After a recent spirited debate with my buddy about kayak versus flats skiff, we both had valid points as it were. My point being that I can put my kayak in the water just about anywhere without having to wait in line at a boat ramp. And if I wanted, I could put just about any desired attachment on my kayak that he has on his skiff. From Bimini top, poling platform, livewell, to trolling motor and electronics dashboard.
He argues that if his fishing spot isn't working he can quickly go to a different location or if a storm suddenly blows in, he can get to cover faster. But the thing that we both agree on is this: Whether in a kayak or boat it's absolutely necessary to get out on the water.
A fully tricked-out miniaturized flats boat kayak can set you back thousands of dollars, but it isn't necessary to get out on the water in the Bay area. I would advise anyone to rent a kayak for a few hours first before looking to purchase one. That way, you can get a feel for it and figure out how you'd like to have your boat set up to suit your needs. A good rental fleet is located at Fort Desoto Park in St. Petersburg, which is also a great fishing/exploring hot spot.
Then, look online to see which kayak manufacturers design a kayak that has the hatch positions, storage space, and flush-mount rod holders, etc. that you’re looking for. I absolutely love how my Malibu Stealth 12 is laid out, with the center hatch/livewell right in front of the seat, it gives me immediate access to the things I need, and the huge gator hatch in the bow lets me carry my camping gear if I want to camp out on one of the barrier islands. You also want to visit a local kayak shop to see what
special deals they may have for a first time kayak buyer, sometimes they'll throw in a seat and paddle if you buy your boat through their shop.
Don't think that if you go kayak fishing in the Bay area that you'll be restricted to the flats and backcountry waters. I often take my kayak a mile "offshore" while searching for tarpon in the summer. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone not prepared or in shape to paddle that far or equipped with an ocean-going boat. Tide, wind and waves can prove to be too much for some, as I found out the hard way on a recent outing near Clearwater Pass. Upon returning to shore, I found that a loose hatch had allowed the hull to fill up with sea water, which would have left me in a precarious situation had I stayed out much longer than I did.
Another good area to go "offshore" in your kayak is near the Skyway Bridge at the mouth of Tampa Bay. There are quite a few rock piles there that produce keeper grouper and mangrove snapper throughout the year. Pinfish, scaled sardines and frozen finger mullet prove to be good baits at this location. Make sure to vent any caught fish if needed.
You don't have to take a lot of gear with you either. I know that this sounds like a lot, but it's really not. On a typical day paddling the flats, I normally take my 8 weight fly rod, a 7' medium action spinning rig spooled with 10lb Power Pro, a 6' medium/ heavy spinning set up spooled with 20lb Power Pro, a small fly box, a few packages of soft plastics like Storm Swimtail Shad, Brown Lures Devil Eye, and the always popular D.O.A Shrimp. A medium Flambeau plug box holds various Mirrolures
with single hooks (I can't stand treble hooks), and gold and silver spoons. Terminal tackle is kept in a small Flambeau divided snap top box and includes 1/4 oz and 1/2 oz jig heads, medium barrel swivels, 3/0 offset worm hooks, and regular bait hooks. Also, a spool of 20 lb and 30 lb leader material, scissors, and a multi-tool. A waterproof stuff sack carries my wallet, cell phone and small first aid kit.
All of this tackle is kept in my center hatch right in front of the seat. My "dashboard" is made up of 1 Scotty three way mount that has a fly rod holder, camera mount and handheld GPS mount. The two spinning rigs are kept in the flush-mount rod holders left and right located behind the seat. I also made a ditch bag with a water proof stuff sack. You don't want to be anywhere on the water without one of these. Contained inside is a loud whistle, small water-proof first aid kit, shatter-proof mirror,
water-proof pen light and 16 oz bottle of fresh water.
Top 5 Kayaking Locations In The Tampa Bay Area:
#1 - Fort Desoto Park - Located at the southern tip of county the largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands. This park also boasts some of the best fishing in the Tampa Bay area. Lush flats in the No Motor Zone between the East end of the park and the Skyway Bridge are a great place for schoolie spotted sea trout. Other spots known as "bomb holes" (called that because the islands used to be a bombing range for pilots in training at MacDill AFB during World War II) can be excellent places to find redfish. There is also a 238-site family camping area with facilities. Pinellascounty.org -
#2 - St Joseph Sound - St. Joseph Sound extends North from Clearwater Harbor nearly to Anclote Key, and is separated from the Gulf for a part of the distance by narrow strips of beach known as Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island, which are top notch fishing and kayaking destinations on their own. The flats North of Dunedin Causeway are a great place for red drum and spotted sea trout. The channel that runs along the northeast end of Honeymoon Island can be a knock out spot for snook during the summer months.
Weeki Wachee River photograph by David Cannon
#3 - Weeki Wachee River - Just north of Spring Hill lies a wonderful place to explore and kayak an air clear spring fed river that meanders through jungle canopy and residential neighborhoods. A six mile paddle from Rogers Park to Weekie Wachee State Park is a truly beautiful and peaceful excursion. Want to fish? Paddle past Rogers Park toward the Gulf and you can soon find mangrove snapper, sheepshead and other various saltwater gamefish. Largemouth bass are also plentiful in the river, but can be quite skittish in the clear water.
#4 - Clearwater Pass - Just south of Clearwater Beach and on the southeast side of Sand Key Bridge is one of my favorite spots to kayak fish. A productive area sprawling from Memorial Causeway to Belleair Causeway in the ICW will seem like a fisherman's playground. With sand and grass flats between channels for trout and redfish, these spots hold yet another heralded Florida gamefish; black drum. It's not uncommon to find 30 - 60 lb behemoths tailing in the grass in the spring, but the real attraction is summer snook on the beach. Linesiders can be found in good numbers along the beach and the protruding jetty at the north end of Sand Key Park. A good spot to launch is the east side of Gulf Blvd, across the street from the park.
#5 - Gandy Bridge Area - Even though most of my selections are in Pinellas, the east (Tampa) side of the Gandy bridge is a good place to kayak fish, but the upside is defiantly on the Pinellas (west) side. With deep holes, rip rap and close proximity to Weedon Island Preserve - not to mention the bridge pilings themselves - put this location into the top 5. A top notch sheepshead spot in the fall and the snook around the dock pilings in the marina make this an excellent year round fishing location.
Ample parking and launch points on the north and south side of the road, but the spot to check out is on the north side near the Friendship Trail parking area between the radio tower and the parking lot.
Must –Take Items:
Sunscreen - The higher the number, the better.
Waterproof Stuff Sack
Plenty of drinking water/sport drinks
Wide Brimmed Hat
Read more of Rob's Inane Musings HERE