Category Archives: Motorized Fishing Kayaks

Fishing kayak outfitted with an outboard gas motor or an electric trolling motor

May 9, 2017.   The following Letter to the Editor was published in our Citrus County Chronicle on May 6, 2017.

Thanks to the Chronicle and several local businesses (sorry, I can’t recall them all) for sponsoring the 2017 Nature Coast Challenge – the annual Kayak Fishing Tournament hosted by the Inglis-Yankeetown Lions Club on April 22.  Unlike most other fishing tournaments, where harvested fish are returned to dockside for measuring, and over-slot fish (those exceeding the legal size limit) can’t be entered, the Challenge is a catch-measure-photograph-release event where all fish are eligible to compete, and most fish caught are released to fight another day.
I’m not quite sure why the kayak tournament is referred to as a challenge.  Fishing from a plastic paddle-craft is a bit more demanding than from a motorized boat, but, still, lots of folks manage.  Perhaps it’s because it requires three hands to properly administer the measure-photograph process: one to hold the fish down and keep it from flopping off the measuring board, the second to pinch its tail to get an accurate measurement, and the third to snap the picture.  Accomplishing this task with two hands is definitely a challenge.
Approximately 70 anglers participated in the event, with prizes awarded for the biggest redfish, biggest seatrout, biggest redfish / seatrout combination (the Grand Slam), longest combined length of several species (the Mixed Bag) and best catch by a junior.  All net proceeds went to charity.
The weather cooperated and a great time was had by all.
Thanks to Donna Norton and the other Lions who put this on.
Here’s looking forward to next year’s tournament.

 

Gary Rankel

New Kayak Launch

March 11, 2017.  The following letter was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on March 9.

Kudos to those responsible for finally providing a suitable kayak launch site at Hunter Springs Park.  It’s a most welcome addition to this nicely rehabilitated park, and has the potential to become its crown jewel attraction.
In my short visit to the park Saturday afternoon, just four days after the launch opened, I observed more than 20 paddlers launching their plastic vessels.  Some folks had transported them to the park, while others rented from a good selection of single and tandem yaks furnished onsite by Hunter Springs Kayaks of Crystal River.  A few renters I talked to were new to the area, and, prior to launching, received a short indoctrination from rental company staff on safety measures, manatee manners, and points of interest in the Kings Bay area.
I wonder how much use the launch site will receive once locals become more familiar with it, and if marketed to visitors looking for more adventurous close encounters with manatees than offered from the board walk overlooking Three Sisters Springs.  I would guess that most “manatrolley” riders would enjoy a stop at the park.  Too bad it’s a bit too far removed from serving as the terminus for the Riverwalk.
Given all the activity at the launch site, while only four sunbathers occupied the adjacent and much more expansive swimming beach, maybe a larger portion of the common sandy area should be dedicated to paddlers, with, perhaps, a second put-in site, during the manatee season.  The beach could easily revert back to primary swimming / sunbathing use during the warmer months.
It would be helpful to place a pictorial display of the Kings Bay area near the kayak unloading zone to facilitate area orientation for visiting paddlers.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have similar paddling opportunities and launch sites available at Fort Island beach and the lakeside parks in Inverness to better distribute visitor use?
Gary Rankel

 

2017 Nature Coast Challenge

January 28, 2017.    The 6th annual Nature Coast Challenge Kayak Fishing Tournament in and around the Withlacoochee River, sponsored by the Inglis Yankeetown Lions Club, is scheduled for April 22, 2017, with the Captains Meeting scheduled the evening before.   Applications, rules and other information may be obtained by contacting:  donnanorton@tampabay.rr.com.

New Outdoor Recreation Area

My following letter was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on December 24, 2016.

As someone with a background in outdoor recreation planning, I’ve long felt that a paddling / kayak fishing complex at the end of Ozello Trail and a boat ramp on the barge canal would be two of the best investments Citrus County could make.  A Looking Forward opinion in the December 21 Chronicle got me thinking about the east side of the county, the ideas expressed by Inverness city officials in pursuit of their “small town done right” theme, and why the idea of a multi-purpose outdoor recreation complex at Big Lake Henderson hasn’t surfaced.

Have you ventured out to Fort Island Beach to view the high use it receives, even on weekdays, or to Hunter Springs Park to see the use it gets from beachgoers, kayakers (at least until recently) and picnickers?  If you’re thinking of heading to the popular Pine Island Park just north of Bayport for a day on the beach or to launch your kayak, you better leave early if you want a parking spot.  Even the small public beach and picnic area on Lake Hernando gets lots of use.  Homosassa is now planning to create a park along the river.

Have you attended the annual bluegrass festivals along the Withlacoochee River, or experienced the crowded concerts at Kings Bay Park?  It’s easy to understand why the city of St. Petersburg is looking to develop a waterside park and entertainment venue where the former pier was located?

These areas have many of the following things in common: inviting water, a sandy beach, beautiful open space, gorgeous scenery, nice picnicking and kids play areas, adequate parking, sunbathing and kayaking opportunities, occasional entertainment, maybe a nice boardwalk overlooking the water.

Why couldn’t an outdoor recreation complex, incorporating these amenities, be created along Lake Henderson adjacent to downtown Inverness?  Parents could sunbathe while the kids swim in a protected area, play on some jungle jim equipment, or build sand castles as mom and dad look on?  Or, they could launch their yaks for a relaxing paddle or to cast a line for a nice bass.  No expensive ramp would be required to launch; a sandy beach should suffice, although accommodation for our wounded vets and other disabled folks would be nice.

Given its proximity to the popular Withlacoochee State Trail, an area set aside for bikers to park their bipeds should encourage restful stopovers from their busy days attempting to stay fit.  Perhaps a vendor located onsite could have cold drinks and snacks on hand and maybe rent kayaks, paddleboards or those paddle boats that kids seem to love.  Pontoon boat rides on the weekends?   A beach volleyball or badminton court?  Horseshoes?  Shuffleboard?

How about creating a performance pavilion and scheduling concerts for the whole family to enjoy in a beautiful open setting, as opposed to standing shoulder to shoulder around the courthouse.  Perhaps some of the popular groups that regularly perform at Terra Vista, Top of the World, The Villages and other nearby entertainment venues could be enticed into adding the Lake Henderson Outdoor Recreation Area to their tours with all-expense paid tours of Kings Bay arranged to see and swim with our manatees offered as incentives.

That’s right: a cooperative venture between Inverness and Crystal River.  How’s that for a vision?

Peeved Paddlers

The following letter was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on December 17, 2016.
What do Crystal River, Inverness, and Citrus County officials have against us paddlers and incorporating kayak fishing into its tourism package?
It’s not like they’ve provided great places for us to launch our plastic boats to start with.
Now, they’ve closed the area at the end of Fort Island Trail prohibiting us from accessing the perfectly usable ramp and shoreline area, apparently because of storm damage to the nearby wooden pier.  Who knows when they’ll get around to repairing the pier and restoring access to some fine fishing?
Then, they created a terrible launch area at an otherwise nicely redone Hunter Springs Park.  Having received numerous complaints about this site, they’ve now closed it indefinitely to reassess the bungled project with no reopening date in sight as the best fishing of the year in Kings Bay nears.
The Kings Bay Park ramp remains open, but is problematic at low water levels.  And, of course, both Hunters Springs and Kings Park sites cannot be accessed until the parks open at 8 a.m., long after I plan on being on the water, well on my way to reaching my limit of seatrout and redfish.
I guess we could always go over to Pete’s Pier, one of few areas in the county with both a nice ramp and adequate parking area, if we don’t mind waiting in line behind power boaters, and paying the same separate fees to both launch and park that they do.  Or, we could venture over to the ramp across from the fire station where we’d have to leave our rigged up yaks unattended while driving a couple of blocks away to park.
The community park at the end of Ozello Trail remains the nicest place to launch and fish in the county, but it could be so much more if the adjacent vacant piece of property was developed to create a premier paddling destination with regional appeal.
Maybe you plastic boat enthusiasts are thinking of heading over to the east side the county instead to enjoy the beautiful parks and lakes there.  Sorry – there’s still no place developed to accommodate the paddling and yak-fisher community there either.
Fortunately, I’ve found a few places where I can sneak my yak into the water when no one is looking.  So far, my truck hasn’t been towed away by the time I return.  I’ll keep these places to myself.
I understand that a couple of our commissioners have somehow come to the conclusion that we should abandon the idea of creating a boat ramp on the barge canal, because it might be used by folks from other counties.  I guess relieving boat congestion on our crowded rivers is not worth the cost of having those foreigners infringe on our turf.  Maybe, instead, they should start worrying about us Citrus County yakers heading up to Levy County to use that great yak launch area and park at the mouth of the Withlacoochee River.
Gary Rankel, Nature Coast Kayak Fishers