Lots of locals know about the Nav-A-Gator Bar and Grill, which is 7.5 miles north of U.S. 41 on King’s Highway in DeSoto County. We launch here and enjoy the kayak fishing in Deep Creek, then follow it up with a grouper sandwich and a cold beverage at this old-style Florida restaurant.
The backwaters of Deep Creek, which connects to the Peace River right at the launch, create a refuge for snook, redfish and other fish as the waters cool down with the approaching winter. These saltwater species mingle with the largemouth bass that move downstream in this dry season. Virtually any local brackish water species can be caught here.
The launch was improved with the construction of Deep Creek Park. In addition to picnic tables, restrooms and parking, the new boat ramp is paved and makes an easy spot to launch a kayak or canoe. We back down the ramp and unload our kayaks on the side before parking, but we dolly our kayaks from the parking area if the ramp is busy.
Set up your kayak before you get to the ramp; it keeps the boaters happy. There is a paved walking path from the parking area to the ramp, so gravity is all you need to keep the kayak on the dolly — no straps required.
Once on the water, crossing the Peace River takes you into the Lettuce Lake channel, which meanders north 1.5 miles to the ramp off of C.R. 761. One popular trip is to launch at the Lettuce Lake ramp, head towards the Nav-A-Gator for lunch, and then return. There is some boat traffic in this channel, but backwaters along the side are fun to explore and fish. Anywhere a smaller tribuary meets the main channel is a good place to make a cast or two.
Our favorite float plan from Deep Creek Park is to head south on Deep Creek itself. Ook over this area on Google Maps before you launch here. Take a right turn out of the marina basin and fish the edges and spots where smaller creeks enter the main channel. This is named “Deep Creek” for a reason. The sandy, mangrove shorelines along here drop off quickly into the depths of the channel.
Be sure to make a cast or two by the old boat you’ll see on the left. Work a jig along the bottom from the shore back to your kayak and stay in contact with the bottom. We start with a quarter-ounce jighead with a shad tail but go heavier if necessary. Dark natural colors like golden shiner and root beer work well, but some anglers prefer brighter colors in this tannic water. Of course, topwater lures and flies will also work early and late in the day.
The main channel between the Peace River and Deep Creek is about three-quarters of a mile south from the launch, on the left side. Once you find this channel, stay to the right and you’ll end up on the Peace River. There are some sandy beaches across the Peace River — great places to park and stretch your legs. Where we stopped one time, there was even a rope swing for folks who wanted to swim with gators.
On our first trip to this area, we explored the back waters between Deep Creek and the Peace River. There are a few channels that connect — but many, many more that do not. We found ourselves paddling up one dead end slough and then down another for quite a while. It was frustrating hearing the boats on the Peace River so near yet so far away. We eventually found the opening we were looking for and learned to bring our handheld GPS along.
Lacking one of these gadgets, we recommend some marking string if you decide to explore the backwater labyrinths of Deep Creek. All these mangrove shorelines look alike after a while. We usually paddle back on the Peace River, but there are two other cross-over channels farther south on Deep Creek.
This is a great spot with an easy launch and a restaurant nearby to celebrate the day’s adventure. Whether you catch fish or not, this area is protected from most winter winds, large boat wakes, red tide and anything else that might detract from a fun day on the water. And did we mention the grouper sandwich?
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.