PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - The Tampa Bay area has dozens of great kayaking trails, but for the novice or family-minded paddler, there is no better spot to hit the water than Fort DeSoto .
The new 2.25-mile canoe/kayak trail offers a rare glimpse into the world of a mangrove estuary. The park also has more than seven miles of waterfront recreation, including two fishing piers, nature trails, paved bike trail, and a 238-site, full-service campground that seems to have been created with families in mind.
While Fort DeSoto known primarily for its award-winning beaches and great paddling, it is also famous for some great fishing. When going through your checklist of great places to cast a line, Fort De Soto has it all: easy access, good facilities, clean water and most important, hungry fish.
With both shallow- and deep-water species to choose from, novice and experienced anglers will find fishing challenging, yet rewarding.
The Fort DeSoto Paddling Trail has also become a hotbed for kayak anglers. The light, maneuverable, plastic watercraft will take you into the shallow areas where powerboats dare not go.
The sit-on-top kayaks are the ideal fishing craft because they are easily transportable (they fit on most car roofs) and can be launched from virtually anywhere.
Most kayak fishermen carry two or three rods so they can fish with different artificial baits without having to stop and tie on a new lure.
For example, have one rod rigged with a top-water plug to cast around the mangrove roots for snook. Have another rod equipped with a soft-bodied jig to fish the grass beds for spotted sea trout. And finally, have a third rod ready to go with a gold spook to work the oyster bars for redfish.
If you don’t have your own kayak, rentals are available at the park. These user-friendly boats are available at Topwater Kayak Rentals (as you approach the island, turn right at the ranger station and the kayak rentals will be on the right). You’ll be up and paddling in minutes.
Every spring and fall, anglers flock to the waters around Fort De Soto for the annual Spanish mackerel migration. These feisty fighters are literally caught by the dozens by even inexperienced anglers.
These “Spannies,” as they are called by local anglers, have sharp teeth and will slice through the light monofilament line that most anglers use like kite string. Don’t be surprised if you hook the Spanish mackerel’s larger cousin, the king mackerel, while you are fishing. The two species tend to run together.
Terry Tomalin also published a book outlining many different adventures you can take in Florida. That can be purchased at www.seasidepublishing.com .
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Plenty of sunshine with high humidity, but low chances for an afternoon shower or storm inland.