Fall outdoor excursions are ramping up

Marilyn Ging, back, of the Village of Hillsborough and Karen Peterson, of the Village of Hillsborough, take part in a kayak excursion on Lake Sumter.

If you’re looking for adventure on Lake Sumter, book soon. After slowing down over the summer, the Recreation and Parks Department’s guided fishing, kayaking and nature pontoon boat tours on the lake are now ramping up their activities for the fall. And space is filling up fast for many of these upcoming activities. Many of the pontoon boat tours and fishing tours currently scheduled, even for dates far ahead on the schedule, are full. “People give us a call here for all outdoor excursions, we share the opportunities we have available, and it sells quick,” said Lynda Feustel, recreation manager for Laurel Manor Regional Recreation Complex.

Villagers and their families enjoy the excursions because they offer outdoor activities right in their backyards, Feustel said.

“They don’t have to leave The Villages to get these opportunities,” she said.

Tour activity slowed down in the summer months because of how hot it gets, even in the mornings, said Capt. Dave Weston, the excursions’ pontoon boat captain.

The summer heat also is unfavorable for finding wildlife along the lake during the nature pontoon and kayak tours, he said.

“At 10 a.m. on a hot summer day, most of the birds are hunkered down and finding shade,” said Weston, of the Village of Osceola Hills.

As temperatures gradually start cooling and migratory bird species return south, there’s a better chance of finding wildlife during the excursions, he said.

The fishing trips remain extremely popular because of the abundance of Lake Sumter’s bass fishery, Weston said.

It’s unique in that it’s a part natural, part artificial water body, where the lake bottom was contoured to support fish habitats, he said. The Villages Developer envisioned Lake Sumter as a bass fishing destination.

“I’ve taken professional bass fishermen who said they’ve never seen anything like this lake before,” Weston said. “To go and fish all day, if they caught 20 bass, that would be an extraordinary number. We typically catch 30 to 40 in two hours.”

The two-hour fishing tours take place on a 21-foot pontoon boat and the  cost includes an experienced guide, rod and reel, tackle, artificial bait and nonalcoholic beverages. Guests may bring their own equipment, but doing so does not lower the $250 cost.

During any excursion, Feustel said her staff provides everything that guests may need.

“If it’s the kayaking, we have the kayak and the life vest,” she said. “Same thing with fishing, we have extra poles, we have the tackle.”

Kayak tours run Thursdays from 8-10 a.m. in September and 9-11 a.m. after September. The tours cost $25 per person. Single and tandem kayaks are available for groups of up to eight people, with pontoon tours limited to four people.

Pontoon boat tours run from 8-10 a.m. year-round on select Fridays and also cost $25 per person.

Fishing tours, which can cater to any experience level, run from 7-9 a.m. on select Fridays and Saturdays and cost $250 each.

For more information on how to register and which dates are available, residents may call Laurel Manor Regional Recreation Complex at 352-751-7110 or visit districtgov.org.

Senior writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or michael.salerno@thevillagesmedia.com.