July 30, 2008

The Bradenton Herald, Fla., Nick Walter Column

By Nick Walter, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.

Jul. 30--MANY CHOICES FOR ANGLERS: Manatee County offers freshwater anglers without boats almost unlimited haunts and honey holes, but the problem, of course, can be finding those spots.

At all of the below spots, fishing the first hour of daylight is best, unless you're fishing docks.

If you're fishing docks during the daytime, target shady sections where tasty panfish tend to congregate. Anglers can use light line, such as 4-pound test, and small hooks. Just use worms or crickets -- free-line worms, which will sink, but add a small weight when using floating crickets.

When fishing bridges, bring a small bridge net and lower it about 2 feet under the surface. Have the net already in the water, then guide a fish into the net. Try fishing at night, dropping a lantern just off the water. Many anglers use extension poles for speckled perch.

Besides shoreline fishing, another option is wade-fishing. This is recommended at your own risk. Gators, as we know, can be thick.

Capt. Doc Lee, a freshwater fly-fishing guide out of Lake Evers, has personally never had problems with gators.

"A lot of people have called me an idiot," Lee said. "I've waded with gators a long time, and I've been OK as long as I was standing up. That doesn't mean they won't attack. I just haven't been challenged by them. Those are wild gators, too, and I've never been where their young ones were. If one had been fed in a pond or lake it might be a whole different ballgame."

That said, head east to the sticks, bring plenty of worms and check out these spots:

--Lake Manatee: Anglers can take S.R. 64 east and enter Lake Manatee State Park on the left. The entire eastern side of the lake can be waded. The docks are great for fishing the shaded areas. In addition, anglers can fish the 675 bridge, 64 bridge, and Verna/Bethany Bridge.

--Lake Evers: Try anywhere you can find from the shoreline. However, Lee said there's not a lot of quality wading opportunities.

--Rye Bridge on the Upper Manatee River Road: The whole area can be fished from the shoreline.

--Cooper Creek: From I-75 heading south, head west on University, then take a left on Honore Avenue Just after passing through The Meadows Country Club, take the dirt road to the left that dead-ends at the lake. All along the lake, there are openings in the shoreline. There's also a boat dock and fishing pier. Cast away and expect possible action on bluegill, shellcracker, and catfish.

--Myakka State Park: Most people don't wade the lake because of thick gators. However, if you hit Wauchula Road between S.R. 64 and S.R. 70, north of Myakka City, you'll come to a couple of bridges. Fish the small feeder creeks below. A good bet is catfish.

--Duette Park: Capt. Lee said on Trail 1 going through the park, there's a good bridge to fish from. But he added the ponds here aren't worth fishing because they're so numerous and underfed.

Good luck.

Nick Walter, outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-8013.


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