West Florida Kayak Fishing Report

West Florida Kayak
Fishing Blog
by John Rice

This is a new feature to our site starting in 2012. I don't promise to report regularly but we will post periodically, so you can see what we are catching. In the Florida estuary where we do most of our kayak fishing, the top three species that we target are the Redfish (Red Drum), Snook and the reliable old Speckled Trout which usually makes up the table fare on a bad day. In addition to that we also eat small little whole flounders, Sheepshead, pompano small whole mangrove and grey snapper plus the occasional cobia. In my opinion you don't need a boat any bigger than a kayak to catch some pretty big fish in Florida.

Currently on the west coast of Florida, snook are catch and release only as we had a freeze that killed off much of the population two years ago and stocks have not come back to the pre freeze level so the season remains closed. I think most sportsmen have so much respect for the snook that we agree with the marine fisheries biologists to err on the side of caution. Any fish that can dance on its tail four or five times on the way to the boat or jump into the mangroves or past the oysters to break you off deserves respect and care to make sure they are there for future generations of fisherman. The long period of very small slots plus the catch and release closed season has made the snook smarter in my opinion as they have been caught many times. Some almost seem to pose for the picture so you can get them back in quickly.

My personal favorite in our estuaries from a catching and eating point of view is the redfish. Red Drum or redfish are basically bottom feeders but they will burn your drag if they get above 18 or 19 inches in length. They are caught in very shallow water or in tight proximity to the mangroves which makes it extremely challenging to get them in a boat when kayak fishing. They can always run 500 yards if they are in less than a foot of water or break you off in the mangroves or oyster beds if you don't tighten the drag which sometimes causes the leader to break. Most redfish have been caught and released a few times too by the time they reach the 18 to 27 inch "slot" range so they are wary of anglers and easily spooked by a paddle banging or a bait bucket. If you get to the top of the slot (or above), make sure you hold on for dear life when you hook up as you are in for the fight of your life until you get them in the boat. Getting them in the boat is also another matter from a yak as they are known for avoidance of the net with quick runs when you think they are ready for landing. With a really big red, usually the fight isn't over until the fish and man are both tired and one or both give up. As far as table fare, this fighting fish is very edible but make sure you cut out the blood line for the cat as they are a gamefish. Pretty much the whole fish can be eaten as my Florida Cracker friends make chowder from the throats and meat left on the bones. With the bag limit of one per day (south) and 2 per day (north) and a slot of 18" to 27" and the break-offs we get, it seems like a fair sportsmanlike fight that will continue to increase this wonderful fishery in Florida.

In addition to the edible species, we also catch small sharks, jacks, stingrays, pinfish and grunts on our kayak fishing trips. I think the ladyfish of Florida are as exciting as the bonefish everybody heads down to the Bahamas for and the big ladyfish are always good for some drag screaming fun. For bait, we use a mixture of live and dead shrimp, white bait that we cast net like pilchards, greenbacks, chubs, baby mullet and pinfish plus some cut bait like mullet or the redfish favorite ladyfish.

June/July 2012

Only one Cockroach Bay trip early in the month with no success. Undersized trout plus we fed the pinfish, catfish and grunts frozen shrimp for a few hours. Did see a couple of reds come across from some guys that fished deeper water on the edge of the channel but that kind of adventure kayak fishing is not my cup of tea at 52. With the flats at a water temp. of almost 90 degrees its mostly catfish city until the fall for the skinny water guys like us. End of the month we did pick up on slot trout but with the work schedule, we are fishing mostly Sunday at this point so between the fishing pressure and boat traffic we are not expecting as many reds or snook until we get back to midweek fishing in the fall.

May 2012

One disadvantage for the kayak fisherman of the warm winter is the water temperature in the back-country is rising fast and about five or six degrees warmer than it should be by May. As it is looking like a hot winter, we have scheduled a couple of extra trips this month. Early May, we started one morning off of Pine Island Beach. It is confusing as there is a Pine Island in Lee County and also a Pine Island in Hernando County near Weeki Wachee. We arrive at Pine Island Beach park at 8A when they open and drop into 3/4 moon rising tide but water levels are pretty close to low tide. This particular part of the state is very shallow at low but we are expecting high tide about noon and will be fishing rising water all day. We turn a corner and see a pack of redfish tailing in the distance. We got some very large shrimp this morning so I let one fly past the school and right away hook up a very large redfish in about 8 or 10 inches of water. With nowhere to run but horizontal, he burns off a lot of line before I can tighten the drag and slow him down but after 20 minutes, we boat a 26 inch red. Half an hour later Gina has the same experience and we are thinking another red until we see a very, very large trout fighting her in the top of the water and she boats a trout that is almost 23 inches after a pretty good fight. That afternoon, we dropped at Ozello after lunch and caught nothing in a 20 knot sea breeze. Don't underestimate the spring and summer sea breezes as they can be tough to paddle against in the open water. Next morning we got a mess of trout in Ozello. Later in the month we met Mom in Sanibel on Mother's day weekend but did not catch much Friday afternoon when we went out of Tarpon Bay. It was already about 90 when we launched so we did not expect much.

An early launch in the Ding Darling NWR did have Gina finding success with a huge trout for Mom and I caught a Spinner Shark which was pretty fun even though not table fare. I have to buy a longer de-hooker to get those sharks off the hook I am thinking as my hand is less than 12 inches from his toothy smile. We also had success with reds and trout at Cockroach Bay in Tampa.

April 2012

April was one of the best fishing months we have had in years. Business stayed strong so we were mostly fishing on Sundays and mostly close to home. The lower portion of Tampa Bay was on fire and one of us usually boated a slot redfish on every trip we took. Catch and release snook action was hot with most fish in the 15 inch range but some bruisers are hitting in the top water on a moving tide. The biggest news was the size of the gator trout everybody was catching with the majority of the slot fish running 17 to 19 inches and an over supply of larger trout mixed in that were running anywhere from 20 to 26 inches! We took one trip overnight up to Crystal River to fish Ozello with some pretty good success. From Tampa, an overnight turn around with a night at the Quality Inn is just the ticket if you need a quick escape. Our plan is day one we get a drop at around Bayport and then lunch at The Freezer in Homosassa and day two we fish Ozello in the morning and then lunch at Peck's before heading home to clean fish.

Winter 2012

This winter was puncuated by very warm weather. We fished right through the winter without the relentless cold fronts coming across west Florida. Usually the cold fronts shut down fishing on this coast when the barometer drops and the sky goes cloudless with a 15 or 20 knot northeast oor northwest wind. This winter's kayak fishing was nothing short of outstanding as we had long periods like spring where everything was up in the flats including redfish, trout, flounders and sheepshead. We caught redfish and trout all up and down the coast from Charlotte Harbor to Tampa Bay and even up into the Nature Coast even in January, February and March.

5206 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617


(813) 868-0007

Book your hotel, car and/or
vacation package with us and
your kayak advice is FREE!

5206 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617


(813) 868-0007

Best Kayak Fishing Trips
in West Florida

Quality Inn Crystal River
call (813) 868-0007 to book
or email info@vacationtc.com

|Launches Ozello, Cross Florida Canal,
and Bayport

Palm Island
We stay on the Marina since
we are in the yak daily.
call (813) 868-0007 to book
or email info@vacationtc.com

Launches at Grande Tours and Boca Grande

Angler's Inn Matlacha
Catch fish and eat stone crabs Nov. to May!.
call (813) 868-0007 to book
or email info@vacationtc.com

Choice of 4 or 5 drops depending on wind

Book your hotel, car and/or
vacation package with us and
the kayak advice is FREE!

Only from your Travel Agent
Go Go Worldwide Vacations
Offers GREAT Beach
Vacations across Florida.
Touch on the brochure to
Download the e-brochure.

We are registered with the
State of Florida as a
Seller of Travel #10098.

Back to Kayakbeach.com

Vacation Tour & Cruise --- (813) 868-0007
5206 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33617
License Information
Copyright 2009-2012 - Market Access Promotions, Inc.
Registered with the State of Florida as a Seller of Travel. Registration #10098 - - CLIA #00577404