Kayak-Fishing Remote Florida Bay

An affordable kayak adventure offers access to the upper bay

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At the dock at La Siesta Marina in Islamorada, two of the four anglers in the upper Keys/Florida Bay kayak adventure join skippers Matt Bellinger (right) and Billy Wert (center) of Bamboo Charters reviewing the morning's plan.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Paddle, push pole, stakeout stick - David Hadden, president of Freedom Hawk Kayaks brought for this outing several long-shaft Versa pushpole/paddles with interchangeable heads to really permit anglers a range of options for paddling, poling and staking.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Heading out. Bellinger's 24-foot Action Craft is a beamy bay boat and perfect for "mother-skiffing" up to four kayaks and anglers anywhere in the keys or upper Florida Bay.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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From kayak to stand-up fishing platform in literally 10 seconds: With a push of two handles the back of the Freedom Hawk 12 opens up to provide three-point stability for stand up fishing, as Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association demonstrates here in a remote cove at the top of Terrapin Bay.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Sport Fishing's Doug Olander tries to hold the line on a rowdy bonnethead shark.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Ultimately, the angler prevails, here getting ready for a quick release.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Another nice red admired and released by Ted Venker, communications director for the Coastal Conservation Association. This one hit a white Z-Man PaddlerZ tail rigged on a weedless hook. Kayak anglers can get into muy skinny waters with ease.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Not every fish can be a whopper, but even small trout on topwaters can be fun. Here, Hadden sets one free.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Later, in a different spot, Hadden ties into some rather bigger quarry, a heavy shark. Bonnetheads, lemons, blacktips and bulls can be common here (along with nurse sharks of course). On this trip, Hadden spent time testing out the new Freedom Hawk Pathfinder, a whopping 146-footer, shown here.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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A satisfying catch, this snook was one of very few caught while drifting grass flats or casting the mangroves. Bellinger says the species has not really begun to recover from the devastating Arctic cold of a couple of years ago.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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By virtue of their ability to go far up into shallow waters and their stealth, kayaks allow anglers to get closer to wildlife than is often the case for boaters. These roseate spoonbills are walking the shallows sifting the water for food.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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After quietly staking out by these mangroves, Kramer put a plastic bait in front of a redfish he'd spotted while poling, taking advantage of the standing perspective these kayaks offer, and...bingo!Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Yet another red, this one the grass flats, after it took a large chunk of ladyfish the author was drifting, more with lemon sharks in mind than reds - but he didn't complain too vehemently.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com
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Day's end calls for clearing the decks to load up the kayaks for the 45-minute run from the area east of Flamingo back to Islamorada.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com