BOTE Fishing Ambassador Stephen Ferrell fills us in on the 10 best places to take your SUP out fishing!
This area is part of Everglades National Park (ENP) and is a true Florida wilderness. There are many options here from a short paddle to the extreme 100-mile paddle through the Everglades to Everglades City. All throughout ENP are designated camping areas, otherwise known as Chickees, that require a permit to be obtained at a ranger station or you can simply camp at the Flamingo Visitors Center. Whichever method you choose, I can guarantee that your experience will be unforgettable. The fishing is world class with Redfish, Snook, Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit and Snapper being a few of the most targeted species on the grass flats or in the mangroves. You can also encounter a wide variety of birds and even one of the only places to see an American Crocodile.
The sixteen-mile-long Wekiva River is a spring fed river originating from Wekiva Springs and is only a short drive from Orlando. Largemouth Bass are the main focus here with the colorful Redbreasted Sunfish, Shellcrackers, even Sunshine Bass (Hybrid Stripers) and Stripers can be found further down the river near the confluence of the St. Johns and Wekiva rivers. The first few miles of the river will have crystal clear water where you can sight fish your targeted species. Although this portion of the river is most scenic, the fish here will be harder to catch due to the heavier paddle traffic and water clarity. Paddling further downstream will increase your chances of catching more fish off your paddle board.
The No Motor Zone or NMZ is the northern part of the Banana River located between Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral, it covers 10,500 acres. This area is only accessible by paddle craft--no motorized vessels of any kind are allowed in this area other than those being used by NASA or the military. Fantastic sight-fishing for large Redfish, Black Drum and Spotted Seatrout on the grass flats with occasional juvenile Tarpon and Snook encounters. Kars Park on the western shore is a very popular launch area that also has camping.
Choctawhatchee Bay has a very diverse fishery from the clear emerald colored waters around the East Pass to tannin stained waters at Hogtown Bayou. There is fairly easy access on all sides of the Bay contributing to this being a great paddle boarders’ destination. Fantastic Trout and Redfishing can be found along any of the shorelines in the bay, though most fish will be concentrated around grassy patches on the flats, docks, oyster bars and any of the river or creek mouths that empty into the bay. Other fish you will encounter here are Pompano, Flounder, Black Drum, Spanish Mackerel, and even the occasional Striper.
Brilliant white sand beaches line the shores of this paddlers' destination. The crystal clear waters and endless grass flats of St. Joe Bay are home to many varieties of gamefish, easily accessible by paddleboard. Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Flounder, Pompano and even the occasional Cobia can be found here. In the summer months Port Saint Joe Bay has fantastic scalloping that can be easily accomplished from your SUP. Saint Joseph State Park serves as an excellent launch site and also has camping facilities.
A fantastic area to escape the wind and paddle between the mangrove islands and over beautiful grass flats. There are also two paddle trails in the preserve. While paddling/fishing Cockroach Bay you may encounter Redfish, Snook, Flounder, Tarpon and several other species. This fishing in this area is very tide dependent with higher tides being more productive in the backwaters of the bay. Cockroach Bay boat ramp serves as an excellent launch point with paddle trails and fish very close by.
Almost anywhere you paddle in the Florida Keys can be a breathtaking adventure. The Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West has many areas accessible to paddle boarders most of these being state parks but there are other options such as private boat ramps, usually with a minimal fee, most hotels have water access and along the roadways you can find an occasional parking area in close proximity to the water. Both the Atlantic and Gulf side of the Keys are home to many popular types of gamefish such as Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, Redfish, Snook and Snapper. I have often found that Keys fish like areas with good water movement and shallow flats that are close to deeper water drop-offs. Flats around the bridges and the bridges themselves are common stomping grounds for many of these fish.
Even though Jacksonville has many great places to fish I would like to discuss one particular area due to its ease of access and close proximity to great fishing. Hecksher Drive between the Jacksonville Zoo and Amelia Island State Park, located on the northern side of the St. Johns river, has plenty of roadside launches as well as public and private ramps. The many creeks that branch off of the St. Johns along Hecksher offer protection from wind and large vessels as well as being the home to Redfish, Black Drum, Spotted Seatrout, Flounder and Sheepshead. Look for these fish to be feeding around oyster bars, creek mouths, and in the grass along the shoreline.
The Mosquito Lagoon located between New Smyrna Beach and Merritt Island along the Space Coast is a world famous Redfish destination. The fact that you may encounter Redfish above the thirty-pound mark on the flats is one of the many reasons the Lagoon is famous. Sight-fishing is the most popular method to search out a trophy Trout or Redfish, and even the occasional juvenile Tarpon. The paddle board is perfect for this type of fishing due to how silently one can move over a shallow flat where these fish can be seen "laid up" or even tailing. Launching is fairly easy here with launches all along the southwestern side of the lagoon continuing north all the way around the Lagoon to the eastern or beach side.
The Blue Lagoon is a lake near the Miami airport that is a fantastic place to target Peacock Bass. Butterfly Peacock Bass are originally from the Amazon until they were introduced to South Florida in 1984 and have since become a very popular gamefish due to their aggressive feeding habits and strong fight. Antonio Maceo Park is the only launch ramp for the Blue Lagoon, but great fishing is a close paddle. Paddle the shorelines looking for structure and you will find fish. Sight fishing them is also possible with clear waters of the lake. Tarpon, Jack Crevalle and Largemouth Bass can also be found in the Blue Lagoon.
Published on 2017-03-23 in Stories