Lake Manatee is a 2,500 body of water located nine miles west of Interstate 75 off State Road 64 in Manatee County
It's a great fishing lake that supplies drinking water for Bradenton and other parts of the county.
I propose the name of the lake be changed. County commissioners should rename it Gibby's Lake.
Reason is that I feel like it's my own private fishing spot. On many occasions, I'm the only angler on the lake. Usually, it's just me, my kayak, fly rods and fish.
Can it get any better?
Gibby's Lake, er, Lake Manatee isn't and easy lake. First timers often struggle when trying to figure the old gal out. But once you put in a little time, you can eliminate slow area and discover productive spots.
It's a fly anglers' dream. Hand-sized bluegill are plentiful. Bass are obliging. In fact, I rarely even target bass. I catch them inadvertently as I cast small poppers or my Myakka Minnow for bluegill.
Shellcracker, speckled perch and feisty channel cats also are willing.
Recently, I've been averaging about 100 fish per trip. One day last week, I caught and released 111 fish, including 102 bluegill, five shellcracker, one bass and three channel catfish (4, 8 and 10 pounds).
I've discovered over the last month that if I paddle to the mouth of Gilley Creek, I'll catch less fish but more quality. Typically, I'll get 20 hand-sized bluegill, maybe a speckled perch, several nice bass and perhaps a channel catfish.
Speckled perch (also known as black crappie) are incidental catches now, but they'll become typical in a month or so as the weather cools. And Lake Manatee specks average 2 pounds. They're great fighters on light fly tackle.
I use a 6-weight fly rod for bass so that I can toss big poppers. For bluegill and other panfish, I usually cast a 1-weight. Top flies are my Myakka Minnow, Aunt Sara's Homely Daughter Nymph and my FLY Nymph.