Spring has sprung and summer is on the way. On local freshwater creeks, the bass are spawning, frogs are singing, and bugs are biting. It’s a great time to be kayak fishing in Southwest Florida ... if you’re prepared.
For sheer beauty, nothing beats springtime up a creek in a kayak. Everything is blooming and turning green. The rains are beginning to put water into the creeks so they start flowing again after winter’s dry weather, and the bass are responding with their usual springtime aggression.
There are lots of creeks in this area to kayak, and most have healthy bass and bream populations. Spring is our favorite time on these creeks because this is the time when frogs become active. Their croaks, chirps and mating calls create a raucous sunset serenade, if you are up a creek and listening.
Unfortunately for the frogs, bass enjoy this time of year too and feast on these amphibians with abandon. Frogs are easy to catch and slide smoothly down their throats compared to fish with sharp dorsal spines. They represent a bite-sized nugget of high-quality protein that just can’t be passed up. Many of the strikes kayakers hear along the banks and back in the weeds are bass eating frogs.
We have used the Zoom Horny Toad rigged weedless on a 5/0 wide-gap hook for years. Just bring the hook into the nose and out about a quarter-inch back on the chin. Then place the bend of the hook between the legs and lightly stick the point into the back of the frog to make it weedless. When the bass chomps down on the frog, the hook deploys and sets in the jaw. Many other frog lures we have used feature two hooks along the back that don’t seem to have a sufficiently wide gap for a solid hook set.
If you must fish during the middle of the day, focus on the shadows and overhanging hard-to-fish spots. Accurate casting and maybe a little skipping will get the frog into spots few anglers ever reach, resulting in big fish being fooled.
Another technique is to cast the frog onto some floating vegetation and “tickle” it across the top. Bass holding underneath notice the movement and track the bait to an open spot, where it is attacked. We cast onto the mat, hold the rod tip high and give it short but strong jerks. Too much pressure will cause the frog to leap several feet toward you and the bass lose track of it. Using the tip of the rod and allowing slack to form between jerks will result in short 3- to 6-inch hops across the mat. Often bass will attack from underneath and come right up through the mat to get the frog. That’s exciting, but it’s hard to land these fish tangled in 15 pounds of salad.
Frogs are feasting on insects that take over this time of year. Nearly every time you hook a good fish in a small creek, it will take you into the bushes while you land and release your prize. Spend as little time there as possible. Mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks and other critters are happy to find you. At sunset, the flying ones will find you out on the open water, so long sleeves, long pants, a cap, buff and plenty of DEET will help you survive. However, the magic hour around sunset is the best bite of the day if you’re protected.
As you’re touring the brushes on the shoreline while landing a good bass, look around at what type of plant you are crashing into. There’s a type of ivy here unlike the ground cover we commonly associate with poison ivy. This poison ivy creates huge vines that climb trees and hang into the water near the shore. It has shiny leaves the size of your hand in groups of three. Not only are the leaves dangerous, but even the bark of this plant can cause a lot of suffering. The poison wood tree is also present. Avoid hanging a lure in any of this stuff, as it is hard to retrieve the lure without exposure. If a lure hangs up in it, we get as close as we safely can then cut the line.
Besides hungry fish, springtime brings out a bouquet of unusual flowers in these creeks. The spherical blossoms of the button bush and the delicate spider lily, to name just a couple out of dozens, are easy to find if you take a break from fishing to just enjoy the seclusion, isolation and beauty of springtime on a Southwest Florida creek.
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.