This underused launch near the south end of Lemon Bay is one that should be on your list. It offers protection from northeast winds along with plenty of mangrove shorelines, docks, seawalls, grassflats, great tidal flows, proximity to Stump Pass and, of course, oyster bars. All of this adds up to some great fishing.
In the summer, an early morning incoming tide turns this into a redfish haven, which they share with snook, ladyfish and other predators. This is our favorite high tide spot for reds that patrol the oyster bars and mangrove shorelines. We also head here in the cooler months when mid-day high tides coincide with a bright sun to warm the water around these extensive oyster bars.
To find the launch, turn east just south of Lemon Bay High School off Placida Road (SR 775). It’s marked but isn’t too obvious. There is plenty of parking for kayak anglers and SUP enthusiasts alike. We especially enjoy being able to back down to the water to unload our heavy kayaks and all the gear.
After launching, paddle east around the mangroves ahead of you to find the main channel. Turn west towards Lemon Bay and go under the Placida Road bridge. The tidal current under the bridge can be fierce, but if you use the slower water by the bridge pilings, it’s doable. We try to time our trips to paddle with the tide, but that rarely works out on our schedule.
The flats to the north of Oyster Creek are great for kayak anglers, since this area is full of oyster bars and much too shallow for most motorboats. Even though our kayaks draft only 4 inches, it’s a challenging spot to paddle on anything except higher tides. Anchors, stakeout poles and drift socks are useless around these shallow oyster bars, so we just hang a protected foot over the side to hold our position while targeting the deeper channels between them.
Just beyond the oyster bars are grassflats extending to the ICW channel. We seldom see boating anglers fishing these shallow grassflats, so it’s a great place for kayak fishermen.
Further north, the grass flats near Cedar Point Environmental Park hold mostly trout and snook. There are still occasional oyster bars along the shore here, but the mangroves and the deeper grass flats produce most of the fish. There are a few hard sand spots to go ashore, but most of the bottom is too soft and sticky for wading.
From Cedar Point, with a north wind, drifting back between the edge of the grassflats and the deeper ICW channel will usually produce some trout. For the more adventurous, depending on the wind and boat traffic, it is about 300 yards across to the safety of the flats north of Whidden Key and the Stump Pass area.
Sometimes we head south and follow the marked channel coming out of Oyster Creek. You’ll find some good dock habitat as it heads to the ICW. Between the ICW and the Oyster Creek channel, the grass flats are worth a cast or two.
Don’t overlook the rookery islands and the mangroves there. The deeper waters of these islands tend to be on the east side, and with the afternoon sea breeze from the west we usually find calm water here. Redfish tend to feed where the water washes across the connecting oyster bar into the deeper area behind these islands. Try to fish from the upwind side of the rookery when possible, since it tends to be quite aromatic.
From here, heading south brings you to an area of wild shoreline punctuated by short canals heading east. This is also a good spot to head west across the ICW toward Whidden Key. It’s only about 200 yards across the channel to the shallow flats east of the key. On a calm day, kayakers can cross west in the morning and catch a sea breeze back to Oyster Creek in the afternoon.
We use weedless lures in these shallow waters. They help catch more fish without snagging grass and oyster shells. One of our go-to riggings is a plastic shad tail jig on a 2/0 wide-gap hook rigged weedless with a small bullet weight. For working around oysters and heavy grass, this works well. True, it doesn’t always swim straight up, but then neither do injured baitfish.
This rig will work right across the top of matted grass and over oyster shells if you keep the rod tip high. The bullet weight lets it dive naturally into open spots. Try it — we think you’ll like it.
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.