Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol. 38 - No. 1 - Page 7

by David A. Brown WINTER LOW WATER WONDERLAND AIRBOATS & KAYAKS GRANT ACCESS TO COLD SEASON OASES I t’s like shooting fish in a barrel – but the barrel is really difficult to reach. It’s the annual winter bounty of geographically isolated fish on Florida’s West Coast where anglers who time the tides and employ the right access methods – those being airboats and kayaks – will find lightsout potential. The cooler months see the year’s lowest tides and when the powerful flow of a new or full moon cycle combines with a strong north wind, these forces can drive most of the water off the shallow flats. This leaves loads of redfish, speckled trout, snook, sheepshead and other fish trapped in deeper holes and troughs between the shoreline and the outer sand bars. Impossible to access by motorboat and typically too far for waders to reach without arriving exhausted, these backwater oases are ideal for airboaters and kayakers who can blow or paddle across mud puddles to reach the deep spots where trapped fish readily grab practically any bait thrown their way. Essential to success in this scenario are the schools of mullet that gather during the cool season. The vegetarian mullet ignore the shrimp, crabs and baitfish that flush from the sea grass as a rumbling school passes overhead. However, predators such as redfish, trout and snook follow the mullet and pick off the easy meals. Find the mullet and you’ll find more game fish. Close Contact Their designs also allow these vessels the ultimate up-close-and-personal angling experience. Gulf Coast guide Capt. Greg DeVault runs airboat charters in Charlotte Harbor each winter. He said this scooting ability comes in handy when prospecting the region’s countless potholes. “I can ease right up the edge of a hole without disturbing the fish,” DeVault said. “When it’s time to move on, I can slide over to the next hole.” Capt. Jason Stock, who guides kayak anglers from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor, likes the stealth factor of his chosen vessel, along with the easy transition to fishing on foot. “Because you’re sitting so low to the water, you can sneak right up on the fish and they never even know you’re there,” he said. “And if you want to get out and wade, you just anchor your ‘yak on a bar, get out and walk to the fish.” Getting There Airboats and kayaks both have their place in this game and you’ll find pros and cons for each. Want to paddle or portage through a narrow mangrove creek? Kayaks will go where airboats can’t fit. Like the spontaneity of launching anywhere you can reach the water? Airboats require launch ramps, while kayakers can drop in from any beach. On the other hand, range and speed are much greater with the big fan. Time management is also easier with an airboat, as kayaking takes more time getting from spot to spot. It’s no big deal as long as you plan your day wisely and commit to a couple of key areas. Nevertheless, a long trip home is obviously less exerting in an airboat. (Fo ȁ