During the winter here in Southwest Florida, kayakers have to deal with wind mainly from the north or south (north after a cold front, south before the front). These winds may put many launches out of reach.
In our last column,we addressed those cold northern winds that put whitecaps on the bays around here. But the winds from the south can have the same effect, since most of our bays are oriented north and south. At least they’re usually warmer. The only directions that don’t cause problems at most launches in the area are those from the east and west.
We fish Lemon Bay. Its shallow flats can stand up waves in a hurry with a north or south wind. Whichever direction the wind is from, count on it shifting to a westerly component when land convection fires up later in the day. Any launches we recommend can be problematic with shifting wind directions, but here are a few that we enjoy when those warm southern breezes turn into troublesome wind.
19th Street in Boca Grande has a launch that puts a kayak angler onto a protected bay and excels if the wind is from the south. It’s a little tricky to get to, since you need to turn on 18th Street and then head north to 19th. The launch itself is nice, with “back down to the water” ease for our heavy fishing kayaks. The parking is convenient and shaded.
This whole area is known for excellent seatrout fishing. To fish during a south wind, we paddle south to fish the docks and mangroves along the lee shore then turn into the deep hidden lagoon that borders Jose Gaspar Drive. Here you’ll find mangrove shorelines adjacent to deep water — good snook habitat.
After checking out this lagoon, we usually head out towards Jack Point to fish the channels and bars. If the wind allows along the way, we drift across the shallow flats nearby and target the sandholes for redfish and trout. A lot of water moves on and off these flats, and it usually produces fish for us. If the wind lets you get out there, nearby Hoagen Key is a handy spot for a lunch break and has some good flats all around it.
Riverside Park in Punta Gorda puts you near the confluence of Shell Creek and the Peace River above the I-75 bridge. Shell Creek fans out here to form a delta (a maze of channels) oriented east to west. These provide protected and productive water on a south wind. If we paddle east, up Shell Creek, we expect to find freshwater fish. In the winter, with minimal rainfall, increasingly brackish water allows some saltwater fish to visit this area. It’s a nice surprise when a snook grabs the lure you intended for a bass.
Downstream from this launch, the best structure is a railroad bridge that attracts snook and redfish to the pilings and oyster bars nearby. There is an extensive maze of back channels and dead-end sloughs here, so pay attention and don’t get lost.
Oscar Scherer State Park, off of U.S. 41 in Osprey, is another spot featuring protection from south winds. After paying the park entrance fee, the launch is on South Creek just after entering the park. Take advantage of the “back down to the water” launch. Paddling east, the creek dwindles but has some productive water when the sun warms it up. Paddling west towards the Intracoastal Waterway is where you’ll find more structure to fish.
Cross under the U.S. 41 bridge and notice the shallow mud flats there. These flats hold warmer water on sunny windy days. There are mangrove shorelines adjacent to the mud flats that will produce snook most of the winter. Check out the canals and docks to the south of South Creek. All of these canals are dead-ends, which warm quickly without tidal flows. Try a live shrimp under the docks and along the seawalls here.
By far the most limiting weather for kayak anglers is the wind velocity. If you know places where the wind doesn’t blow so hard, such spots can produce good action on a windy day. Protected water warms faster than open stretches, and seawalls soak up sun warmth and transfer it to the water. Find a spot that’s comfortable for you, and you’ll be in a place that attracts fish too.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.