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Big Bend Paddle Fishing Report

Mike Conneen and I just wrapped up a seven day, 60 mile paddle along Florida's Gulf coast, from the Aucilla River to Steinhatchee. So this is a Big Bend paddle fishing report.

Tough Going
This was the most physically demanding trip I've taken in at least 30 years. Generally when taking an extended trip you want to take it easy the first day, to shake out the kinks and settle in. The wind punched us in the mouth from the start. We had two relatively easy days (one because we took it off) and fought the wind every other one.


In spite of that we caught some fish, including redfish, seatrout, flounder, bluefish, ladyfish, and even the coveted lizardfish (sorry, no photo).

A brief rundown-
We left home Sunday morning and drove to Sea Hag Marina http://seahag.com in Steinhatchee, where we spent the night in a charming little fishing cabin. We even got to watch some football.

Russ McAllister of Suwanee Guides http://suwanneeguides.com picked us up Monday morning and gave us a shuttle to the boat ramp on the Aucilla River. Shortly after launching Mike caught the trip's first fish. We paddled against the current (incoming tide) to the Gulf and against the wind to the Econfina River, where we camped at a FWC campsite.


Tuesday we again fought the wind all day as we paddled south to the FWC campsite on Rock Island. Since the wind was still howling out of the south on Wednesday, and since we were basically spent from fighting it the first two days, we spent Wednesday night here too. It was quite a lovely place, remote enough we did not see another human for two days.







Thursday we had the best weather and best fishing day of the trip, going from Rock Island to Spring Warrior Creek. We hit reds most of the way on a variety of lures. We camped at the FWC campsite on the creek.




Friday we had a 13 mile day. While windy, it was coming off the shore instead of up the coast, so it was not as rigorous as the first couple days. However, the distance involved meant we had very little fishing time. I got two reds by dragging a DOA CAL shad behind the kayak as I paddled. We camped on Sponge Point, another great site.


Saturday the wind blew again off the shoreline. Much of our paddle was on a low tide. When the tide goes out along this coast it goes WAY out. I had to drag my boat for a ways, an option not available to Mike. We found a fish-filled hole in an otherwise almost waterless flat, where we caught all of our fish for the day. Our campsite this night was at Dallus Creek, where the feral pigs roam. Fortunately my yelling at them scared them off.

Sunday we had nine miles to go to reach Steinhatchee. The first seven were gorgeous, with light south winds and steady progress. When we stopped for a break I said, "This weather couldn't be any nicer." As soon as we started paddling again, BAM! Fifteen to 20, right in our faces, the waves coming over the bow of the boat, and miserably tough, slow going. Mother Nature just kicked our butts one last time before we finished.


Paddle Trip
This was not a fishing trip where we paddled. It was a paddle trip where we fished as time allowed. I brought a fly rod and used it about 15 minutes over the course of a week, blind casting without success. Many of the fish I caught came by trolling the shad as I paddled.

Having said that, the habitat here is probably the best remaining in the state- lots of oysters, the thickest seagrasses I've seen in a long time, and nice clear water (Fenholloway River mouth excepted). The fish did not run large but there were plenty of them- when we were able to fish.

Permits
Anyone wanting to use the FWC campsites needs a permit. Visit this link for more information- http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/lead/big-bend/paddling-trail/camping-permits/

And that is the Big Bend Paddle Fishing Report!

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short- Go Fishing!

John Kumiski
www.spottedtail.com
http://www.spottedtail.com/blog
www.johnkumiski.com
www.rentafishingbuddy.com
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jkumiski


All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2016. All rights are reserved.
 

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Great post. I would like to do the same trip except no wind and no paddling. Maybe a little poling. I've got a Gheenoe NMZ any info would be awesome, supply list ect.. Again Great post! Just remember its the tough trips that make great stories. You will not ever forget this one and you'll be telling the story for years to come.
 

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Nice report John and great illustrative photos. Too bad the weather wasn't more cooperative. I've been in similar situations where it was a long and tiring slog back to the launch point.

And you're right, we are blessed with some of the most pristine flats/shoreline in the state. Thankfully it will stay that way due to much of it being federal or state land. Unless they start auctioning it off to the highest bidder or the "Jobs" governor decides we need more out-of-state pavers and asphalt parking lots.
 

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any info would be awesome, supply list ect..


IRL Trip Equipment List



Boat

canoe/kayak

anchor

small tool/repair box

Paddles- 3

pushpole -optional

PFD one per person

Whistle

Bow/stern lines

Bailers (Chlorox or antifreeze bottles best)

tarp (for sailing)


Misc

waterproof pack

first aid kit

maps

nylon cord

ziplock bags

large trash bags

saw

matches

sunscreen

bug spray


Fishing

fly, spin rods

pvc pipe

small conv. Tackle box

fly bag

leader


House
Tent

Ground cloth

Sleeping mat

Sleeping bag, liner, & stuff sack

pillow (small)

nylon cord


Clothes
sneakers

sandals

wading shoes

2 pair baggy light pants

1 pair shorts

t-shirts (at least 1 long sleeve)

belt

socks- wool best

warm long sleeve shirt

sweater

raingear

bandana

hat and sunglasses

waders and shoes



Personal

Towel(s)

toilet tissue

pocketknife

toothy stuff

small flashlight

eye/sunglasses

camera

notebook and pencil

soap/shampoo

repair kit (needle and thread, duct tape)

phone


Kitchen
Stove and fuel

Matches

small, medium, large pots, handle

fry pan

salt, pepper, spices

Bowl, Cup, Spoon, Dish soap and sponge

Food containers

cooler


Menu
Breakfast

granola, box milk, tea, apples, oranges


Lunch

pb&j, cheese, stoned wheat thins crackers, dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, cookies, chocolate


Dinners - need seven
-chili (make at home), chips

-chicken/noodle/cheese casserole

- soup and grilled cheese sandwich


-fried fish/boiled butternut squash

-fish/crab chowder

-black beans and rice, onions, cheese

-linguini w/clam sauce, parmesan cheese

-camarao paulista com papas fritas
 
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