Camping, Fishing and Kayaking Myakka River State Park
Last week we headed to the headwaters of the Myakka River. This is one of the oldest and largest state parks in Florida and we are lucky to have it nearby. Protected from development since 1934 when the Civil Conservation Corps created the access roads and trails, it has abundant habitat for wildlife. We saw deer, lots of turkeys, a wide variety of birds including many roseate spoonbills and of course, lots of big alligators. What we didn’t see were the crowds of tourists that will invade soon. We found a campsite with just a few days’ notice and saw many vacant sites each night. Weekends are busy so we slipped in Sunday and Monday night when the weekenders headed home.
The original CCC cabins are still available for rent but we parked our Aliner camper and kayaks at Big Flat Campground. Here the park supplies a shower house, potable water and electricity to run our AC when needed. Within walking distance there are canoes to rent, The Pink Gator Café and Myakka Gifts and Boutique. Camping luxury is an ice cream on a hot afternoon. Ice, firewood and nightcrawlers are also available.
In spite of our wet summer, the water levels in the park were noticeably low and still dropping. This proved to be a challenge for us when kayak fishing Upper Myakka Lake as the shoreline vegetation that usually holds bass was up on dry land leaving only a muddy, shallow shore. The wave action on the lake stirred up this mud and drove water clarity way down. Recent sunny days made this water/mud environment very warm and fishless. Even 100 yards from shore, there was barely enough water to wet a paddle.
Even though alligators were numerous, large and concentrated due to the low water, they were not a problem and never let us get too close. The only alligators we have encountered that had an attitude were those that had been fed. We did see some bank fishermen feeding and teasing alligators with their catch near the entry station. In addition to being illegal, feeding gators makes them aggressive and they can become a threat to paddlers on the water. Please DON’T FEED OR TEASE ALLIGATORS!
After a lunch and an ice cream at the café, we launched at the “Alligator Bridge”. The launch is on the southwest corner of the bridge and is in need of some renovation. A couple of loads of sand would help a lot. From there we paddled down river to an area with high banks and downed trees, finally finding some deep water, shade and fish. Using plastic worms and fishing them extremely slow on the bottom, we coaxed a few bass from under downed palm logs. This was a fine place to enjoy the sunset.
Check out time is 1PM. So the next morning, after we packed up the camper and stowed the kayaks on top, we drove up to Clay Gully picnic area near the north entrance to the park. There we caught several bass, bluegill, tilapia and stumpknocker [spotted sunfish] using plastic worms for the bass and real nightcrawlers for the others.
Myakka River State Park is a beautiful and pristine spot we are sure most folks from Englewood have visited. If not make it a point to get there. Drive slowly in the park and watch each side of the road for the abundant wildlife. Take a boat tour around the lake with your kids, grandkids and visitors to learn more about this park. If you enjoy it as much as we do, consider camping but make your plans before the season or wait till next spring.