You’ve probably driven across Lake Jesup at some point, it is the large lake you cross when taking 417 to I-4, the east side is banked with an old Florida marsh and the west is bordered with homes. The lake is pretty shallow in general and the area can flood dramatically, homes were underwater after the hurricanes in ’04 with the water stretching nearly to the toll booth. The area is collectively called Black Hammock and is home to several parks and the classic Orlando hangout bar, the Lazy Gator. Most famously though the lake is home to many thousands of alligators, being a drop off point for captured gators.
The family and I sometimes stop by the restaurant at Black Hammock on our way back from strawberry picking at Pappy’s Patch, which is always a good time. I’ve also fished the lake many times and last year the fishing was fantastic. We had large catches of crappie, giant catfish and even a surprise stingray! The lake connects to the St. Johns which of course leads to the ocean and apparently there is a resident population of the stingrays in the lake.
Navigating the lake by boat can be difficult, even my shallow drafting Key West 1720, which can float in 10″ of water, has difficulty at times, it also gets quite foggy on cool mornings, so go slow. There are a couple of places to launch, all of them shallow, I have always used the launch at Lake Jesup Park, which is free with a good amount of parking.
I have heard that Jesup is heavily polluted, either from industry or from the natural pollutants due to the make up of the lake. I have eaten fish from the lake on a few occasions but practice moderation out of an abundance of caution. There are a few options for bait and tackle, though none (that I know of) directly on the lake, I usually stop at Baggs produce stand, which carries bait and tackle, or sometimes go to Bitters.
Overall I give Lake Jesup an 8 out of 10 for family fun and highly recommend checking it out when you get the chance.