Kayaking Bunch Beach
<p>There was no water to speak of when I got there, and I had to load my boat up on the Wheeleez balloon tired kayak cart and walk it quite a ways. Just before I got to the water the kart snagged on some of the stuff sticking up, and the kayak came off. I was almost to the water and just dragged it the rest of the way. I didn't find out until the end of my trip that a little park I passed along the way shortly before I got to the beach has two nice canoe/kayak launches that leave you a short paddle out of the creek from the beach. I saw the nature walks and restroom building, but never imagined it would have launches. The place wasn't even there the last time I went to Bunch Beach!
With the Manta Ray floating in mere inches of water I mounted up and took off. Both the Manta and the Ultimate are extremely stable, and easy to get in and out of, even for an old guy like me. And, the patented seating invented by CEO, Andy Zimmerman, is fabulously comfortable, and breathes like nothing you ever sat on. Coming back to kayaks I thought I would favor the SOT over the hybrid, but I think that if you pressed me for which is my favorite I'd have to say it's the Ultimate, simply because it has so much open room in it. But, it's not a boat you'd want to take out in real rough stuff where you could take a lot of water over the gunwales. Anything that comes into a hybrid has to be hand-pumped out.
I hadn't been floating long before I realized the fresh incoming tide was just sucking me down the beach toward Estero with a northwest wind helping. At one point I recorded nearly 6 knots on the GPS! Let's see now. Where are the breaks on this thing? I knew from experience the bottom would be far too hard out there for me to use a stake-out pole, so I didn't even bring it. It was anchor time. That was the only way I would be able to make more than on passing cast to any area. I didn't think "drive by" fishing would cut it.
My first hit was a big one, and I couldn't believe a fish could smack a lure that hard and not get connected. But, it happened more than once. A short distance from there I caught a couple of gag grouper, several trout, and a flounder, and later capped that off with a large pinfish on a jig. My good fishing buddy John Hitt would be proud of me. He has a knack for hooking pinfish on jigs, and does it nearly every time we fish. You've gotta be quick!
I moved out to deeper water for a while and fished, but couldn't buy a bite there. So, I went up a creek and explored for a while, but the narrowness of it, the strong current, and by this time strong breeze made it impossible to fish.
It was now past noon, and I decided to head back toward the launch and explore another creek to the west. Now, there were lots of people on the beach, as well as some pole anglers, and some folks castnetting mullet in the mouth of the creek. There was also an older guy having fun on a paddle board, and was having no problem standing up and paddling. I learned later he is 71 years old.
I made my way up the beautiful creek, and guess what I came upon? Yep. The park I had seen as I drove by that morning. To my great surprise, there were two kayak/canoe launches that are blocked so that you can't back your car into the water, but can easily lunch your kayaks. And, they're carpeted!! Yes. What a nice touch to save the bottom of your boat. I chatted with a lady who was sitting on the carpet by the water having her lunch. She told me the park was pretty much brand new. I saw two of the park rangers talking at the other ramp and went to talk to them. They were very nice, and told me that this is part of a concerted effort to cater to kayaks and canoes, and to help grow the sport. That was very nice to hear, and I hope there will be more such facilities built around the county in the future.
That was my morning. A nice, relaxing little exploring and fishing trip. Oh! I forgot to mention. Coming back up the beach to the launch, I was still bucking a very strong tide and breeze. I used the little Watersnake on the high-speed setting for the first time. I was amazed that even against the wind and current, it propelled the Manta Ray at 2.9 knots. It's an impressive little motor.
I don't recall if I mentioned it last week, but I'm very happy to say that I have been accepted into the Native Watercraft Pro-staff Endorsed Guide Program. One of the requirements is that I use and promote only Native Watercraft products, which is perfectly reasonable and fine by me. I'm big on brand loyalty. But, it necessitates that I sell the Freedom Hawk 12 that I had already bought and rigged. It receives very high marks from the kayak angling writers as the best stand up and fish kayak. I have taken it to Florida Paddle Sports for Jory to sell, and have ordered two new boats; a 14.5 Ultimate Angler, and 14.5 Manta Ray Angler, both in camo color which is really cool.
If you'd like to see the Freedom Hawk you can see it a Florida Paddle Sports, which is in the new shopping center at the corner of Pine Island Road and Burnt Store Road. As soon as I realized what was going on, I made it a point not to ever put the boat in the water. It came with a threaded pedestal for battery mounting, to which I engineered a proper battery box for a PC-925 Odyssey battery. It comes with a brand new Minn Kota Endura 30# trolling motor with a 30" shaft and extending handle, and is mounted to the very nice trolling motor bracket available from Freedom Hawk. I had Danny at Fowler Marine extend the battery cables from the Endura, so it's ready to go, and the motor can easily be operated from the stand-up position. I never put it in the water, but based on how the 18# thrust Watersnake motors push my Natives, the Freedom Hawk ought to cover a lot of ground quickly when need be, with a 30# motor.
About The Author: Captain Butch Rickey
Company: The Bar Hopp'R
Area Reporting: Backcountry fishing and flats fishing in the waters of Pine Island around Sanibel Island, Captiva Is
Bio: Capt. Butch Rickey spent much of his youth growing up on Sanibel and Captiva, near Ft. Myers, and has fished the waters of Pine Island Sound for much of his 60-plus years. Capt. Butch specializes in light tackle live-bait fishing for snook, redfish, tarpon, and trout in Pine Island Sound, but will be happy to accomodate any other type of fishing you want to do. You'll enjoy fishing the beautiful clear water of the shallow grass flats, mangrove keys, potholes, and oyster bars. You'll marvel at the wildlife on, in, and above the water. You'll see Florida as you always imagined it would be. A Barhopp'R trip will satisfy the fisherman, hunter, and sightseer in you. Capt. Butch is an instructional guide, and gives you only the best Shimano Stella reels and St. Croix Legend and G. Loomis rods to use. Butch is U.S. Coast Guard licensed, insured, experienced, and provides fishing license, bait, ice, digital camera, cell phone, and lots of advice and coaching when needed. He will work hard to put you on the fish.