Florida's Summer Vacation Angling

by Carolee Boyles.

School will be out soon and the summer holidays upon us. It's time to plan your vacation, and these destinations can add some angling to that family getaway!

Now that school is out for the summer and the kids are home, it's a great time for a family vacation. But if you're a die-hard angler, it's also a wonderful time to be on the water.

Why not combine the two into a family vacation? With the many aquatic resources here in the Sunshine State, you might just find a place to fish you've never been before, and have some good family time along with it.

We have so many great places to fish in Florida that it's hard to pick out just a few. So we've selected three areas where you can have big water experiences, low-key family fishing, and other kid-friendly activities all in the same place.


If you're after big water in the northwest Florida, Lake Talquin is where you want to go. Located just west of Tallahassee, Talquin is an 8,800-acre reservoir of the Ochlocknee River created in 1928 when the City of Tallahassee built a dam to generate hydroelectric power for the region.

The lake is deep by Florida standards, with an average depth of 15 feet and a maximum depth of 40 feet. But, it also has lots of hidden hazards, especially during periods of low water. The lake is rife with stumps, some of which are big enough to capsize your boat or knock off your motor's lower unit.

"It doesn't matter how many years you've fished the lake and how well you know it, you still hit a stump occasionally," said one local angler. "If you don't know the lake, you should be afraid of it."

By June, black bass have moved off the beds and into deep water. That means the place to look for fish is on ledges.

If any one lure is omnipresent on Lake Talquin, it's the plastic worm. Anglers use worms of all colors all year, in all situations imaginable. They rig worms Texas-style with large weights and drop them on deep ledges. They switch to medium-sized weights for shallow ledges. Or they tie on small weights and cast into lily pads .

Spinnerbaits also can be effective, especially early in the morning.

For hot top water action, look for schooling stripers. But, don't overlook catfish on Talquin. Any good stinkbait will attract Mr. Whiskers.

If Lake Talquin is too big for you, take a look at Lake Jackson, located north and west of Tallahassee. This 4000-acre lake has a national reputation as a good bass fishery. Jackson has a diversity of aquatic vegetation, but hydrilla, eelgrass, and maidencane are the best habitats in which to target bass in this lake.

The lake is shallow, with an average depth of about 7 feet and a maximum depth of 30 feet.

Lake Jackson is a natural lake, perched atop two sinkholes -- Porter Sink and Lime Sink. The lake has no major tributaries on the surface, and when the groundwater level drops, the lake goes nearly empty. Over short periods of time this usually isn't a problem. But during prolonged dry periods, the water sometimes empties out of the basin like a plug-less bathtub.

If you prefer smaller water to take your kids on a laid-back fishing trip, the area can provide that as well. In the Capital City the place to go for metro bream is definitely Piney Z Lake. This 193-acre lake is within the city limits, to the east of Capital Circle, north of Apalachee Parkway, and south of U.S. Highway 90. It's actually one arm of Lake Lafayette.

Piney Z Lake is laid out for bank access, with more than 3 miles of shoreline and several "fishing fingers" for anglers. Although you can launch a boat on the lake -- there are two boat ramps -- you only may use trolling motors. No internal combustion engines are allowed. Many anglers fish this lake from canoes or kayaks.

Largemouth bass fishing on the lake is strictly catch-and-release. When the kids have had enough fishing, you can check out some of the cultural amenities Tallahassee has to offer. One great place for families to visit is the Tallahassee Museum, located on the shore of Lake Bradford. Displays include native animals and historical buildings, as well as guest animal habitats and a working farm. The museum has many special events all year, so it's easy to time your visit to coincide with something happening there. Go online to www.tallahasseemuseum.org for details.

For other things to do, see the Tallahassee Visitors Bureau Web site at www.visittallahassee.com.


Take a trip to the southern part of the state, and you can fish for a species generally thought of as requiring a South American adventure. Twenty-five years ago a problem developed from people dumping exotic fish into the canals of south Florida. These fish include Oscars, Mayan cichlids, and other species they had grown tired of having in their aquariums.

In the early 1980s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Paul Shafland proposed a project to introduce butterfly peacock bass into the canals. His plan was to use the bass to help control burgeoning populations of the other exotics. The program worked and developed a fishery that attracts anglers from all over the country.

One of the first anglers to take advantage of the new urban fishery back in the 1980s was Alan Zaremba.

"I caught my first peacock bass in 1987, and I was hooked," he said. "I couldn't get enough of these exciting fish, so I worked hard to learn as much as I could about their life, their habitat, their breeding habits and, of course, their feeding habits. I started guiding for Peacock Bass in 1989 and devoted my interests to full-time guiding in 1991."

Since then, Zaremba has become the No. 1 guide for peacock in the region.

"In July, our Florida peacocks are in a mixed bag mode and can be caught on top water," Zaremba said. "Sub-surface baits work well also.

In July peacocks also are starting into a secondary spawn.

"They may spawn two or even three times a year if conditions are good," Zaremba said. "So this means you can sight cast for some. If you're going to fish this way, a good pair of polarized sun glasses will be in order."

This also is a good time to fly fish for peacocks, Zaremba said.

"When fly fishing, I'd suggest Clouser Minnows with a float or an intermediate type line dressed with no more than a 6-foot leader as you will be making short casts in these canals," he said. "If you can find moving water around culverts, fish the eddy areas just off the fast current, as peacock bass will be suspended in these areas looking to feed. July is a good all around month. The water still hasn't become to hot so the fish may feed at anytime during the day."

For more details check out Alan Zaremba's Web site at www.floridapeacocks.com.

If saltwater fishing is more your idea of a vacation, you've come to the right spot. Broward County has a full suite of party boats, fishing captains, and other places to go for a briny experience.

Several piers are in the area. Some of the common catches here are snapper, snook, blue runners, and croakers.

Anglins Fishing Pier is at the east end of Commercial Boulevard in Lauderdale By The Sea. For more information call the pier at (954) 491-9403 or contact the closest bait shop, T&R Tackle on Commercial Boulevard at (954) 776-1055.

Dania Fishing Pier is in southern Broward County on State Route A1A at Dania Beach. You can reach the pier by calling (954) 367-4423 or contact Anglers Bait & Tackle on East Dania Beach Boulevard at (954) 925-9995

A third pier in the area is the Pompano Fishing Pier on North Ocean Road in Pompano Beach. You can call the pier at (954) 773-1346.

When not fishing there are lots of places to go for some fun family time. One is the Museum of Discovery and Science located in the Arts & Science District, across from Riverwalk's Esplanade Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The museum has more than 200 interactive exhibits and an IMAX theater, perfect for a cool getaway from the July sun. You can check out their programs at www.mods.org.


No summer vacation-fishing trip would be complete without a stop in the Tampa Bay area. This area has varied and world-class fishing available.

If a party boat is your idea of saltwater fishing, Hubbard's Marina is a good start. They offer party boats, but also half-day, full-day, and overnight charter, and trips. Their Web site is www.hubbardsmarina.com.

If you're into a more personal touch, Captain Lou Villei does inshore charters for one or two anglers around Anclote Island. He's very good about "matching" the person to the type of fishing desired. Captain Villei also takes shelling trips to Anclote Key, where the family can pick up more than 50 species of shells. Capt. Villei can be contacted at lvillei@hotmail.com.

For easy fresh water bank fishing Tampa also has its share of urban ponds. Al Lopez Park is located in the heart of Tampa behind Raymond James Stadium. The pond covers 10 acres.

A fishing pier on the south side of the pond provides good access to the water. There's a smaller, secondary pier on the east side of the pond, and several small cutouts along the bank where anglers can get to the water. The lake has five fish feeders as well.

Bobby Hicks Pond is in south Tampa on the corner of Manhattan and Mango avenues, across from Robinson High School. The fishing area consists of two ponds connected by a narrow channel and totaling about 25 acres.

Because of good bank access around the south side of the pond, Bobby Hicks lends itself well to fly-fishing, particularly for bluegill on the beds. A fishing pier on the south side of the pond greatly improves angler access to the water.

Dover District Park Pond covers 14 acres. It's located in a multiple-use park with a hiking trail and ball fields.

Bank access to Dover District Park Pond is excellent, with a mowed grassy bank around much of the lake. It has an aeration system to keep water turning over in the pond. Casting in the area of the up-welling water is a good idea during the summer months. The lake also has five fish feeders, where bream and catfish congregate.

Gadsden Pond is in south Tampa on MacDill Avenue and just north of MacDill Air Force Base. Bank access is very good around much of the lake, and a firm sand bottom provides good spawning areas for panfish.

For a change of pace from the fishing, you can stop by the Florida Aquarium on Channelside Drive in Tampa. A calendar of events can be found on their Web site showing what's going on during August. The site is at www.flaquarium.org.

Other activities in the area are the Museum of Science and Industry at www.mosi.org, the new Tampa Bay History Center at www.tampabayhistorycenter.org and the amazing Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa at www.plantmuseum.com.

For even more things to do in the Tampa Bay area, contact the Tampa Visitors Bureau Web site at www.visittampabay.com.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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