Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beautiful Myakka River offers great snook fishing for kayak anglers

Jack Hartman of Sarasota, Fla., battles a small Myakka River snook that he fooled with a MirrOlure MirrOdine.
I have added a new trip to my arsenal. During the winter, I’ll be taking those interested to fish the Myakka River, a tidal river that begins near the Hardee-Manatee County line and empties into Charlotte Harbor.

Designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic river, the Myakka is home to some fine winter snook fishing. In addition, largemouth bass, bluegill, speckled perch, gar, redfish, spotted seatrout, tarpon and other species inhabit the river.

One of the great things about fishing the Myakka is that you never know what’s going to hit your lure or fly. You might hook a 5-pound bass on one cast. It could be a 20-pound snook the next.

We usually launch at Snook Haven, a quintessential Florida riverfront restaurant/bar located at 5000 East Venice Avenue, Venice, Fla. Telephone number is (941) 485-7221. To get there,take Interstate 75 to exit 191. Head west about a mile and turn left at the Snook Haven sign.

There’s a $5 launch fee, but Snook Haven usually is closed when we arrive. So, we pay the fee when we’re done fishing.

We like to fish the outgoing tide. That’s when snook and other species seem to bite the best. We also have good luck on the slack tide. The incoming tide usually isn’t so great.

We begin fishing just as soon as we launch, targeting fallen trees and stumps along the deeper sides of the river. Generally, the outside bends of the river are deepest.

For this fishing, medium, to medium heavy tackle is best. We load our reels with 15-pound braided line and use 25-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Our lures of choice include Bagley’s Bang-O-Lure, D.O.A. 5 ½-inch jerk worm, Bomber Long A, D.O.A. Shrimp, and D.O.A. BFL.

Fly anglers won’t want to have anything less than an 8-weight rod in their hand. Floating and sinktip lines are preferred. Those using floating lines will want at least a 9-foot 12-pound leader with 25-pound fluorocarbon shock tippet. For a sinktip line, use a 6-foot, 12-pound leader with a heavier tippet.

Cold is the key. The colder, the better. The river is an excellent place during times of nasty weather. And nasty weather often means decent snook action.

Snook migrate up the Myakka when the water begins to cool in late fall. They’ll remain in the river until spring. Snook are not very tolerant of cold water, so they move up coastal rivers in search of warmth.

I first began fishing the Myakka in the 1970s. During those days, I was targeting mainly largemouth bass in the portion of the river that runs through Myakka River State Park. I began targeting snook in the 1980s.

One trip that stands out was when Capt. Rick Grassett, Capt. Jonnie Walker, Capt. Roy String and I fished the river on a cold, overcast December day. We caught several hefty snook on plugs and soft plastics. Top snook went about 12 pounds.

I also fished the river a couple of times with Dave Miller of Bass Tamer Guide Services (941) 915-9073. Miller is a bass guide who fished Lake Istokpoga and other lakes most of the year. If we have a severely cold winter, he’ll head for the Myakka.

No matter if I catch fish or not, I love fishing the Myakka. Her banks are lined with stately oaks and cabbage palms. It’s the way Florida looked hundreds of years ago.

A great thing about the river is that you won’t encounter many boats. And if you do, they won’t be speeding. It’s slow or idle speed throughout Sarasota County.

Most days, however, we don’t see other anglers.

We do see wild hogs, deer, osprey, bald eagles and maybe even an alligator or two.

The worst trip I’ve ever had on the Myakka was pretty darn good!

This winter hasn’t been too terribly bad, but we’ve had our share of cold weather. Snook are up the river and they’re blasting topwater plugs, jerk worms and suspending plugs.

If you’re looking for something different, you might want to give the Myakka River a try.

Give me a call at (941) 284-3406. I’ll be glad to introduce to the river. You’ll enjoy kayaking the river and catching snook.


  1. Steve, your posts continue to make me jealous... 8 degrees here in MI. Can't wait to get my Ultimate back on the water and touch some fish!

  2. Anyone out there who wants a great day , great scenery , and great fishing should go with Steve on the Myakka . I did and had a blast !

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  4. Hello steve I,m a dutch angler and in holland you don't see much people fishing with a kayak. fore me it's a way of fishing i like verry much

    Best regards

    Ben van Kapel

  5. Could you tell me what tide chart you use to determine water level in the river from Snook haven on up river. I think the river is a better view but is the fishing just as good down river? Does the tide get hard to paddle against and dose dry spell cause the water level to become a factor good or bad. I should just call you for this information, but I thought others would find this information helpful. thanks John