The water clarity is not what we are used to in Tampa Bay, as the nearby Suwannee River dumps a lot of fresh water and sediment into the area. It’s very dark and cloudy with a bottom made up of mostly soft mud and hard patches of oyster beds. With this in mind, we had to adjust our tackle and choice of lures. For Redfish, we choose spoons and spinnerbait type lures and for the Black Drum we used Berkley Gulp Crabs. Very accurate casts and a strong rod with some backbone are required, especially for the Black Drum as they have poor eyesight and can weigh over forty pounds. Loaded up, four of us headed out bright and early in search of some trophy catches..
The key here is to work the huge oyster beds that are everywhere here. As the tide rises and floods over them, the Redfish and Black Drum move in to start feeding. Joining me on my quest were my good friends, Dave, Thomas and Justin. As we paddled out on that first morning, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise, a positive omen of things to come..
Like I said earlier, very accurate casts are required for the Black Drum. The water is so muddy and they are feeding so hard, they won’t chase down a lure presented to them unless you put it right in front of them and then you better hang on. Once hooked, it’s like fighting a big bag of angry bricks. They don’t make really long runs; instead they just bulldoze their way along the bottom and even when you have them on the surface, they will do all they can to get back on the bottom..
On the very first Drum we saw, my good friend Dave made a perfect cast and the fight was on. Making short work of the big fish we both quickly learned a good lesson; the Drum has skin like armour plates and a huge amount of slime covering them that left Dave with a peculiar smell to him all day long after that first fish..
Leaving the ‘Big Uglies’, as we came to call them, we turned our attention towards the numerous big Redfish that inhabit the area. Justin is an expert when it comes to the Redfish in these waters; he has an uncanny knack of finding them, no matter where they may be and this trip was no different..
Using spinnerbait style lures, from manufacturers including Slayer Inc and Redfish Magic, Justin looked for the flooded oyster beds and made casts over the top or on the edges. With a steady retrieve, the spinning blade creates vibration that the fish can zone in on. Thomas, or “Uncle Tommy” as he is more affectionately known, also got in on some of the Redfish action..
When I wasn’t snapping pictures I got in on some of the Black Drum action that was all around us. Just find some flooded oysters and it’s a good bet there will be several of them feeding in the area. As I mentioned the water is really cloudy so it’s quite easy to paddle right up to them, literally right on top of them and present the lure right in front of them. In water that’s easily four feet deep, it’s an unreal sight to see those tails waving back and forth as they feed..
Cedar Key is definitely one of those magical places to fish and in two trips there we have yet to run across another kayaker, or boater for that matter. Prepared for long days on the water, I was surprised to find both species very close to the numerous launch spots we used over our six days in the area. Trips here take careful planning though as they have large tidal swings; launch at the wrong time and you could return to the launch spot only to find all the water gone. Let me tell you, it’s not fun crossing yards and yards of thick nasty mud after a long day of paddling. Another important thing to consider about Cedar Key, if you plan on camping, is be sure you are ready for the bugs, especially the Deer Flies. Also called ‘Horse Flies’, they are very big, numerous and bite like heck..
A hidden gem on the Gulf Coast, Cedar Key should definitely be on your list of paddling destinations. Download a PDF copy of Bill's article Here.
About the Author: Bill Howard is a Pro Staff Member at Yakangler.com, as well as Malibu Kayaks. He is also on the Columbia Sportswear Pro Team. Bill is an avid photographer and writer, contributing to numerous websites and publications in the Tampa Bay area.
In 2008 he completed a 17 day, 129 mile trip around Tampa Bay raising nearly $4000 dollars for the American Heart Association. He is also a board member for the Tampa Bay Chapter of Hero's on the Water.