PBD Fish Reports
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida-Sarasota Bay to Pine Island contributed this expanded excerpt from their book to focus attention on the fantastic paddle craft fishing available to anglers in Southwest Florida. See more at www.anglerpocketguides.com Ed
Les and Kim Beery
Lemon Bay is a beautiful place to kayak fish with the good probability of encountering a gentle manatee or seeing the majestic bald eagles in the tree tops. Grass flats abound here and are home to reds and abundant seatrout. Many great kayak and SUP launch points are on Lemon Bay, but one of our favorites is at the north end of Lemon Bay Park. Other good launch areas such as Manasota Bridge, Blind Pass, Stump Pass, Oyster Creek and Indian Mound Park will be covered in future columns.
The best area to park and unload your kayak is at the north end of the parking lot. Follow the path to the shoreline. It’s about 200 feet so we use dollies to transport our fully rigged kayaks to the top of the stairs that go down to the launch area. Then we slide the kayaks down these old, worn, soft wooden stairs to the shoreline below. Just hold on to the stern of the kayak and let gravity do the work. Sometimes during a winter negative low tide the waterline can be a distance from the bottom of the stairs, so be prepared to drag your kayak across the sand to reach the water.
Once you’re on the water, a short paddle to the south leads you to a sand bar point that drops off to a 3 foot deep grass flat. Fish tend to hang out east of the sand bar. With live bait or jigs work the edge of the bar and the grasses. This is also a good place to get out and wade a bit. Be sure to securely anchor your kayak if you decide to do this. Further to the east of that bar you’ll see a small canal where snook usually hang out under the mangroves. The seawall and rip rap to the right of the canal can produce snook, trout and jacks as they corner bait against the rocks. The grass and sand holes south and west of this bar concentrate trout, snook, Spanish mackerel, pompano and redfish. We have also caught sheepshead in the sand holes here.
If you paddle to the north from the launch area, you’ll notice that the shoreline is dotted with small sandy beaches that are welcome for breaks and a chance to stretch. The grass flats here are popular with wade fishermen so be sure to give them plenty of room. These flats taper gradually from the shore westward towards the Intracoastal Waterway with the 6 foot depths about 200 yards off shore. We usually try to fish this protected shoreline and flats on an easterly wind. Drift from the shoreline out to the 4-6 foot depths near the ICW. Here’s where you’ll find the best action with spotted sea trout. Once you find some fish, concentrate your efforts on that area and depth on subsequent drifts. On the higher tides look for redfish and snook that feed along the mangrove shoreline.
There are a couple of oyster islands about half a mile to the north that make a good spot for a lunch stop. To prevent some nasty cuts be sure to wear wading boots around these oyster bars. Wade and cast around these islands with suspended bait, shallow running jigs or flies. You may hook up with trout, snook, flounder, sheepshead, redfish, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and lady fish. Just remember that oyster shells will attack lures and cut line if you fish too close to the bottom.
From these oyster islands you can either keep heading north to the flats around the entrance to Forked Creek or retrace your path back to Lemon Bay Park. If a sea breeze from the west develops in the afternoon, you could quickly and carefully cross the ICW and fish your way south to Blind Pass Park which is almost directly across the bay from Lemon Bay Park on the western shore of Manasota Key. Fish the grass flats here then paddle back across the channel to the launch point. Be sure and watch for manatees on the flats and the bald eagles that nest along the eastern shore. Give the manatees some space as these gentle giants can unintentionally tip a kayak if you get too close.
For folks that don’t want to kayak or wade fish in Lemon Bay, various boats can be rented near the Tom Adams Bridge or from most marinas in the area. Keep in mind that the reason wade fishing and kayaking are so popular here is that most of the water you look out at is barely deep enough to visit with an outboard motor. Shallow draft boats are better but you must avoid leaving prop trails in the fragile grass beds on either side of the ICW channel. Always leave the channel cautiously as it is bordered by shoal bars and oyster bars that may be only inches deep at high tide. Boating anglers are usually happiest on the deeper grass flats outside the channel which is where the best seatrout action is usually found. If you want to fish some of the shallower flats for redfish, park the boat and wade the area. Check out the bottom before you hop overboard as mud flats can be only inches deep with water but two feet deep in mud. Soft bottom makes for hard wading.
The Lemon Bay Park Launch is in Englewood. From US 41 take 776 to Dearborn Street and go west through town. Turn right on Old Englewood road and then left on Stewart St. The park is at the end of this road.