Escape From the Red Tide We know most inshore anglers are sick of red tide. As writers, we try to promote the beauty and productive inshore fishing available in southwest Florida. These days, we are finding it harder to recommend launches in Southwest Florida on salt water. We felt lucky this winter when most of the red tide events were focused further north and to the south of here, leaving us with clean water and healthy fish. We must not have knocked on wood hard enough because recently we’ve had our turn. We looked back at an article we wrote during the last devastating red tide event and decided this subject bears repeating. It’s basic stuff but it may help folks find happy saltwater fish the next time red tide comes by. Please think about the devastation in our bays and on our beaches and practice catch and release. We must save some fish for seed... again. Gamefish can sense red tide toxins and will leave that area if possible. Species like pinfish, catfish, and whiting, among others are limited to a specific area. Others like snook, redfish, trout, jacks, and mullet can often swim away from the toxic water flowing into the bays with incoming tides. Their obvious route of escape is away from the gulf and upriver into brackish water. This retreat is limited by the freshwater flowing downstream from the Peace and Myakka Rivers into Charlotte Harbor. Saltwater gamefish will move upstream until the water becomes too fresh for comfort and there they stay. These fish, condensed into a small body of water, quickly deplete the forage available and get hungry. Kayak anglers don’t have the luxury of launching a boat and paddling 20+ miles in search of clean water and feeding fish. It is essential to launch as close to the destination as possible to spend more time fishing and less time paddling. To this end we need to mention a few launches available on the Peace River above the I-75 Bridge and on the Myakka River above the El Jobean Bridge that should get you into some action. Darst Park is a good place to start on the Peace River. Located above the I-75 Bridge, there are a couple of islands about 400 yards to the north that will break the wind. Riverside Park is actually on Shell Creek which has its own flow of freshwater pushing back on the brackish water farther down. Upstream from here bass and bluegill are at home Downstream, look for snook and redfish. Deep Creek Park is farther up the Peace River, but we have caught both redfish and snook up here. Fish will swim up this far to escape red tide. Over on the Myakka River a few spots come to mind. El Jobean boat ramp has 800 yards of canal that will put you downstream from the bridge on a shoreline protected from north winds. Then you could cross over to the west wall, fish along this protected shoreline to the east or explore upstream past the Myakka River Motor Coach Resort. The North Port boat ramp at Marina Park puts you on the Big Slough [Myakkahatchee] with its multiple side channels. This area can be a haven whether from cold weather or red tide. Head downstream and explore the channels on the north side by the manatee sign. Senator Bob Johnson’s Landing is even further upstream near the US 41 Bridge. Launching here and going down river will get you to where the waters flowing out of Warm Mineral Springs meet the Myakka. This flow of freshwater here helps push back the red tide. For a high confidence trip, head to any FRESHWATER launch. Summertime bass fishing is mostly an early and late day sport, leaving plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely siesta near the AC. Since we’re in the rainy season, there is plenty of fresh, flowing water to explore. A kayak is the perfect solution to the dense shoreline vegetation that borders most lakes and creeks around here. From shore, landing a bass through this stuff is nearly impossible. A favorite weedless lure for us is a frog imitation. Rigged weedless on a 5/0 wide gap hook, a Zoom™ Horny Toad is easy to fish around dense cover. Head out to Shell Creek or Webb Lake, or any of the North Port canals above a spillway to catch some bass, bluegill, or channel cats where the red tide never goes.
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 & www.amazon.com.