A Brand New Launch to Try
Bob Johnson Landing
Senator Bob Johnson’s Landing is a beautiful new park that just opened for our enjoyment. Many local kayakers got excited a couple of years ago when plans for this facility were announced; then disappointed when nothing happened. Well, it finally happened, and this launch provides access to the Myakka River at the US41 Bridge. The entrance is near the northwest corner of the bridge. If you’re coming from River Road or US41 west of River Road, you’ll need to make a quick left turn to the entrance [there’s no turn lane at the time of this writing; only a space between the center islands]. If you miss this turn, drive farther east and make the first U-turn just after the Myakka RV Resort. Parking is near the launch. A big plus for us is that this launch is in Sarasota County and parking is free which eliminates the “deadline anxiety” that the timed parking in Charlotte County causes.
The boggy conditions in this area necessitate a floating dock launch into a deep back water channel. Unlike the “roller” launches on the Cocoplum waterway at Dallas White Park, the floating dock here has both a partially submerged ramp and a wider launch. Both have rails for entering and exiting your floating kayak. While we’re big fans of hard sand or shell beach launches, this looks to be an improvement over the roller launches, particularly for heavy, fully rigged fishing kayaks. A dolly can be wheeled right onto the dock. There is also a very nice kayak washing station.
Two other launches are over a mile away. One launch is upstream at Deer Prairie Creek and at low tide it is a mud-fest. The other is on the Myakkahatchee in North Port and is even further away. This new launch puts kayakers on the Myakka River at the US41 Bridge where a ½ mile paddle downstream brings anglers to the outflow from Warm Mineral Springs. When water temperatures plunge during winter this flow of warmer water is a magnet for baitfish and predators alike. Tarpon, jacks, snook, reds, ladyfish, black drum and sheepshead are common catches but an occasional largemouth bass wanders downstream to surprise anglers here.
This entire stretch of the Myakka River has wild shorelines that provide habitat for snook and redfish alike. The channel under the US41 Bridge has consistently produced redfish, black drum and sheepshead for years. Upstream and down the river meanders around islands and through marsh grass back channels that provide miles and miles of shoreline to fish. While freshwater continuously enters from upstream, the water here is more salt than fresh and shrimp are the bait of choice in winter. Time your fishing with the tides since this river is influenced both by the flow of the river and the changing of the tides. After paddling downstream, riding the incoming tide up the river is better than fighting the tide and the river flow.
To cover the most water in an exploratory trip, we cast light weight jigs [1/16th -1/8th ounce] with shad tails as we drift along with the current or wind. Another favorite is the plain old gold weedless spoon. It casts a mile and flashes in this tannic water unlike any other lure. The gold spoon has probably caught more redfish than any other lure. We also like it because it has a single hook which we prefer over trebles when unhooking a fish on the deck between our legs.
Our first exploratory trip was to just check out this new launch and park facilities but we are going back this week to fish this new area. Maybe we’ll see you on the water. Good Luck!
Note: We returned to Senator Bob Johnson’s Landing on February 7th and found the floating launches closed due to “concrete approach modifications.” The alternate launch looked hazardous, so we left. You should call Sarasota County to check on the status before you go. 941-861-5000
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Shore and KAYAK Fishing Southwest Florida, contribute these excerpts from both Waterproof books to promote the excellent fishing available in the Englewood area. They are available locally at Old Florida Gallery on West Dearborn, and for download at www.anglerpocketguides.com and www.amazon.com.