An Afternoon Paddle on the Myakkahatchee
Last Thursday, we fished and paddled the Myakkahatchee backwater channels with friends, Herman and Karen Lorenz. Herman brought his antique “Aquafon” water bike and Karen used a small kayak. If you’re looking for a nearby launch with access to brackish water free of red tide, try the Myakkahatchee launch in North Port at Marina Park, on the corner of Chancellor and Kenwood. This area of the Myakkahatchee is known as “Big Slough” and is shown on Google maps this way.
Wind is seldom a problem in these tree lined backwaters where boat traffic is minimal and slow but tidal flows should be taken into consideration. Flows can be substantial in the main channel. You’ll find a separate kayak/canoe launch located near the boat ramp, but we prefer to launch at the boat ramp if the boat traffic is light.
After exiting the marina, you can paddle to the left or right. Either direction can lead to some great fishing. We usually turn left and head towards the Myakka River about a mile downstream. You can paddle directly downstream to the Myakka and fish along the way or explore the many backwater channels off to the side. 100 yards from the marina, a side channel goes to the right near the Manatee sign. These side channels have been a hot spot for snook, redfish, baby tarpon and the occasional bass in winter when cool temperatures send fish looking for warmer spots. Water temperatures in these protected backwaters with dark bottoms can be 15 degrees warmer than the Gulf water. Once off the main channel, go left to fish undeveloped areas or right to work the docks and canals which hold small tarpon most of the winter.
Take a look at a Google map to see all of these backwater channels. Some are continuous and lead back to the Myakkahatchee and others are dead ends. The continuous ones have the better tidal flow and fishing. These small tributaries and channels allow a paddler to access areas that boats can’t visit. Stealth is essential here as any noise will alert these fish and all you’ll see is their wakes heading away. Because most of these small channels are shallow, we use DOA shrimp or 1/16-ounce jigs with shad tail plastics for the snook and reds here. Of course, live shrimp are always a good bet, especially under the docks.
If, after leaving the marina, you turn right towards US41, you’ll find a series of docks that hold snook, reds, sheepshead, black drum and snapper. Paddling under the US41 Bridge brings you to a fork where the right channel goes towards the Cocoplum Waterway and the left heads to another spillway behind the water treatment plant.
There are floating kayak launches at the spillway separating the fresh water in the Cocoplum from the brackish water below. The turbulence below these spillways can be a great place to fish after a rain. You could portage a kayak up to the Cocoplum, but it would be difficult. We park our kayaks below the spillway and fish from the dock above it. If you want to fish the Cocoplum, launch at Dallas White Park on North Port Blvd. a few hundred yards above the spillway. The Cocoplum is a great place to fly fish from a kayak. We use a popping bug around the lily pads for hungry bass here though we’ve also caught snook.
Our paddle on the Myakkahatchee produced only a few fish that day. Kimball caught a snook, ladyfish and a mangrove snapper on live shrimp. Les landed a large jack using a Gulp! on a 1/16-ounce jig head. Herman missed a good strike from a mystery fish on a DOA shrimp. The cold weather seemed to have made the fish lethargic and they weren’t biting. This area suffered a massive fish kill in 2009 from the freeze that year but it seems to have recovered.