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July 14, 2008

Gem in the Bend

Rediscovering Florida's secret fisheries on the Nature Coast

Put the Sneak on Spot-Tails
Unlike many places in Florida, the Big Bend coast remains relatively undeveloped, as tidal creeks nurture delta marshes dotted by small islands. Large boats cannot enter many shallow creeks or flats, so adventurous anglers resort to paddle power.
"With a kayak, we get into many places where big boats can't go," says Capt. Mark Fisher of Steinhatchee Kayak Tours. "At low tide fish often stack up in holes in creeks that big boats cannot reach. In such places, fish typically see a lot less pressure and don't see many lures."
Because they make smaller silhouettes and shadows, kayak anglers can stealthily approach spooky redfish in clear tidal creeks.
"A kayak is much more quiet and low to the water," Fisher says. "In a kayak people can sit in the middle of a redfish school and not scare them. In some ways, sitting almost in the water makes you more a part of the environment. Kayakers can hide from the fish because fish can see shadows and boat profiles."
Using very stable Heritage Redfish 14-foot or Native Watercraft 14 1/2-foot tunnel hull kayaks, Fisher guides anglers through several redfish holes, including Rocky Creek, Cow Creek and Dallus Creek. Besides redfish, anglers might also tackle trout, flounder and other species.
"These creeks have some good redfish, but success is mostly based upon tidal movement." Fisher says. "I like to fish the high tide, so I try to schedule a trip to be at the redfish spot two hours before until two hours after high tide."
Adventurers might also enjoy extended kayak voyages along the coast. Tours may last up to nine days, but most people opt for three days of paddling with two nights in tents. Each day the group paddles about 10 to 15 miles, fishing along the way and camping at night on high ground.
"The camping tour is the ultimate Florida experience," Fisher exclaims. "This tour travels along the Big Bend coast, one of the longest and wildest continuous coastal wetlands in the United States. This is the Florida of hundreds of years ago with no amenities. We camp in tents on a barrier island under a bazillion stars."