PBD Fish Reports
Les and Kim have written an outstanding Pocket Guide to kayak fishing the many waters of the SW Coast of Florida as well as a shore fishers guide. Check them out.
by Les and Kim Beery
Manasota Beach Bridge crosses the extreme northern end of Lemon Bay. The kayak and SUP launch is on a small beach at the southwest corner of the bridge, between the boat ramp and the bridge. The launch is less than 100 ft. from the parking area so you won’t need a dolly. You can also launch at the boat ramp but we recommend the beach. With the growing popularity of nearby Manasota Beach, parking has become a problem here with only 7 spaces allocated for cars without boat trailers. If you trailer your kayak, parking in the trailer area is plentiful.
This launch puts you in the narrowest spot in Lemon Bay, providing easy access to either the west or east shore depending on wind direction. The extensive deep grass flats in the southern part of Lemon Bay are limited here. Instead you will find a mangrove shoreline punctuated with docks, oyster bars and small canals off the bay. Shoreline spots to stretch and stand up are limited in this part of Lemon Bay but if you are creative a few can be found.
Once on the water, paddle south past the boat ramp to a protected lagoon. This area can hold snook along the trees and docks. Then, if winds and tides allow, paddle south along the west shore. Stay west of the shoal that runs north and south along the ICW channel and target the area between the shoal and the west shore. The shoal bar will shelter you from boat wakes. There are also several short canals here that are good holding areas for redfish and resident snook. Make a few casts to the entrance of these canals then fish from dock to dock until you reach Forked Creek, a mile south of the launch.
Forked Creek enters Lemon Bay on the east side. Cross the ICW here and fish the grass flats on either side of the channel into Forked Creek. This area is a favorite of ours. Redfish, trout and snook frequent these flats especially on falling tides coming out of Forked Creek. A slow drift or two across these shallow flats, targeting sand holes ahead of your drift, is definitely worth a try. From here we usually fish north back towards the launch along the east shore. On warmer days when a sea breeze builds from the west, you might want to reverse this course and save the west side of Lemon Bay back to the launch for the afternoon.
The waterway narrows north of the Manasota Bay Bridge and fishable areas are limited. The proximity to the ICW channel with big wakes and limited fish habitat make this a distant second choice to fishing the areas south of the bridge. One exception is a series of drainage canals in the mangroves along the eastern shore. These protected areas are near shallow flats that warm quickly on sunny winter days and can hold redfish and snook.
Another fun trip, requiring two cars, is to fish between Blind Pass and Manasota Beach Bridge. With the tides and winds just right this can be an easy paddle in either direction.
We generally fish with 1/8 or 1/16 oz. red or chartreuse jig heads with 3” shad tail plastic jigs in “Rainbow”, “Gold”, “New Penny” or “Stark Naked”. Live shrimp either free lined with a small split shot or on a light jig head work great for shorelines and shallow sand holes. Popping corks work best on the deeper flats but tend to scare fish in shallow water. We avoid lures with multiple treble hooks when kayak fishing. A thrashing fish could bury a free treble hook in your thigh and ruin your whole day.
Manasota Beach Bridge Road Launch is on the southwest end of the bascule bridge over the ICW. From US 41 take 776 south towards Englewood. Turn west at Manasota Beach Road and cross the bridge. Turn left after the bridge then left again to enter the parking lot for this launch.
GPS= 27.011051, -82.410283