Spring and summer tides and lots of rain make for good fishing. Gamefish and kayak anglers can get further back into the bays and pockets that are usually too shallow. If you like to fish moving water, the passes are pushing a lot of bay water out to sea on a dropping tide. It should go without saying that in a kayak, care is necessary to avoid the same fate.
Most folks agree that moving water makes for great fishing. Passes and spillways running hard from heavy rain concentrate fish. Bait swept over a spillway arrives disoriented, confused, and probably injured — which makes them easy prey. For predators, it’s a conveyor belt of treats to intercept. Since the best selection of goodies is at the head of the line, look for larger fish like snook and bass to congregate there. In addition, the highly aerated water below culverts and ditch inlets invigorates these predators.
One trip that comes to mind is the easy paddle (1.2 miles) from Marina Park to the water treatment plant in North Port. We launch at Marina Park. From Marina Park (on the corner of Chancellor Boulevard and Kenwood Drive), paddle northeast under Biscayne Boulevard and U.S. 41 toward the water treatment plant.
Once you pass Tamiami Trail, the waterway forks. Either channel leads to a spillway. We usually take the right channel and find more fish there. Fishing at the bottom of this spillway next to the water treatment plant produces mangrove snapper, snook and bass. Since this is an area where salt and fresh waters mix together abruptly, you’ll find both saltwater and freshwater species here.
With the high tides and extra water depth, saltwater gamefish will work deeper into the mangroves seeking a meal that’s not available on normal tides. This makes them inaccessible to anglers at high tide. Instead, focus on the falling tide that brings the bait out when the tide drops. Wait an hour or so after high tide, then paddle or stake out an easy cast from the mangroves near a drainage channel. Your target will usually be facing the mangroves, in ambush mode. This gives a kayak angler the advantage of hooking up far enough from the trees to have a reasonable chance of not being pulled into the mangroves.
Falling spring tides that scour the passes can be hazardous. Rarely does a season go by that a swimmer or kayaker is not swept out a pass with a spring tide. Most are rescued — but not all. Don’t be a statistic. Areas around any pass experience higher velocities as you get closer to the Gulf.
If you kayak in Ski Alley at Stump Pass, don’t try paddling into the wind and the current. Together they can force you to the shore where you will need to wade, pulling your kayak, to make any headway. We learned this the hard way years ago. There’s a better spot east of Whidden Key, away from the perpetual boat party in Ski Alley. The water there drains right off a big shallow flat into the channel. By staking out or wading along the edge, we usually find quality fish.
If you enjoy the fast action and fast water at the passes, it’s safer to fish from shore. Fishing this moving water is like fishing a trout stream in Colorado. (We’ve all done that, right?) Cast your bait or lure upstream and hold the rod tip high to avoid getting a big bow in your line from the current. Don’t try to use enough weight to hold bottom; that will leave your bait stationary but spinning in the current.
These fish are here looking for something drifting with the current. You want just enough weight to keep your offering down in the water column and bouncing naturally along the bottom with the current. Keep a straight line to your terminal tackle and watch for a sudden stop as a snook, redfish, black drum, pompano, shark or tarpon picks it up. When your bait swings into shore, cast again. They’re out there!
Higher spring and summer tides with their fast-dropping negative low tides can be a challenge to fish, but these conditions often produce some big catches. Watch the tide and wind charts so you can plan a fun, productive day. And remember to stay safe!
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.