May 2017 article for Big Bend Coastal Angler Magazine
by: Gary Droze
Truth is a Stranger to Fishin’
Nothing is certain but death, taxes, and that if you ask successful anglers where they caught their fish, they will lie their windbreakers off. Such fibbery is in keeping with the hallowed aura of deception and guile that is a part of fishing like sand is a part of the beach. Typical was one moment from last year’s Rock the Dock Tournament in Panacea. A beaming boy had just claimed the redfish leader board spot, and the tourney emcee gamely quizzed the kid on which part of Apalachee Bay produced the fine upper slot drum.
Junior’s opaque reply was “The wet part.”
Clearly, this lad was brought up right, as in: the right way to respond to questions about your hotspot
involves tight lips and a cheese-eating grin. Bravo. That said, as a service to Big Bend anglers, and a middling attempt to make up for my own sub-truthful fish tales, I’m revealing a No Kidding, Cross My Heart and Hope to Die, Bona Fide Secret Spot. This revelation features the Hickory Mound Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Before September of last year, getting to Hickory Mound WMA was as simple as aiming towards Perry, Florida on Highway 98, turning south on Cow Creek Grade, and following it for six miles, until it turns into Coker Road, which rings the impoundment and offers primitive launches into a wondrous maze of creeks that begin barely a mullet toss from the flats. But Tropical Storm Hermine nixed easy driving access, pounding those impoundment roads into an impassable state. For eight months, the reds, trout, and flounder around Hickory Mound have been growing fat, happy, and mostly unmolested by fisherfolk. If you’d like to molest them – and are willing to wade and/or portage a light paddlecraft – follow these directions:
- Take Highway 98 to Econfina River Road (CR 14).
- Follow CR 14 south for 5 miles.
- Just before reaching Econfina River State Park, turn left on Leroy Tedder Grade. You’ll know it’s the correct road if within 30 seconds you find yourself crossing a cringingly skimpy bridge over the river.
- Tedder Grade will change into Martin Grade. Within a mile, turn right on Grassy Road.
- Follow Grassy Road south for a half mile, then veer right on Spur 2.
- Follow Spur 2 until you chicken out (lots of deep ruts and one intermittent stream).
Spur 2 sort of gives up 100 yards from a tidal pool that serves as the starting point for an unnamed creek that cries out for exploration. The coordinates are 30.042819, -83.900876. On my visit last month, that creek was 90% redfish, 10% water.
Would I lie to you?