Most first time visitors to the area may say that it is a little further away from everything than Dr. Phillips, but for luxury living at its best, look no further than the Town of Windermere. Pristine sand bottom lakes surround this small West Orange community. Boaters and Bass fisherman will love the system of canals that connects eleven lakes known as the Butler Chain of Lakes comprised of Lake Down, Little Lake Down, Wauseon Bay, Lake Butler, Lake Louise, Lake Isleworth, Lake Chase, Lake Pocket, Lake Tibet, Lake Sheen, and Fish Lake. The most popular types of boats to navigate the chain are ski boats, pontoon boats, and bass fishing boats. Lake Butler is the largest lake in the chain and houses a island bird sanctuary commonly referred to as “Bird Island” which many boaters use as a gathering place. A large blue pontoon boat covered in speakers, coolers, and of course a grill named “Grillin and Chillin” is a fixture there on most popular weekends and holidays. You also see Fish from Yellow Dog Eats quite often as well. Some popular neighborhoods on the Butler Chain include Isleworth, Lake Butler Sound, Kelso, Keene’s Pointe, Windermere Downs, Marina Bay, Osprey Isle, Tibet Pointe, Bay Hill, Emerson Pointe, Cypress Isle, Cypress Point, and Chaine du Lac.
Lake Down is the northernmost lake but when the water levels become too low or high it becomes difficult to make it through the canal to the rest of the chain depending on the type of boat you’re in. Lake Tibet is the second largest lake in the chain and the Bay Hill marina offers a place to buy gas while on the chain. Another place to get gas on the chain is the Orange County Sportsman’s Club on Lake Sheen. A Sportsmans’s Club membership is a sought after commodity in Southwest Orlando because it’s only just a few hundred bucks a year and you get 2 boat ramps, boat storage, clubhouse, and a beach for your weekend boating excursions. The waiting list for membership typically runs at least two years but like many clubs, knowing the right person could expedite the process. To join the legions of boaters waiting to join, membership information can be obtained at 407-876-2010. The only public access to the Butler Chain is at the R.D. Keene Park located on Chase Road in Windermere and during the summer months the 47 parking spaces fill up by the early morning hours. The Lake Down ramp does provide another place for access but there’s no place to park so what’s the point.
Probably the least desirable lake on the Butler Chain, if there is such a thing, is Wauseon Bay because much of the lake is a no wake zone. Dont’ get me wrong, I’d take a house on Wauseon Bay in a second. Heck, I’ll take one on one of the canals. The waters on this chain are crystal clear and are spring fed. Most lakes in Central Florida such as the Clermont Chain, Conway Chain, Winter Park Chain, Harris Chain, and Lake Toho tend to have bathwater temperatures during the summer months but the deep clear water in the Butler Chain remains cool even in the peak summer months. The only complaint I have about the Butler Chain of Lakes is that I can’t afford a house on it but other than that, boat houses on docks are no longer allowed and the pre-existing boat houses have been grandfathered in.
The depth, temperatures, and water clarity also contribute in making the Butler Chain one of the best for bass fishing. It’s a little less renowned then the nearby Kissimmee Chain, but the locals know that the Butler Chain is pretty comparable and a heck of a lot easier to fish.
Just like anywhere else in Florida, flipping soft plastics in heavy cover and carolina rigging places with a hard bottom is extremely effective all year round. Spring brings spawning season and the best time of the year for sight fishing bedding bass. The water on these lakes are about as clear as it gets, so the big fish tend to come out of deep water structures. The old saying that 90% of the fish are behind you when you’re throwing towards the bank definitely holds true here especially in the summer.
There’s so many different types of places to fish here and most of them are easy to access. Jigging a texas rigged worm, drop shotting, and shaky heads work well on deep water structure and other popular baits include: Senkos, Trick Worms, Flukes, small bladed willow leaf spinnerbaits with a translucent skirt (I like the 1/2 oz Revenge Deep Runner), Rat-L-Traps (also using the Xcalibur Rattle Bait in the Ghost color and the Strike King Red Eye Shad in the Sexy Shad color), and crankbaits with colors suited for really clear water. I like the sexy shad and ghost colors on my crankbaits and the watermelon and pumpkin colors work well for Senkos and worms. I like spinnerbaits and crankbaits with wind on the water and slower presentations with calmer water.
When the water temperature is below 60 degrees, there’s no bait more effective than the slashbait. My favorite is a Glass Ghost color X-Rap Rapala in the smaller size. If you want the very best, then try the Megabass Vision 110 which goes for around $25.
Fishing on the Butler Chain is a lot more pleasant during the weekdays with far less boaters crowding the waters. The fish bite all year round, but your best chance to catch the bass of a lifetime is during the Spring spawning season. Tim Fey, a resident of SW Orlando, is a well known guide along these waters who authors Bass Fishing Florida, a great resource for finding out what lures are working where.
This chain of lakes makes waterfront living in Windermere the premier location to live in Southwest Orlando. Windermere was given its name from Dr. Stanley Scott, whose father purchased 160 acres in this picturesque location in 1885. Dr. Scott built his home on the shore of Lake Butler, and it is believed by many that he named this town after England’s Lake Windermere. A book entitled Windermere Among the Lakes by Carl D. Patterson, Jr. published in 2005 creates the most detailed account of Windermere’s history.
Today, more than 2,300 people inhabit the Town of Windermere. The community, however, has not based its success on how rapidly it grows, but on how natural and pleasant a community in which it is to reside. Windermere tries to focus on preserving the town’s natural state and strong community atmosphere. The town’s quality of life is its most distinguishing feature. In fact, many of the town streets remain unpaved to continue their commitment to retain the pristine nature of the chain of lakes. The only paved street is 2nd Avenue which leads to Bumby Point, a peninsula that lies between Wauseon Bay and Lake Butler.
For luxury living with a small-town feel, you can’t beat the Town of Windermere. The Windermere Police Department, although comprised of I believe just 3 officers, have a reputation in the area for handing out speeding tickets for going even a mile an hour over the speed limit so beware. They’re probably bored from the lack of crime so I guess I can’t blame them. Other than that, the dirt roads, small town feel, and the canopy of age old oaks makes Windermere a really neat place to call home.
An event that everyone looks forward to is the Windermere Boat Parade held every Christmas where decorated boats cruise the waters of Lake Butler and Wauseon Bay.
click fishing map to view in full screen
related post: Private Lake Access on the Butler Chain
related links: Butler Chain of Lakes Ecology, Butler Chain Conservation Association, Orange County Environmental Protection Division, Butler Chain Fishing Tips, Central Florida Fishing Report, Large Topographical Maps of Each Lake on the Butler Chain
Street View of Downtown Windermere