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Kayaking Cockroach Bay
Ruskin, Florida - Trip Report #1

We have the kayak on the water before the actual sunrise. Florida in the summertime is not very hospitable to kayakers because of the sudden thunderstorms you have to deal with. You can wake up to beautiful weather at 6AM but get thunderstorms by 9AM on some days. It is not the rain as that feels good on a 90 degree plus day, but we have a large amount of lightning we get each year in Florida and it does kill people. With this pink, glassy start to the day, you can't expect we will be running for the van within three hours on this day.

It does not appear foggy to the eye as we leave the drop, but the camera sees the sea fog as we look towards a freighter sailing up Tampa Bay. I still admire in wonder as huge ocean going vessels are sailing less than a mile from my kayak in this skinny water.

The Florida sun is just about to come up as we look back from the kayak towards the Cockroach Bay ramp.

Sunrise over the Florida mangroves in Cockroach Bay. I see a lot of sunsets, but not too many sunrises, except in the summertime, when we are trying to beat the rain.

Thousands of acres of mangroves protected with motor exclusion zones make this the perfect kayak paddling place near my house.

Picture of the Cockroach Bay mangroves in Hillsborough County Florida. Not yet 8AM on Florida's West Coast and the clouds are already stacking up over St. Petersburg, Florida. This day will be cut short as we begin to hear thunder off in the distance.

Not much activity on the water this morning. I guess everybody else is sleeping in given the large amount of rain we have had this summer. We did have an interesting experience with medium sized bull dolphin we saw on the way back to the launch. We stopped to watch him feed in less than 2 feet of water and he popped his head up to see what we were. Just about that time, we heard a larger thunderclap and started heading home quickly. When we took off, the dolphin decided to race the kayak but we were all in 2 feet of water so we could see his back the whole time. When we started paddling hard to get away from the rain, the dolphin took it as a race and started swimming faster along side the kayak all the way up the back channel between the mangroves. He kept poking his head out of the water as if to say, is that as fast as you can go as we were breaking a sweat and he was gliding along effortlessly. At one point in a small bay near the launch site, he poked up one more time to say goodby and want down another channel looking for breakfast in the high tide. Cockroach Bay is a great launch on a day where you are not sure about the weather as you are never more than 10 or 15 minutes from the launch even though you can spend two or three hours doing the loop. Also, pay attention to tides as the water flow is pretty strong and the paddling is easier if you ride the tide into the backcountry and ride it out again rather than paddling against the tide.

5206 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617
(813) 868-0007

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Ramada Inn
Fowler Avenue, Tampa

Bradenton Beach

St. Petersburg Beach

5206 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617
(813) 868-0007

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Kayaking Cockroach Bay
Ruskin, Florida - Trip Report #2

Because the first trip report from Cockroach Bay was cut short by rain, I wanted to give you the full taste of kayaking in this spectacular area. Again, you are seeing a sunrise as we are paddling to beat the heat that is scheduled to be about 96 degrees today. I can't wait for the fall when I can sleep late and go paddling at 2PM, but in the summer in Florida, you need to get on the water early. We have a pretty strong full moon tide this week and the clear water from Cockroach Bay is running out across the acres of grass flats.

As we are on the water by 6AM this morning, there is an odd quietness to the estuary today. I love the sounds you hear in the kayak and this morning's sound is hundreds of thousands of glass minnows all making noise as they break water together. There are not many days where you get a full east wind in Florida and the water on the "outside" of Tampa Bay is like glass.

The dolphins are out early fishing for the morning meal. This is a lone bull male chasing some tasty mullet in a foot or so of water. We wonder if it is the same guy from a few weeks ago. Sometimes, they are not aware you are even there if they are excited by water full of small mullet (fish) as they hunt up breakfast. Hey, no McDonalds on the way to the drop point for an egg mcmuffin for them. Sometimes in the cool of the morning, I wished I had opted for the large coffee but half an hour later, we are sucking down water as the sun rises in the sky. At one point, he was less than six feet from our kayak this morning.

Pretty busy for a Tuesday as more kayaks pop out from the cut at Cockroach Bay in Ruskin, Florida

We love Tampa Bay when you can get out of the mangroves and paddle on the open bay. The glassy water allows you to see all the wildlife the bay has to offer as schools of predator fish chase the glass minnows in the shallows. Some times whole little groups of minnows literally jump out of the water trying to escape the predator's teeth.

The sunshine illuminates the Sunshing Skyway bridge over Tampa Bay. It just got a new gold paint job so you can pick it out even thought it is two or three miles away.

Morning over the mangroves kayaking at Cockroach Bay in Tampa Florida. Peace in a kayak. Notice the mangrove roots that stretch down for almost a yard to gain a foothold in the estuary.

We have now paddled the kayak through a shortcut to pop out in the actual bay in Cockroach Bay. This used to have quite a bit of boat traffic back here in the seventies, but the Department of Natural Resources has allowed the channel to fill in a bit and removed the channel marker system they put here to destroy the ecology earlier on. There is a small mobile home park at the top of the bay, but nobody owns more than a johnboat and they all know how to get in. A few of the fishing guides bring people up here on high tide, but they know the way in and out. This has been a good change as the weekend guys with the Bayliners stay out of here at this point and we have been all to ourselves when we have kayaked here even on some holidays back up in Cockroach Bay. With the motor boats gone, the seagrasses are making quite a comback as a nursery for the juvinile fish.

Cockroach Bay is pretty large and you can get some good chop on a windy day. Today it is like glass which is every kayakers dream. There are some interesting off-shoots off the bay that can be paddled and a couple of spots that we fish regularly for redfish and snook. Today, only catfish as the water is almost 90 degrees itself in the backcountry.

From the kayak drop, you can go up to Cockroach Bay or outside to Tampa Bay. This is a great spot, even on difficult weather days, but if the West or North wind is blowing over 10 or 15 knots, you probably will not get outside. Lots of wind protection and a loop, no matter which way you go but pick your route to get help from the tides or you will be paddling upriver all day if you choose wrong and fight the tides.

A Tuesday looks quite a bit different than the Weekends down here at Cockroach Bay. This is one of the few deep water boat ramps on the South Shore of Tampa Bay. You will have to be careful if you paddle your kayak here on weekends to avoid the boats but most of them head straight out so as long as you avoid them in the channel you will not have any problems. Be careful on the Weekends around this busy boat ramp as many of the people with larger speed boats can be newbies and do dangerous things from time to time around the ramp. They all use the same beaches as the kayackers when coming back in to pick up whomever is dropping the car so I try to give them plenty of room and there is a big beach to launch from here so there is room even on the busiest of days. Do this one on a midweek if you can or drop later in the day to avoid the crowds in the morning.

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