One Tank Trips
This month’s journey is to Bayport, located at the end of 550, off of US 19 in Hernando County. Bayport was established in the early 1850’s, was used primarily to bring in supplies for the surrounding area and was a cotton port. Bayport was designated the county seat in 1854. Two years later, the county seat was moved to the center of the county to an area named Brooksville, which is now the present town of Brooksville. Bayport was used by blockade runners after the Union forces had closed Florida’s major ports. Between 1863 and 1865, no less than eleven ships were captured. The Battle of Bayport occurred when Union ships approached Bayport and aroused Confederate forces. They began to fire with two old-style cannons, as well as, sharp shooters amongst the trees. Their cannonade was not overly effective as only one sailor was wounded in the shoulder. The Union responded with cannon fire and grape shot, but no record exists of the Confederate losses. In July 10, 1864, the Union landed approximately ten men. Finding that Confederate forces had abandoned the area leaving only women and children behind–they retired to their ships. Obviously, this was not one of the decisive battles of the war.
Bayport is located at the convergence of the Weeki Wachee and Mud rivers. The County has recently spent a considerable sum in updating the park, which also includes a boat ramp, kayak launch and fishing pier. The fishing pier is still down due to storm damage and they discovered the remains of a sunken ship, possibly from the same time zone as my story. Fishing and paddling around the Bayport area is excellent. Going back in from the river mouth, you will find a deep hole off the channel where the Mud and the Weeki Wachee Rivers join. This hole will hold a variety of fish including some very large gar, which can be a lot of fun to catch. It’s a good spot to try during the week but, on the weekends, you’ll find too much boat traffic to be effective for fishing.
Going from the fishing pier to the south, as you work your way along the shoreline, at the right times of year and at the high tide, we have caught monster reds–more than I’m willing to admit. You’ll also come across manatees and dolphins who love the warm water outflow from both the Weeki Wachee and Jenkins Creek, because they are both spring fed. The fishing along Jenkins Creek can be productive both at the mouth and inside the creek along the turn to the south. At that point, where it bends back around, fish those edges and don’t forget to try the middle and center areas for trout.
To the south of Jenkins Creek, you will find a broad band of small islands and creeks. The first of which, if you can find it, is a cut through to Centipede Bay–another of Hernando’s favorite fishing spots. Going to the north and to the outside, you will find grass beds and trout abound. Staying in along the shore line, you will come across many islands and cuts where both snook and reds are to be found.
Continuing to the north, you will come to the southern end of Pine Island Bay. Again, there are many excellent spots to fish. Look for structure, oyster bars and the cuts in between the islands on either incoming or outgoing tides. Fishing to the sides, off of the tidal run, will bring either a snook or a red to your hook. Spoons work well for exploring this area, as do top waters (like my favorite Zara Spook Jr. in bone) mainly during the early morning or on overcast days. Whether a paddler or not, Bayport makes an interesting destination and qualifies as one of the most beautiful sunsets on the Nature Coast. It also boasts the Bayport Inn, just back from the park–a great place to relax and enjoy a Grouper sandwich, a sunset and a beer.
Well, once again, time to hit the water for this month. Coming up, more great Nature Coast destinations.
Indian Bay Outfitters is Hernando County’s premier fishing guide with full and half-day charters available. Kayaks, tackle and gear are provided. Just bring your lucky hat and a good attitude, and be ready to see some pristine shoreline and great fishing.
Bruce Butler “The Stumbling Gypsy” (352) 428-5347 Bruce@IndianBayOutfitters.com