Cross Creek (1.8 miles) is navigable to most boats during normal water levels.
Orange lake has an extensive aquatic vegetation community, dominated by spatterdock (lily pads) and periodically hydrilla. Shallow marsh areas are inaccessible to anglers due to the dense growth of vegetation. Bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie and largemouth bass are generally caught in the deeper spatterdock, emergent grasses and hydrilla.
The fisheries in Orange Lake are still recovering from the extended low water conditions that caused fish kills and drastically altered the habitat. Although the water level is at its highest point since 2006, much of the habitat in the lake has shifted to expansive areas of floating vegetation mats that has made access, navigation, and fishing difficult. Some of these floating mats, or tussocks, can be quite large which can potentially block passage through trails and access to boat ramps, so anglers should be mindful of shifting floating islands while on the lake, particularly during windy days. Management strategies to restore access, improve fish populations, and improve fish habitat are underway.
Biologist, Bruce Jaggers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be discussing the Orange Lake Management Guidelines. Mr. Jaggers is requesting feedback and comments on this document from our SSJG members.
Ryan Hamm will be presenting a summary of Orange Lake Stakeholder Engagement Process. By the date of the April 2 meeting there will have been at least one or two stakeholder meetings in addition to the ones conducted last fall. FWC would like to make sure the Sierra Club understands the intent of these meetings and has opportunity for meaningful input during those meetings.
Please bring your concerns and questions!
Bruce V. Jaggers: Bruce started working for FWC in 1986 within the Grass Carp Permitting Section. Since 2003, Bruce has worked within the Aquatic Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Sub-Section of FWC designing, coordinating and implementing freshwater lake, river and stream restoration projects. Bruce received a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida.
Ryan S. Hamm: I began my career with FWC in 2007 in the AHRES subsection permitting grass carp and assisting with restoration projects. In 2010 I moved to up to Lake City and became the Invasive Plant Management Biologist on the Orange Creek Basin. In 2014 I took a position with the Division of Freshwater Fisheries in Gainesville as a Resource Biologist responsible for stakeholder outreach for the Orange Creek Basin Lakes. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Management with a Minor in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from Purdue University.