LAKELAND, FL — Some of Florida’s best bass fishing takes place out of public view in the state’s phosphate pits. Your best opportunities to catch a trophy largemouth bass begins by scoring an invitation to one of the deep lakes left behind from limestone mining. But if you’re short on friends or looking for a new adventure, the Tenoroc fish management area just north of Lakeland provide a good option.
Tenoroc is managed by the Florida Wildlife Commission with the goal of providing outstanding fishing opportunities to the public. When mining operations here closed in the 1970s, about a thousand acres of phosphate pits were donated to the state. Whether your pleasure is boating, kayak fishing or shoreline fishing, Tenoroc has something for everyone. For young kids, there’s even pier fishing next to the fish feeder! Several location have also been developed to meet the needs of disabled anglers. Families out for the day will appreciate an abundance of scenic picnic areas and maintained facilities.
The FWC has experimented with limits and regulations over the years and tuned them to produce regular trophy-sized largemouth bass and healthy stocks of panfish. In most of the park’s lakes, bass fishing is strictly catch and release only. A handful of the phosphate pits allow the harvesting of two bass below 15 inches. The result of these regulations is that Tenoroc is one of the best publicly accessible locations for catching trophies.
Anglers must check in before and after fishing to register and record their catches. Limits of panfish are generous, but also carefully managed. If you’re not after trophies, you can choose instead to come home with a cooler of speckled perch, bluegill, shell crackers or catfish.
Bird watchers flock to Tenoroc because it’s part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Several trails offer outstanding hiking and bird-watching opportunities, and a local bird list is available at the park headquarters. Saddle Creek Trail is comprised of two looping trails. The 1.2- mile Lake Loop trail offers a tour of Florida’s historic phosphate mining industry. Unlike most Florida Trails, this loop includes steep stretches that result from the historic quarries. The trail offers outstanding bird watching opportunities, especially in winter months. The 1.1-mile Flatwoods Loop intersects the Saddle Creek Trail and provides a tour of the local slash pine and palmetto forests. Trail guides are provided at the park office.
Tenoroc is open Friday through Monday only, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the total number of visitors is limited. All visitors must check in at the park headquarters. The daily use fee is $3 per person. Reservations are available for some of the lakes up to 60 days in advance. A shooting range is also available. For specific information, call (863) 666-2500.
3829 Tenoroc Mine Road
Lakeland, Florida 33805
Phone: (863) 648-3203
The nearest Lakeland bait and tackle shop is Maryles Anderson’s, located at 1316 North Combee Road, Lakeland, FL Phone: (863) 937-8945.