Kayak Fishing at Babcock-Webb WMA
To the south and a little east of Punta Gorda you’ll find the Fred C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area, locally known as the Babcock Webb WMA. This spot is a favorite with local hunters and has target ranges for shooting enthusiasts. It has primitive camp sites available on weekends with a minimal day use fee. At nearly 81,000 acres, it represents one of the largest areas set aside for outdoor enthusiasts in Florida.
The man-made Webb Lake, nearly 500 acres, was developed as a quality bass and bluegill fishery after fill for I-75 construction was removed. Varying depths, channels and islands offer habitat for several species of gamefish with largemouth bass being the favorite target. Others include bluegill, speckled perch and channel catfish. Largemouth [black] bass are a catch and release species here, but other species may be kept in accordance with FWC regulations.
This lake is gaining in popularity with kayakers from the Ft. Myers and the Punta Gorda area who enjoy paddling in this pristine environment. They come for the clear, protected water but more anglers are discovering the excellent bass fishing. A nine-pound bass was recently caught and released here. There are three boat ramps spread out along this long and serpentine lake. We like to use the middle ramp and venture south or north depending on the prevailing wind. We try to head into the wind at first. You may find that the south end of the lake has lower water quality than the northern part of the lake. Most of the shoreline is bordered by grass or cattails that hinder shoreline access, so the outside of this vegetation is where the fish congregate and is perfectly accessed from a kayak.
On a recent scouting trip to Webb, we found cooperative bass nearly everywhere we went. The ever-popular Zoom Horny Toad was the winning lure. Our favorite colors are watermelon seed and watermelon red. We rig them weedless on a 5/0 wide gap hook and cast into the weeds or up on the shore before beginning a slow retrieve. Many of the bass we found were hiding among the cattails and we ended up losing them as they shook the hook as it embedded in the nearest cattail. It is important to let a bass have this lure for a moment or two while they swim away before setting the hook. This lets them get a better grip on the “frog” as they swim away from you, resulting in better hook ups.
It was a little too windy the day we fished Webb Lake for fly fishing, but it can be productive in the evenings. Try a green 2/0 popping bug with rubber legs for some exciting strikes. Just cast it close to the cattails and pop it once before letting it sit a while. If you have a weedless popping bug it could save you some snags. The bluegill here will strike a big bass popper but usually do so only after it sits for a while. Either species can break you off if they get into the cattails so use maximum pressure to keep them in open water.
In addition to the scenery, the wildlife is abundant at Webb. The day we fished there we saw ospreys and alligators. We luckily got a close look at a pair of Sandhill Cranes with a new baby right on the shore. As we returned to the launch we spotted a large and strikingly marked Sherman’s Fox Squirrel in a shoreline pine.
We couldn’t find anything that restricted duck hunting on Webb Lake, so you might not want to fish there during hunting season. Give Babcock Webb WMA a try this time of year, before the heat of July and August arrives; it’s close to Englewood with easy launches and plenty of bass.