As the days turn into weeks and possibly months, and we have cleaned, polished, trimmed and generally caught up on every project on our list, it is time to get outside and into some sunshine and fresh air. What better way to stay safe and enjoy our southwest Florida fishing than in a kayak. With all beaches, most parks and other venues for recreation shut down, it’s nice to know we can still slip away for a few hours of solitude and fun if we know where to launch.
As mentioned, all area beaches and all Florida State Parks are closed. This makes a lot of very popular kayak launches off limits. In Lee County, all parks and boat ramps are closed as are all parks in North Port. So far, all parks are open in Sarasota County and Charlotte County. So, here are some launches we have found to still be open as of April 2, 2020. We do advise calling the local county folks first as this information is evolving daily.
Lemon Bay Park- This is a favorite that’s a good launch on a higher tide. Sliding your kayak is easy down the stairs but pulling it back up is aerobic. Paddle north from here or cross the ICW for shelter from the sea breeze in the afternoon.
Oyster Creek is our home launch. It’s just south of Lemon Bay High School. Great launch with back down to the water ease and excellent oyster bars and flats to fish in Lemon Bay. It’s also fun to fish up the creek on higher tides.
Snook Haven boat ramp- The restaurant is closed but turn left before the restaurant parking and launch on the Myakka River. Upstream is fresher water and downstream is saltier. Find more bass upstream and snook the other way.
Hathaway Park at Shell Creek on Washington Loop-use the boat ramp because the kayak launch is still roped off, in disrepair and dangerous. We catch bass, bluegill, speckled perch and channel cats in this area of Shell Creek.
Ponce De Leon Park at the west end of Marion Ave. The boat ramp here is open and may be busy. Try to get your kayak rigged and ready before you tie up the ramp area. A west wind makes this launch difficult but if you head east up the canal, you’ll find some protected water to explore and fish.
Babcock Webb WMA has good bass fishing and the launches remain open. Camping and the shooting range are closed due to the Covid issue. The last time we fished here the water was high and the bass were way back in the cattails. Now, with lower and warmer water, the bass should be on the edge of the cattails and near any drop-offs you can find.
Freshwater spots haven’t seen significant rain for a month so the water is warm and oxygen depleted. Bass have been hitting lightly weighted plastic worms along the shoreline. Most strikes happen as the worm sinks. If it gets to the bottom, move it slowly and keep looking for bass beds to drag the worm across. The smaller males will attack first but cast again to get the big girls. This is the time when frogs get active and a Zoom Horny Toad on a 5/0 wide gap hook is a good bet. Work it slowly across the top of floating weeds for explosive strikes.
So get out and practice some social distancing in your kayak, its easy; it’s good for what ails you and will keep you healthy during a stressful time. It’s even more fun if you happen to catch a fish.