Updated page, originally posted 10/7/17
While Florida’s Big Bend boasts the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the continental United States, it has surprisingly few places one can fish without a powerboat. There are several paddleboat launches, ranging from primitive to improved, but with no beaches or barrier islands, wade-fishing is a limited option. Piers are mostly for sunset viewing and bridges mostly cross small streams or creeks well above their mouths at the Gulf of Mexico.
Cedar Key’s Fishing Pier is conveniently located on Dock Street, near the city boat basin. There’s plenty of parking and you could throw a rock (or a sinker) and hit any one of the excellent restaurants that line the street and the Gulf front. Kika’s Bait Bucket is right next-door and they can give good advice regarding what’s biting. This new-ish concrete pier sticks out into the channel and has matured over the past few years, meaning its barnacles attract fish like black drum and sheepshead. Spanish mackerel often gather there, often in spring or fall. Hard running tides can make the pier difficult to fish, and heavier gear and sinkers are sometimes needed. However, if you remember that fish don’t like to work too hard for their supper, fishing slack tides, high or low, can be most productive. I recommend live shrimp or cut mullet, stuck on circle hooks, for this location.
Hagens Cove, dubbed the “park and wade” by Capt. Joey Landreneau, is a small Taylor County park located between Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach, off CR361. There are two shallow boat ramps and plenty of parking. If you’re traveling from Perry, to the north, you can buy tackle and supplies at Walter B’s store north of Keaton Beach on CR361. If you’re coming from the south, stop at Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marin (http://seahag.com)a for tackle, drinks, bait and advice. Wade fishing here is a good option, but you’ll need to shuffle out a fair distance to get to waist-deep water. However, launching small skiffs here will put you onto the flats off nearby Sponge Point that are famous for good catches of spotted sea trout. Shallow-running plugs like MirrOiure’s Catch 2000s (http://mirrolure.com) or Paul Brown Devils (http://mirrolure.com) are good choices for making long casts to spooky fish in this often-clear and shallow water. There’s plenty of parking here, as well as a covered picnic shelter and portable restrooms.
The beach adjacent to the St. Marks Lighthouse, in the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, is an excellent place to launch a canoe or kayak into the mouth of the St. Marks River. The lighthouse is located at the end of Lighthouse Road (CR59), about 10 miles from US98 in Newport. From the launch point, where there’s good parking, it’s a short paddle to the main channel and the shallow flat on its east side. Farther to the east, there plenty of unspoiled coastline to explore. Crossing the channel you’ll find more of the same, but a few more oyster beds. In either case, expect your main targets to be spotted seatrout, redfish and flounder. Getting bait, tackle and food will involve a trip to St. Marks proper, at either Shell Island Fish Camp or Shields’ Marina (http://www.shieldsmarina.com). But don’t miss the opportunity to get some oysters from Miss Dorthy at Ouzt’s Too!