Kayak fishing @ Fort Island Beach/Ozello Bay, FL
I knew this past weekend Kelli was heading outta town for vacation so I figured I’d head out to do some fishing on my own. Over the past couple of years I have been going out on the kayak to fish Ozello Bay, which is just south of Crystal River. I have probably taken the yak out 10-15 times in that time span. Up until this weekend I have always put in from the Ozello Boat ramp, which I don’t know if I’d actually call it a boat ramp more of a shallow draft boat launch. The actual ramp is pretty torn up payment and the grade is very shallow. But just to the west side of it there is a fairly nice spot to launch a kayak from. You can pull your vehicle right next to the water and unload without having to worry about a cart or dolly. But this weekend I wanted to try the north side of the bay.
I had been scouting the bay over the week by looking at satellite images on Google Maps, Bing, Mapquest and Google earth trying to pick out a route that would present the best opportunity to land a Grand Slam of Trout, Redfish and Snook. The last two being elusive species for me, I’ve really been wanting to get hooked up on one if not both. I grew up fishing in East TN but never really had someone teach me to Bass fish, and I’ve only caught a Bass a handful of times in my life. That to say this, the thrill of hooking up on a large Bass is an absolute thrill and a lot of fisherman say hooking up on snook is probably just as thrilling if not more. So Snook is high on my priority list. But I digress, after scouting the bay and going from memory of scalloping trips I remember the north side of the bay being more grass flats and scattered oyster bars intermingled between mangrove islands as opposed to the south side which is a bit more shallow and not near as many grass beds. But this entire place is absolutely beautiful and serene. I could enjoy a day of just kayaking around the islands, but what day isn’t just a little better when you have a rod in the water, right? I was really looking forward to getting back out there and trying my luck. I had done the research and had a route planned out. I kept an eye on the weather, going to be partly to mostly cloudy. I had looked at the tides to figure out what time would present the best opportunity to land the most fish. Most avid fisherman know that an incoming tide is best followed by an outgoing, slack tides are usually a good time to eat a sandwich but if thats the only time you have to be on the water there are fish to be had even during a slack tide. The tides were in my favor: Max Low Around 6:30, Sunrise around 7:30, Max High around 12:30 falling to a min low around 5:00. So it was settled I wanted to be out there around 7:30-7:45 as the sun was coming up, another great time to fish even better.
I had chosen to put in at Fort Island Beach, a review of the area showed a path just to the left of the beach/park area that lead down through a stand of mangroves to the waters edge. I left at 6:30 and the drive out from Ocala is just over and hour so as I was getting there the sun had just come up and it was coolish morning. Where I wanted to put in was probably 50-75 yards from the parking area, so I hauled all my stuff down in 4 trips. Note to self gotta get a cart/dolly to make this trek easier. But overall nice little area to launch from, but take note and make sure to douse yourself with bug spray I was absolutely covered and eaten up by no-see-ums/sand fleas by the time I pushed off.
The route that I had chosen took me directly to the south of the launch area to a couple of oyster bars then east south east along the shoreline to an island that sits right in front of Camp Island, swing around in between the two and then head back fishing all of the structure I could find. I quickly got to the first oyster beds and anchored. Threw out my line with a 5″ jerk shad and on the 2nd cast reeled in a smallish trout. Today was going to be a great day!!! I sat in the same area for the first hour or so and had several bites and one more decent sized trout. The tide was starting to have a pretty good flow, so I figured I’d take advantage of it and drift back to the first island and fish along the way.
I didn’t catch anything till I had gotten to the north side of the island. As I approached another oyster bar I felt a nibble then another then a tug this had to be a nice size Red. All of the sudden the drag started to click, click, scream! This was it I had my mind set on grandeur once again, but as soon as I started to reel my hopes were dashed, another decent sized trout probably just in the slot. You will learn I rarely keep fish that I catch, I used to, but as I’ve gotten older I mainly practice Catch and Release. I go fishing for the fun and enjoyment of being on the water and testing my so called skills. If I were to take my fish that’d be one less that Id have a chance to catch the next time and everybody knows I need all the help I can get. But again, I digress, I continued on in between the islands and landed yet another trout this one was just under the slot. While I continued to fish I heard the undeniable sound of a blow hole surfacing. I quickly scanned the water and just about 100 yard to my back right was a couple of dolphins feeding on a school of fish that I must have paddled right over. I sat there and clicked on the GoPro to at least film the feeding since I was going to be hard pressed to catch anything this close to them.
After they were done I continued on and as I rounded the bend to head back the tide was on the later stages of the incoming, I suppose it was just around 11:00.
The thing about fishing the flats on a kayak is that one has to be very mindful of the tides. If you get caught in a heavy flow in the opposite direction of where you want to be it can be treacherous. So take it from someone that has made the mistake more times then once, PLAN YOUR TRIP! Today wasn’t going to be one of those days, I had timed it just about right. Took the incoming tide to my advantage to get back to he island and use the slack and beginning outgoing to paddle back. But making the final turn a little earlier than I had planned I would only have to paddle for a short time against the tide until it became a slack tide and then easy going or so I thought! The tide that I had so carefully planned on giving me an easy paddle back decided to flow with consistency right up till 12:00. Making the better part of the paddle back a fairly good bit of work, not the worst I’ve found myself in but enough that my back muscles were sore the next day. As I came back up on the oyster bars that I fished first I found that they were about 1-2 ft submerged and trout jumping all over them. I anchored up and got to fishing. I pulled in one more trout before deciding to call it day.
I had another great day on the water, landed several good trout and that Grand Slam is still yet to be had. I suppose that I’ll just have to start planning my next trip.
Until next time keep those lines wet.