There’s no denying that Florida is a great state to fish and when I saw my work schedule was going to allow me several days off, I asked a couple of my friends if they’d like to take an exploratory trip down towards the Florida Big Bend region.
The Saint Mark’s River is classified by the Florida department of environmental protection as “Outstanding Water”. It is home to numerous types of wildlife like alligators, manatees, eagles and bass. We were after the bass and especially the beautiful Suwannee Bass that it holds.
We met at the Highway 98 bridge boat ramp on the Saint Mark’s River and immediately noticed that it was a tidal river. The section of river we had chosen is still fresh water but the water fluctuates about 4 feet with the gulf of Mexico tides. This was going to be a totally new experience for me because I’d never fished a tidal river.
The river water was typical Florida tannic water, stained almost to the color of coffee, yet extremely clear. I headed up stream from the ramp pedaling against a fairly strong current, which was no match for my Jackson Coosa FD. I pitched a finesse worm and a small square bill crank bait at the grass patches I could see yet had no luck. The further I traveled, the shallower it got and I could tell the river bed was changing. The first half mile had been mud or sand but now it’s more limestone bottom and there were more blowdowns in the water. I came on to a felled tree in the river that created a large eddy below it. I tossed my square bill up close to the base of the tree and immediately got bit. After a short fight a beautiful little Florida largemouth came to the surface. After he was safely released I caught three more on the same downed tree. I could see more woody obstructions in the water up river and I decided to target the slack water below them in hopes of more bass.
As I eased up the river tossing my little finesse worm I spotted several deer moving along the banks, an eagle overhead and an old barred owl on the limb of a giant live oak. I couldn’t help but wonder how it must’ve felt to the earliest native Americans then the Spanish explorers that came through the area, to travel along this beautiful river. I doubt it looked much different because as I approached a mile and a half upriver from the ramp, all signs of civilization were gone.
I spied a large pine laying in the water that created another large eddy. I quietly slipped into casting range and placed the finesse worm right where the tree entered the water. After several twitches with my rod tip I had a solid bite. This fish fought harder and at first I thought I had a much larger fish. It was a Suwannee Bass that weighed about a pound. The Suwannee is known for it’s beauty and brawn and this little Jewel lacked neither in those categories. They are, in my opinion the prettiest of all the black bass species.
I ended up traveling two and a half miles up river and in that time span I saw the beautiful Saint Mark’s river morph from a swift to almost no current due to the incoming tide. Passed many springs that feed this beautiful flow and to my surprise discovered that the banks held some very unique limestone outcroppings. I caught numerous bass and saw nature that many folks only see in books. Without a doubt, if you are in the Big Bend region of Florida, put the beautiful Saint Mark’s on your list of fishing destinations.
Thank God for little plastic boats.