Thursday, October 24, 2013

Myakka's back and fish are hungry for flies

Patrick O'Connor battles one of many bluegill on light fly rod at Myakka River State Park.

While I fish mostly in salt waters, those who know me are aware that I truly love to fly fish in fresh water.

Guess it goes back to my roots of catching bluegill when in the infancy of my angling.

When I have a couple of days off from guiding, I often head to a local lake or river with light fly rods and a box full of panfish flies. As long as I have a few nymphs, Myakka Minnows and poppers, I'm set for the day.

Kathy and I recently had company. Pat and Vicki Golliver of Muskegon, Mich., came to Florida for the first time. While here, we were good hosts and showed them around. They wanted, of course, to see alligators, so we took them to Myakka River State Park. Park officials estimate there are between 500 and 1,000 alligators in the upper lake.
Speckled perch are plentiful in the lake.

First thing I noticed was the abundance of aquatic vegetation in the water. That was good news to me. Park officials had eradicated most of the lake's vegetation over the past 15 years in an effort "to return the park to its original, natural state."

Hyacinths and hydrilla are exotic weeds and not native to Florida.

While I agree that too much of either weed is bad, a little of both is good. Especially hydrilla. This subsurface plant is great habitat for bait and gamefish such as largemouth bass, bluegill, speckled perch, shellcracker and other species.

Bluegill feed on minnows washing over the dam.
While at the park, we walked down to the dam. Our guests saw a couple of alligators. I saw literally thousands of plump, hand-sized bluegill slurping tiny minnows as they washed over the dam. I immediately envisioned bluegill taking my trusty Myakka Minnow.

Next day, I launched my Jackson Kilroy kayak and paddled across the lake to a spot that looked pretty fishy. I did OK there. I caught several bluegill, speckled perch and tilapia on a No. 12 nymph under a strike indicator. When the action slowed, I paddled to the dam and anchored just above it.

Bluegill were plentiful and feeding heavily on small minnows.

Obligatory alligator shot.
I cast a Myakka Minnow and let it sweep downriver with the current. Almost immediately, a feisty bluegill inhaled my offering. It was the first of more than 100 bluegill I caught that day.

Next day, Patrick O'Connor of North Port joined me. We spent an hour across the lake and caught a dozen bluegill, a couple of speckled perch and a

tilapia. We then headed for the dam. At first, we anchored above the dam and caught fish on virtually every cast. Then, we pulled anchor and drifted over the dam.

Nice bluegill on a nymph.
We caught fish consistently all day. The Myakka Minnow worked well in the faster water. Along the sides of the river, we used nymphs under strike indicators. Patrick caught fish on every cast on poppers alongside the dam.

"I don't have a clue how many fish we caught," he said. "Conservatively, I'd say we each caught more than 100."

In addition to bluegill, we caught speckled perch, largemouth bass, shellcracker and tilapia.
Next day, I started out at the dam. However, I noticed that the water level was down slightly. The bottom of my kayak scraped the top of the dam as I attempted to float over.

Once in the river, I found the fish still hungry for Myakka Minnows. I also caught bluegill on nymphs and popping bugs.

I guess that I caught nearly 200 fish.

The action should remain good as long as there's water flowing over the dam.

I have fished Upper Myakka Lake since 1975. It's long been known as a very good bass lake. But it also has a decent population of panfish.

I'm glad to see the fishing improve.

As long as there's a decent amount of aquatic vegetation in the lake, fishing will be good.


  1. Very Nice bluegill i hope i can see it closely.. so rare fish for me.. nice 1 Gibby. Guided Deschutes River Fly Fishing Oregon

  2. Fishing in river full of crocodiles. Sounds dangerous but if you caught many big fish its definitely worth the try. Best All Star Seattle Fishing Capt Gary Krein