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Tranquility and Bass Fishing on East Lake Toho, Florida

It's not that I'm not an early riser, but when the plan to experience bass fishing at its finest was set, I had to be not only awake but dressed and on location to meet our fishing guide at the bait and tackle shop in St. Cloud. I had my camera and plenty of film, since I am not much on fishing per se. Neither is my husband really but he had been watching fishing shows on the cable networks once in a while and got the urge to try his hand at being an angler for a day. I told him I'd cook it if someone else cleaned and filleted the fish, and that was that.

We headed toward St. Cloud, just south of Orlando and west of Kissimmee in Osceola County. Lake Toho actually has two parts; Lake Tohopekaliga and East Lake Tohopekaliga. Both are generally called Lake Toho by residents and by following winding paths of small bayous, you can actually pass from one lake to another. Today we will be fishing in East Lake Toho.

My husband had booked a private fishing charter guide, boat and all the gear to take us out on the historic Lake Tohopekaliga. This fresh water body with the obvious Native American name connects with other lakes and rivers in the Kissimmee River chain. I became curious about the ecological aspect of the lake and discovered that it was once the source of a meandering waterway that led eventually to Tampa. It was straightened in the early days of the pioneers in the region and is now proposed to be restored to its meandering state by some environmentalists.

The prices were reasonable; the full day of fishing for the two of us was only $275, while a half day for two was $200. Considering we had none of the expensive gear like poles and nets and neither of us had any real knowledge of how to catch a fish, we considered it a fair deal.

I had packed a nice lunch and snacks and only had to force the boat into the marina once to use the restroom. Even though I did hold the fishing rod a couple of times and thought I was feeling a tug by a fish, we only bought one fishing license, with was $16.50. When I read the use of the fishing license fees, which are used to help keep the waters less polluted and support the natural upkeep of the surroundings, I thought it was inexpensive, also.

Being on Lake Toho, the waters thick and deep blue, feels as though you are on a tiny ocean. The lake encompasses nearly 12,000 acres. Bass in the lake are said to be some of the best in the country. The captain said we could choose to fish for bass, redear sunfish or channel catfish. My husband wanted to catch a bass. When I mentioned my husband had been watching the fishing shows on TV, the Captain said, “They don’t know nothin’. I been fishing this lake since I was 'a tyker' with my daddy and my grandaddy.”

For starters, he gave my husband a push button spin casting rod and reel to use because it is easier to handle and harder to tangle. He showed us how to bend the barb of the hook in case the bass we caught was too small and we would have to release it. When we started reeling them in, we found out why. Removing a hook for a fish’s mouth is not as easy as it looks on TV.

As they occupied the back of the boat with fishing talk and techniques, I was like one of those maidenheads on the front of ships that hangs over the edge to guide the way. We would pass gorgeous islands of foliage filled areas. The birds flocked in the tree tops. Water grasses and lily pads were abundant in different areas of the lake.

In the late afternoon, we meandered through an area that was so scenic I worried I would run out of film. There was no fishing at that point; the captain said this part of the tour was just for me. It was in fact, just as I have imagined. The trees were lined along the lake shore and animals could be seen running and scampering along the water’s edge. I couldn’t identify many, but all were beautiful.. Raccoons, deer, otters and lots of birds: big birds, birds with long, skinny legs that would spot you drifting slowly by. With what seemed great effort, they would flap and flap their wings until finally they lifted into the air. So gently and serenely their movements, I thought it had to be the most accurate image of gracefulness I had ever seen.

As we traveled deeper into the narrow waterway, an extension of the main lake, it felt as if we, too, were pioneers in an earlier day, exploring some new aspect of the world, of this huge lake that we had never before seen and that had never before been traversed. The sun filtered through the trees with magical reflections of light, making everywhere you looked seem like post card photography. I hoped the pictures would turn out to capture as much beauty and tranquility as the lake revealed in person!

If you are visiting Kissimmee or St. Cloud, or any of the nearby regions, consider including a trip to Lake Toho in your experience. The beautiful scenery is well worth the cost of the trip, even if you don’t catch a single fish!

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