This is a report from kayak fishing The Dead Lakes in Wewahitchka Florida during the summer of 2009.
The Dead Lakes are located right outside of Wewahitchka Florida. To give one an idea of where this is located geographically, I’d put it right between the middle of no where and oblivion. In all honesty, Wewahitchka is a small town located about 25 miles east of Panama City. The Dead Lakes are extremely unique to Florida. Years ago, the Chipola river was backed up by sandbars from the Apalachicola River. This resulted in a large amount of forested land to become submerged, killing tons of timber…hence the name Dead Lakes. Today, the lakes are covered with stumps and cypress trees which prove to be great habitat for fish.
My dad and I made a trip down to Wewahitchka during the summer of 2009 to fly fish for bass and bluegill. Upon arriving, I was rather…intrigued. Our cell phones didn’t work. This isn’t something new to me, but usually, our phones will work at -some- point during the day. Whether it’s in town, down the road, or even out on the water, there’s usually a point in time when we can call home and check in. This wasn’t the case on our Dead Lakes trip. We couldn’t get a signal -anywhere- around Wewahitchka. And to be honest, it was kinda cool. I wouldn’t want to always be cut off from civilization, but for a few days, it was awesome.
The launch was located right across the street from our cabin. We chose to visit the Dead Lakes during the week since we’d heard the place is a nut house on the weekends.
|Almost like a tunnel|
In this particular creek, I noticed TONS of crawfish. I mean a bunch. If I stood at it’s edge and waited a minute, I could see at least 50 of them crawling around. I would have killed for a crawfish trap.
The fly fishing during our trip was definitely sub-par. It was -very- difficult to catch fish out on the open water. Since the water levels were high, the surrounding timber was flooded and most of the fish retreated into it. I therefore had no choice but to go close-quarters-kayak-bream-fishing. This consists of laying down everything in the kayak (including yourself), strapping the paddle to the kayak side, and pulling the 16ft kayak through the woods like a battleship in a parking lot. It took quite some doing, but the work paid off. The pools deep in the woods were loaded with bream beds and it took little effort to fill the cooler.
|Yep, they’re back there^|
Because of the close quarters, fly fishing was out of the question. Instead, I took my 3ft ultra-light rod and perfected the prone-throw-cast technique. This is done by laying down flat on your back in the kayak to fit under the branches. You then pull out approximately 8 feet of line and hook a wiggler on the end. You then take the wiggler in your hand, and throw it sidearmed to the nearest set of stumps. Wait for the bite, and reel him in. Rinse and repeat. No casting, just literally throwing the bait with your free hand.
At one point, I rounded a corner is some thick trees and heard a hollow ‘thump’ and then a bunch of scratching. I quickly located the source of the noise and snapped a quick photo. He was stuck big time and I was more than happy to free him.
It only took a few hours and several chiropractor trips to fill the cooler with bream. Once back at the cabin, I set about cleaning all the fish. As my luck would have it, the bream proceeded to reproduce sevenfold while dying in the cooler and I was stuck cleaning more fish than I remembered catching. Even with an electric filet knife, cleaning 62 bream took an eon. When we finally left Wewahitchka, I never wanted to see another bluegill again. Well…at least not for a few days.
Overall the Dead Lakes trip was a blast. It’s nice to go ‘catching’ every once in a while. I do, however, wish that the water levels had been a bit lower. It would have pulled the fish from the timber and made throwing flies to them a bit easier. A shorter kayak would been nice for such situations as well. I found there were many places that my kayak couldn’t fit it simply because it was too long.