Fishing out of a kayak is huge in the Northeast Region because we have so much marsh area and Intracoastal that you really want a small boat to get into these areas. So much of our fishing is done in super shallow water, which is the kind of water conditions that kayaks and canoes excel in. We also have the largest kayak fishing tournament in the country, called the Jacksonville Kayak Fishing Classic which took place a couple of weeks ago. You can find out about the event and meet an entire contingent of serious kayak anglers on the same website, Jaxkayakfishing.com.
Guana River State Park at Ponte Vedra Beach, which is midway between St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach is the mecca of inshore kayak fishing for redfish, seatrout and other gamefish. It’s a spot you can go to year-round and catch fish. There’s a dam that separates the freshwater and saltwater sides, with a large freshwater lake on the up-current side, so you can also fish above the dam and target bass, bluegill and crappie.
If you fish the saltwater side of the dam, you want to work the shorelines, sandbars and oyster bars looking for baitfish schools. Wherever the mullet are schooled up there’s likely to be gamefish nearby. The standard gold spoons, dark colored jerkbaits and topwater plugs all work here, but be careful using live shrimp, as the brackish water close to the dam can kill them. I almost always use lures in this area.
One of the best things about using a kayak or canoe in my area is the access to all these small creeks and canals that you can’t get into with a larger boat. We have extreme tides in my region, some as strong as six feet, particularly on the new and full moons, and when all that water goes out of those areas, they get so shallow that you can’t get in or out, but with a kayak you can simply get out of the boat and pull it over the shallow area or across the bar, get back in and start fishing again.
As you move up into these creeks, you’ll find the deeper holes that are full of fish. When the tides go out, the seatrout and redfish move into these holes, and so does the baitfish and shrimp, so the fish are in there feeding on all the food coming their way. Because the fish don’t get pressured a lot during these times, you can really get on a good bite that will last all the way until the tide comes in to the point that there’s a lot more water for the fish.
If you’re looking to rent a canoe or kayak, Princess Palace Preserve on Pelicer Creek on the Mantanzas River, which is near Faver-Dykes State Park is a great public spot to go. It’s one of the best places to find those feeder creeks with deep pockets of water that concentrate the fish. Work this area on the new and full moons from now through July and you’ll do great on the redfish. There are days when you’ll get an entire school of fish in one of those holes and be able to catch a fish on just about every cast until the tide changes. It’s also just a beautiful, scenic place to fish, where you can be all alone.
Unlike a lot of areas in southern Florida, there’s not a lot of anglers that launch from the beach that fish out of kayaks or canoes. There are a few guys that launch on the beach out of Marineland and tarpon fish around the pogey schools out of kayaks in the summer months, but there’s a lot of sharks around those schools as well, so most people fish them out of larger boats. As we get into the fall, if we get some calm weather you can find the redfish schooled up on the beach side of the inlets and catch a bunch of over-the-slot redfish on finger mullet or cut bait.
Kayaks are light and portable, so anywhere you have public access to the water, you and put in a kayak and fish. The advantage is that you can paddle away from the shorelines and access areas that don’t get a lot of fishing pressure, so a lot of the fish you encounter will be willing to eat. It’s one of the best ways to fish in my area, and kayaks and canoes will take you into some of the most beautiful, pristine fishing spots in the Northeast Region.