Kayak Fishing South Florida’s Exotic Species

5-minute read

Bending Branches Ambassador, Bill Sikora, has been a South Florida resident for several years and loves to kayak fish some of its exotic species. Here, he shares his experience and expertise with other anglers who also want to fish those waters.

kayak angler holding a large snakehead

BRANCHES: What are your favorite waterways to fish in South Florida?

BILL: I absolutely LOVE fishing in many of the canals that can be found here in South Florida, particularly the Broward County area. In these canals you can find a variety of fish that are not typically found in many of the lakes here.

Some of the largest freshwater fish I have ever caught, such as the bullseye snakehead, can be found lurking in these canals. Clown knife fish, oscars, jaguar guapote, and the often-sought-after peacock bass can also be found in these canals.

I find that one of the reasons for this is the vast amount of "rocky" bottoms and ledges, which are common in these canals. They’re used to control land erosion, and provide some great habitats for these predator fish.

Many times in shallower areas you can actually see a snakehead hiding out in the rocks, only his head peeking out, just waiting for unsuspecting forage to swim by.

BRANCHES: If non-Florida anglers are interested in a fishing trip there, where should they start?

BILL: I will always recommend finding a guide of the particular area when visiting, if someone really wants to catch a Bucket List fish! These days, you can find a variety of guides and not just guides in boats.

[NOTE: Just do an online search for: “kayak fishing guide near (city name)”]

Over the years there has been an increase in the availability of kayak and shore-based guides, which in turn can take you to places where the boats can not.

These are the places that can hold that trophy fish! Social media pages can also offer insight on local fishing holes.

BRANCHES: What are some South Florida exotic species you love to catch?

BILL: I absolutely love fishing for peacock bass and snakeheads! As far as freshwater goes, these two predators can put on quite the show when it comes to topwater fishing. Both will willingly take a topwater bait if the circumstances are right and both can be caught using the same gear.

kayak angler sitting on his kayak holding a snakehead

BUT when targeting snakeheads exclusively, I prefer to use single hook baits such as a Texas rigged soft plastic frog or a spinnerbait. The reason for this is the snakehead’s ability to do what we commonly call the alligator death roll.

Ever see how an alligator or crocodile will spin itself to pull flesh from its kill? Snakeheads will do the same, but they do it in an attempt to free themselves.

I always net these fish. If one rolls while in the net with a two or three treble hook lure in its mouth, that net will catch on those trebles and can possibly injure the fish as well as damage the net.

These fish are just incredible fighters who do not stop fighting even after they’re caught. That’s why I target them so frequently. To see one of these predators hunt down a topwater lure, to see the wake approaching the lure from behind, it’s such an adrenaline rush! It can happen so fast and as soon as that hook is set, the fight is on. If it’s a bigger specimen, oh man—Game On!!!

BRANCHES: Is there anything special anglers need to know about fishing these species?

BILL: First and foremost, safety, safety and safety! These canals are not only home to game fish. When you launch your kayak in these canals, you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times!

Some of these canals can be very narrow and are a great place for gators, especially when you’re not near residential areas. These canals provide terrific habitat for gators to relax, nest and care for their young.

Even accidentally paddling too close to a potential gator trail or nest can spook a gator and there’s no telling how they will react. I’ve seen this first hand—not fun at all!

In addition, other types of wildlife such as snakes, wild boar and manatees can also frequent these canals. This is their home, we’re just visiting! One must be careful and understand the risks. [Please practice Leave No Trace ethics!]

BRANCHES: Do you use a paddle, pedal or motor kayak for these locations?

BILL: I normally use my Old Town Predator PDL in these areas. I do this for two reasons. The first one is if I hook a big snakehead, I want the power of a pedal drive to help me pull the fish away from potential break-off points such as fallen timber, rocky bottoms, etc.

And, as I previously mentioned, I’m around other wildlife and I simply feel safer in my kayak than I do in my canoe. Having a pedal drive kayak does not mean I don’t bring my paddle, though.

You will want a good paddle for a variety of reasons.

First, many of these canals can be less than 4 feet deep. In some cases, if there is a constant flow of water, there will be good vegetative growth that can render a pedal drive (or motor) useless. If you’re going to paddle a larger kayak for any extended period of time, you’re going to want to have a good paddle to get it done.

Secondly, if I’m fighting a larger snakehead and it pulls me too close to structure, I may use that paddle as a wedge to push off of a seawall or rocky ledge.

A big thanks to Bill for taking time to share his South Florida fishing know-how. We’ll leave you with one of his videos (and you can find more on his YouTube Channel):

(All photos courtesy of Bill Sikora)

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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