Old Haunts

By: Dan Carns

It’s quite remarkable how an old fishing spot can remain one of your favorite places to fish year after year, even decade after decade. Of course, this doesn’t hold true for some places as overgrowth, pollution or total loss of habitat can completely alter a fishing hole. Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on Southwest Florida and many public launches are still unusable. My favorite place to launch in all of Southwest Florida is a free, Lee County kayak launch across the street from the Randal Research center in Pineland. I know some of you are saying to yourself don’t give this spot away as there are only about 6 spaces here but if it’s full you can always pay to launch at the Pine Island Marina just up the road.

There are two prevailing strategies for kayak fishing from here, some only go left or southeast out of the launch and some only go right or northwest. If you are not from the area there is a tendency to go straight out and while that will land you in an enormous trout flat, I would suggest that you turn left or right. The beauty of this particular area are the number of redfish and snook very close to shore and tarpon during the right season. Yes, I have fished both and while the left or southern direction lands you in stunning fish habitat including grass flats, remote inlets and a dozen mangrove covered Island including Big Panther and Josslyn Island, I belong to the other camp.

Big Jim Creek is a wild, untouched piece of Florida that holds a stunning amount of fish. As you pass the Pineland Marina on your right the water gets very skinny all the way to Big Jim Creek. Fishing this entire shoreline on a high tide will find reds and snook focused on chasing baits among the mangrove roots but on a low tide they are forced to hunt off of the shoreline making their presence known as they move about and feed. Tailing reds are not uncommon as they are heads down/tails up feeding on crabs and shrimp.

Once you enter the creek the water is very skinny until you reach the first jog and then it drops to six to eight feet and that’s where the real magic happens. I prefer to enter the creek on a low tide and wait until the water starts to move in driving the bait further inland. Paddletails can be effective but live bait rules here. Shrimp on a cork or my favorite, shrimp on a circle hook, Carolina rigged on the bottom. If tarpon are present, use a 2-5/8” MirrOlure MirrOdine suspending Twitchbait in Black Back/Orange bottom. Farther back are two right angled turns, one left and one right, both turns have productive holes. On a high tide all these same fish may move into the back country. Find a flat-water day and explore my favorite place, Big Jim Creek!