Back in 2008, we discovered a treasure of pristine water just minutes from North Port to explore and fish in our kayaks. It was undiscovered by most kayak anglers, having been a private ranch without public access. We made a pact between us to never identify this beautiful area with anyone or publish anything about the great fishing there.
Now, after more than 10 years of efforts to keep this special spot off the radar, we have to admit that we failed to keep this place secret. In fact, information about Deer Prairie Creek is now widely spread across the Internet and has been discovered by lots of kayakers, anglers, hikers, horse enthusiasts and others looking for a beautiful, serene piece of Southwest Florida unaffected by rampant development.
Motorized boats are prohibited, so kayakers make up most of the on-the-water traffic here. Luckily for anglers, most kayakers are more interested in seeing and photographing the abundant wildlife including, birds, amphibians, hogs, deer, turkey and alligators.
Unfortunately, some fishermen, faced with an abundance of bass, decided to take a lot of fish home for dinner. This has led to the dramatic downturn in the fishing during the last 10 years. In our opinion, to save the remaining bass population, FWC or Sarasota County should make bass a strictly catch-and-release fish here like other areas with heavy angling pressure.
Back in the day when this spot was first opened to the public, the bass fishing was off the scale. We could kayak up the creek for a couple of hours and count on catching a dozen bass each, with many over 5 pounds. Big bluegill often beat bass to our popping bugs, and heavy bowfin attacked plastic worms on the bottom. Catfish were in abundance and quickly found any bait parked on the bottom of the larger lakes. Due to the limited access to the creek above the lower lakes, many of these fish had rarely if ever seen an artificial lure, and our favorite Zoom Horny Toads were on the menu.
There are two kayak launches in the Deer Prairie Creek Preserve. The saltwater launch is on the road leading to the parking area and picnic tables. We rarely use this launch, as it may have an inch of water over two feet of mud at low tide. The best area to fish from this launch is downstream by the U.S. 41 Bridge over the Myakka River, but it’s now a lot closer to use the new launch at Senator Bob Johnson’s Landing down by the bridge when you want to fish there.
The freshwater launch is above the spillway that forms the lower lake. This spillway keeps salt water above it. The brackish water just below this spillway is home to a few resident snook. Make a cast or two here, but remember that snook, redfish and seatrout are catch-and-release only until they recover from last year’s red tide disaster.
To fish up the creek, paddle to the far side of the lower lake and head upstream. There, you’ll find another “lake” leading to a third wide spot before entering an overhanging oak canopy. This spot is always a favorite due to the shade from the oaks, an abundance of bromeliads, and good numbers of resident bass.
From there the creek winds up towards I-75. At some point, depending on rainfall, it gets too small and obstructed to proceed. From an angler’s point of view, this entire creek has an abundance of clean tannic water with vegetation and structure on both sides.
Go slowly here. Long casts are not necessary or even possible up the creek, so stealth is imperative. Avoid banging on the kayak, splashing paddles and pressure waves when casting. We usually catch most of our bass on Horny Toads or Zoom Trick Worms, but have scored with stick baits when weeds aren’t a problem. As usual, our cautious approach to treble hooks and love of weedless lures generally limits us to wide-gap single hooks and soft plastics.
Again, we did not tell anyone — but somebody did. All we can do at this point is to enthusiastically endorse catch-and-release fishing in our magic Deer Prairie Creek. Please take only pictures and leave only paddle swirls. And do us a favor: Don’t tell anyone about our favorite spot in Southwest Florida.
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.