Out of all the ways to fish, kayak fishing is my new favorite!
I've always liked to fish. From shores, boats, riverbanks, docks, piers, and even through the ice in Michigan during the winter.
But down here on Florida's gorgeous Emerald Coast, I have found what just may be the best way to fish yet: From a kayak.
That's the verion I used in the photo above, taken as we were leaving Santa Rosa Sound off Fort Walton Beach after an afternoon on the water fishing for redfish and speckled trout.
What a spectacular sunset. And what an awesome way to experience it, sitting a few inches on top of the water, watching the first stars of the night sparkle in a sky turning from deep purple to black as the lingering traces of the sun still tinged the horizon bright orange.
Regular readers of this blog know that, for years, I have wanted to get a kayak. But which kind? How would I use it?
I knew I wanted to seriously fish from it and I wanted to be able to use it pretty much anywhere we went. That ruled out a recreational kayak. Or an inflatable one. Or one of those interlocking ones that break into two sections for storage.
The Slayer Propel Fishing Kayak
The one you see me on above is the one I have decided on, a 10 foot long Slayer Propel 10 by Native Watercraft. I used it with kayak fishing guide Dave Posey, who runs a Kayak Fishing Destin. It's an awesome company that takes anglers out into the Gulf of Mexico and inland waters in pursuit of a stunning variety of fish.
You navigate this kayak by pedaling. It feels much like pedaling a recumbent bicycle. You can, of course, navigate by paddling the kayak. But the pedaling allows your hands to be free to handle your rod, change baits, drink some water, take photos.
The Native brand allows you to pedal forward and backward, making it very easy to get around structures like docks, rocks, and stumps. Kayak fishing is stealthy. You can sneak right up on the most easily spooked species.
I'll share more about the kayak – bought through Dave from Half Hitch of Destin, where he works as their kayak pro – after I pick it up in a few weeks. Jennifer and I have to head home to Michigan for the holidays but will be right back to the Emerald Coast after Christmas.
The Propel 10 is ten feet long (an easy fit inside our RV) and weighs 59 pounds. It is so stable that anglers can stand up to sight cast. If you have to ask about the price, move on. These are serious kayaks over $2,000. Casual or recreational kayakers can find much cheaper models.
A Wonderful Day of Kayak Fishing
But what I want to share is how much fun I had fishing from a kayak.
We launched from the dog park in Fort Walton Beach where I take Bo every morning and headed out into the sound. We caught redfish and trout, using live shrimp. That's what we were targeting for this trip.
But you can catch just about anything in the nearby waters.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Dave has caught sailfish and cobia, huge fighting fish which battled him for an hour and hauled him two miles out into the gulf. He's also caught shark, grouper, amberjack, tuna and lots of other species.
I was surprised by how much fun it was pedaling a kayak. But it was also strenuous. I admit I was huffing pretty good a couple of times there as I tried to keep up with Dave.
We fished flats and dropoffs in an incoming tide. I was captivated by the beauty of the sound. Most of the time, we were 50 or so yards offshore, slowly drifting with the water. At one point, we watched a large osprey devouring a fish he had just caught from a perch atop a dead tree onshore.
It was a cool day, with an air temperature of about 64 and a water temperature of 72. I was in shorts and a light jacket. Dave was in a sweatshirt, knit hat and waterproof waders. He's a Florida boy so he thought it a bit nippy. For me, a Midwesterner, 60 degrees is shorts weather.
We released all the fish we caught, taking hurried photos of them to remember their sleek beauty.
If you've never tried kayak fishing and are heading down this way, call Dave and book a trip. It will be a highlight of your travels.
More to See!
Here is a video of My Maiden Voyage of My New Fishing Kayak, which I took after returning at Christmas to pick up my new kayak. You can see how much I really enjoy it.
But I admit it. I was hooked on kayak fishing just as much as the fish were on shrimp.
I'm planning lots of trips.
If you like kayaking as much as me, check out the Best RV Camper Kayak Racks.
Mike and Jennifer's Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!
We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.
Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter.
That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys.
Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.
Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content!
FAQ's about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers
What is the weather like along Florida's Gulf Coast?
The weather along Florida's Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.
The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.
You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.
By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.
Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?
While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.
Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.
Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?
One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities.
The service works – but it is not free.
Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.
The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.
Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?
Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you'll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.
But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?
Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.
There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.
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