The following is a report from the Ocala National Forest during the summer of 2009:
In mid-July of the summer of 2009, I managed to escape the monotony of my job at a grocery store and drove down to Ocala Florida to do some freshwater kayak fishing with my dad. We decided to fish in Ocala since I had to be in Gainesville for an orientation anyways. Situated just outside of Ocala is the Ocala National Forest. The forest is one of the largest national forests in the state and has many small lakes that are perfect for kayak fishing.
The weather on the way down was iffy at best. The usual summer weather patterns had set in across the state and by the afternoon, huge thunderstorms have boiled up and begin to wander around aimlessly. It rained on and off during the whole trip and I thought that one particular storm at a rest stop looked picture worthy.
We arrived at Silver Springs (the little town between Ocala and the Nat. Forest) later in the day and found an old motel to spend the night in. After dinner, my dad and I sat back and relaxed to watch some TV and recover from the drive. My dad decided to take a shower before he went to bed and it wasn’t long before I heard a HUGE crash and a few choice words coming from the bathroom. I opened the door to discover that my dad had successfully destroyed our motel bathroom.
Note to self: Don’t put your foot on a sink in order to dry your leg off after getting out of the shower.
Management wasn’t particularly pleased, but probably more relieved that we hadn’t hurt ourselves and tried to sue. They moved us into a new room and the rest of the night went on uneventful.
The next morning we woke and drove into the forest. I picked out what appeared to be a good looking lake called Redwater lake in the middle of the forest. We missed the turn several times as we weren’t looking for a single-laned dirt road. Finally, we arrived and noticed that the water level was down quite a bit. What had once been a boat ramp for small boats was now about 10 feet from the closest wet spot. There was also about a 3 foot drop which would make backing a trailer down the hill impossible. Needless to say, there were no motor boats on the water. In fact, there were no other people. We soon had the kayaks launched and we began fishing.
The first thing I noticed about Redwater lake is the color of the water. Now, I’ve fished some VERY tannin stained water before, but this lake beats them all. If one could make black coffee…blacker, that might come close to describing this lake. Visibility was about 4 inches…maximum. It was almost creepy how dark the water was as I watched my kayak paddle disappear every time it touched the water. I threw a fly around for about thirty minutes before I gave up on that and resorted to drowning worms (I had yet to be bitten by the fly bug). I soon found a bed of bream and began pulling one after another into the kayak. One of the bluegill I caught was massive and is still, to this day, the biggest bluegill I’ve ever caught.
Fishing was rather difficult in that I could drop a worm in one spot and catch nothing, then drop the same worm, 6 inches away in a different spot and start to catch fish. I think that the water clarity, or lack there of, contributed to this. We fished Redwater for most of the day until I giant thunderstorm came up and chased us off with its lightning. My dad hooked and lost a nice bass on the fly rod and I caught a few more keeper bluegill.
The next day we fished another lake (who’s name escapes me) and didn’t have much luck. The water was clearer than Redwater, but certainly not clear. I missed a few bluegill on the fly and finally managed to pull one little bass out before another storm chased us away.
The last day we were down there, my dad and I launched the kayaks at a boat launch that leads into the Ocklawaha river. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the launch actually led into the end waters of Silver Springs just before it meets the river. The water was crystal clear and one could see fish swimming everywhere (although it was mainly all gar). There were “no fishing” signs posted everywhere so we continued paddling through the beautiful water until we met the Ocklawaha. The meeting of Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha was interesting. Crystal clear water meets coffee-tannin stained water and swirls into this bizarre colored mixture before finally turning near-black again. Unfortunately, this was the most interesting part of the day as we caught nothing worth noting aside from about 100 three inch bluegill on a worm.
Overall, the trip to fish the Ocala National Forest was a blast. It was nice to kill two birds with one stone by completing my orientation in Gainesville AND getting to fish the Nat. Forest. From what I’ve recently read in a magazine, the Ocala National Forest has several long creeks with many sand bars that are perfect for stopping and fishing. It may certainly be worth a float trip in the yaks. I’ll just need to make sure I do it before I graduate and move out of Gainesville.