One of the coolest things about kayak fishing is how easy it is to simply load up your yaks and fishing gear, and simply go. It makes for some adventurous fishing, and let’s face it, it’s pretty fun to explore new areas and check out how different the fishery can be with a simple couple of hours travel time. Outlaws Buddy & Tony did exactly that on a recent trip to west Florida at a little spot simply known as Yankeetown. We’d both be making our first trip to fishing this area in our kayaks, but we’d picked the brain of a local friend, Zach Granoff, and knew exactly where we should fish. Armed with knowledge and anxious to fish a new area, we were ready for some Yankeetown Redfishin’.
Now keep in mind this is quite a little haul from Jacksonville, FL to Yankeetown, but it was well worth it. The trip began with my making an hour drive to meet up with Buddy, then another 1.5 hours or so to make it to Yankeetown. I crashed at Buddy’s house the night before so we could plan our trip and where we were going to fish. In all honesty, we weren’t even 100% sure that we’d be able to fish Yankeetown due to the winds that were howling during the day that Saturday. The weather forecast called for calm winds, but any fisherman can tell ya that the weatherman is never right when the wind forecast is concerned. At around 11p.m., we’d decided that it was getting way too late to keep on second guessing, so we crashed with our minds made up that we were heading to the nature coast to chase some redfish.Sunday morning arrived, and it arrived early. We were both up at 4a.m. ready for the day ahead of us. We quickly threw on our fishing attire, loaded up the yaks and fishing gear and headed southwest. The things we do to simply go fishing is amazing beyond belief! We’d planned on fishing a preserve called the Withlacoochee Bay Trail. This trail runs along a large barge canal and opens up to some amazing oyster bed lined flats, perfect for chasing redfish and many other inshore saltwater species. Of course as our luck would have it, we arrived at the entrance at roughly 7:15a.m., and the gates wouldn’t open until 8a.m. We decided to use that extra time to ensure our rods were rigged up and ready to go so we could hit the launch running. Once the gates opened we were on our way to our launch point. The barge canal runs about 5 miles or so from the gate entrance, but we were fortunate enough to be able to drive to within a mile of our fishing destination. We quickly got our Old Town Predator MX yaks unloaded at the end of the roadway, and carried them down to the water to push off. We only had roughly a mile paddle to reach the flats, and the tide running out made the paddle that much easier and quicker. We came to the entrance of the flats to notice we were at about mid tide of the outgoing. I prefer fishing low tide for several reasons. First, you get to easily see the landscape of the flats and find all the structure and secondly, tailing redfish. We decided to work one side of the shore and work our way slowly back on the other side. Buddy & I both started out throwing top water lures, myself throwing the K9 Walker from Tsunami Lures in the mullet pattern. The winds were in fact calm, and the waters extremely smooth but we couldn’t find any interested takers on the top water lures. We decided to pole a little deeper into a creek to try our luck around some of the oyster beds, which were starting to show.
We came upon a nice oyster bar stretching out across the entrance to a nice little cove, and I just knew there had to be a redfish in there. I threw just about everything I had at that cove, but couldn’t stir up anything. Top water, popping cork with a Gulp shrimp, jighead with a Gulp shrimp, but nothing was biting. At that time I noticed something crashing bait just up a little bit, so I decided to move up and give that area a shot. Buddy decided to pole into the cove where I was just working and ended up spooking out a fatty 24″ or so redfish. I suppose the redfish had absolutely no interest in the lures I was throwing at his direction. Buddy and I worked that little creek for a good little while, still with no luck. I then came upon a small sand bar just in front of a couple of finger creeks and eased up to bank myself so I could work both the whole area. Not even a minute of my getting set up, a big tail just popped into the air. It was a massive black drum a mere 10 feet in front of me and I pitched my Gulp shrimp perfectly in front of him. Nada! At this point, I was beginning to think my luck was going to be nonexistent for the day. The black drum disappeared just as quickly as he appeared, so I stood up to pole myself out of the area. As I stood up, I noticed something extremely large in the water for just a second, and it was gone. Of course, my immediate response as I yelled to Buddy was, “What the (adult expletive) was that?!!” It was pushing a massive wake, and my nerves calmed a bit once I realized it was simply a large manatee. Buddy later had a nice redfish chasing his spinner bait, but cut off as soon as soon as it noticed the yak.
It was getting later in the morning so we decided to throw down a quick snack and reevaluate our plan of attack in the center of the bay. At this point, we’d both seen a lot of redfish, but couldn’t seem to find one interested in our lures. All we had to show for our troubles at this point was a simple sail cat I’d hung into a little earlier in the day. It was so laid back and quiet on the water at this point that even the pelicans were lazily swimming by us.
After a quick snack and some bottled water, Buddy & I decided to try our luck on the other side of the flat. As soon as we crossed the canal to the other side, we immediately noticed a large black drum tailing right in front of us. Buddy pitched a Gulp shrimp on a new Gulp jighead perfectly in front of the tailing fish. It took only a second and it was fish on. Well, for a second anyway as the jig pulled. Our frustration didn’t last long, as we then noticed a massive redfish swimming right by us. We both took turns trying to entice this big redfish, casting and slowly retrieving, but couldn’t get her to commit. We then started moving further into the flats and decided to work a nice sand bar lined with oyster shells next to a deeper little cut. We beached our yaks, and got out to stretch our legs a few moments, when all of a sudden a 30+ inch redfish put her tail in the air as if to say “hello boys!”. That fish must’ve enjoyed the tease she put on as we both casted time and time again with absolutely no luck at all. It was a beautiful yet frustrating time as the redfish “waved” her tail at us again and again. We chased several redfish like that for the better part of the rest of the day, until Buddy finally got a redfish on the board. Just as he drifted up to a small island, he noticed a redfish busting bait, and tossed his lure in the area. As soon as the Gulp hit the water, the fish struck the lure and it was finally fish on! After a quick fight Buddy landed a beautiful 22inch redfish. After a couple of quick hero shots, she was released to the Stinky Pants Fishing stringer to come home for dinner.
Reinvigorated after finally hooking our elusive redfish, we started working some more islands and oyster mounds. We spotted another redfish chasing bait and as we eased up to make a cast, a massive tarpon exploded on some bait within 10 feet behind us. We threw at it a couple of times, knowing fully well that there was no chance of landing the massive fish on such light tackle, but it would have definitely made for an excited tale. We gave it the old “college try” for a little while longer, but the fish seemed to have disappeared and we decided to call it a day. We learned a good bit of the area on our first kayak fishing trip to Yankeetown, and came away more knowledgeable of the area. We believe the redfish and black drum were feeding on the small soft shelled crabs we witnessed all over the place, hence the disinterest in our lures. Lesson learned and we’ll be even more ready for our next trip for some Yankeetown Redfishin’.