Last Saturday I decided I wanted to do some scouting around 7 Palms, primarily to see what the conditions were like in anticipation of possibly coordinating a hike in with the ShadontheFly and Orlando Kayak Fishing Club Facebook groups. Rather than run solo, I decided to check with Ray to see if he was available, and he was happy to join me.
I picked up Ray around 9:00am and after a quick stop for gas and provisions, we made the 45 minute drive out to Tosohatchee. We were on the water around 10:30 and were quickly greeted with overcast skies and drizzly rain.
We made the run down to 7 Palms in 15-20 minutes where a couple of airboats had parked early, in spite of the rain. We gave them wide berth and began fishing where the channel splits in two, one side headed towards Mud Lake, and one side becoming the slough that heads to Paw Paw Mound.
We found plenty of activity in this area and the turns downstream on the slough, but getting them to bite was a different story. It was clearly shad rolling, and at times, they were literally rolling within rod’s length from your feet.
I had a heavy tip attached to my line from fishing with Ron downstream earlier in the week, which I quickly shifted to an intermediate tip and a size 10 beadchain Kip Tailed Clouser, and just as quickly switched to a floating tip with an unweighted size 10 Gambusia Hair Wing pattern. After working the area upstream 5 steps at a time, and Ray working downstream, we never managed shad, but picked up several bluegill and shellcrackers along the way.
Of important note, while there were indeed good numbers of fish around 7 Palms, there was also still quite a bit of water in between where the trail in to the area ends, and the shelter. What was not wet, was still very mucky as it had not had much time to dry out. While we have hiked in in similar conditions before, the trek from the trail to the shelter was mucky enough to be shin deep in areas, pulling at your boots, and enough to cause some pretty significant soreness behind the knees the next day caused by slogging and twisting your way through it. I opted to not organize a hike this week, but potentially may do so next week depending on the conditions and work schedule. Also, the alligators were much more active than last trip with the warmer temps, and with the overcast sky, seemed to prefer being in the water over being on bank. I counted four total in the water around us while we fished.
We decided to motor downstream for a bit and fished a couple of bends that produce regularly, and were greeted with more rain and a muddy landing, making it a bit of a struggle to get up the slippery cut bank. Again there were plenty of fish, but we could not buy a bite. Ray walked down another turn, and his effort paid off. He was the winner of the day, catching his personal best!
Not soon after Ray caught this fish, I gave up on the turn upstream, and decided to pull the canoe down to a sandier landing. About that time, another shad addict stopped by for a visit, and Ray and I enjoyed a beer and a snack and talked all things shad with the master himself.
After a frosty refreshment and some good conversation, we all made our way back upstream, some of us faster than others. The swift current and an airboat diversion made our trek more “interesting,” but we did manage to get some fishing in together.
Another note about this section of river accessible from Tosohatchee is that there is significant airboat traffic, and unlike around C.S. Lee and the Econ, they do NOT slow down for small vessels. I have even had a couple buzz us 10 feet from shore while unloading the canoe at the launch. While my little boat does alright dealing with the wake of a regular boat/ airboat (although it can get a little dicey stretched to the weight limit with two aboard,) I would not want to take on the wake that the big tour boats from Midway create with a full load of tourists. If you are in a small boat, be extra careful, and do everything you can to get out of their way. Even then, they may play chicken with you. Just ask Ray! 🙂
Mark caught the only shad, and as the sun was getting low, Ray and I decided to call it a day and head back to the launch before it got too dark. Evidently it is a 3rd degree felony to be on those dirt roads after dark, according to some regulars that had received a warning from FWC in the past.