The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 8 - December 7, 2011

reel time

The bike angle

Reel time

Anglers bicycle through Robinson Preserve on
their way to their favorite fishing spot.

I love to bike, and I like to fish. It occurred to me long ago that I might be able to access some great fishing spots by bike. However over the years, my boat and those of my fishing friends kept taking preference. Recently, I've been made aware by other anglers of the great opportunities that exist locally for accessing fishing locations by bike. Obviously, we're not suggesting that you take it into the water, but you can reach some places that only boaters used to fish. A good example is Robinson Preserve in Manatee County. The 487-acre park is a treasure for walkers, bikers, kayakers and anyone who enjoys the outdoors and a walk in authentic Florida.

Robinson Preserve borders both Perico Bayou and Tampa Bay. In addition, it also holds a maze of canals that, based on recent observations, hold some pretty terrific fishing. As I biked to the first turn from the Manatee Avenue entrance I encountered an angler in a canoe. He boasted he had fished three shrimp and caught three fish; a redfish, a trout and a grunt. However, as I made my way along the trail that boarders Palma Sola Bay I also encountered two other pairs of anglers who were using their bikes to access fishing opportunities from the multiple bridges that span the preserve's canals.

When I reached Tampa Bay, I saw two anglers far out on a very shallow flat. Nearby, leaning against a picnic table were two bikes with rod holders attached to their back supports. I took some pictures along the shoreline and eventually the two anglers waded to shore nearby. They reported a great morning of solitary fishing that yielded two big reds caught and released on the flat.

Although it doesn't take more than a medium light spinning rod rigged with an artificial lure to get in the game, I saw at least two groups of anglers that were transporting shrimp on their bikes. It's no different than fishing from a boat, as every angler uses the bait or lures he/she has confidence in.

My preferred rig is an 8-pound spinning rig with a 25- or 30-pound leader. I'm comfortable fishing plugs and jigs, therefore that's what I use and what I catch fish on. I can put a spare spool of leader and a couple of extra jigs in my pocket and I'm good to go. I like to double my standing line with a Bimini twist or a spider hitch and then tie my leader to this double line with a blood knot. Add the lure or jig with a non-slip mono loop and go fishing.

This time of the year, we can have very low tides and cold water. Anglers will generally have better luck if they concentrate their fishing to deep holes early and then on the edges of a flat late in the day as warm water drains the shallows. Generally speaking, work lures, jigs and flies slow and close to the bottom. If you have thick skin, you can wet wade most of the winter. All you'll need is a pair of wading boots and a change of pants for your ride home. A light pair of waders can be worn on your ride to a flat or be carried in a backpack if the water gets too cold. Personally, I like waders if you'll be in the water for any length of time. Even if the water isn't very cold it can slowly rob you of body heat. Bikes can quickly get you to places you'd find hard to reach by boating, paddling or walking. Check those tide charts, pack up a backpack and get on that bike to explore some of the area's fishing gems.

Review: The Hell's Bay Biscayne

I have to start this boat review with a disclosure. I've owned a Hell's Bay boat for close to eleven years and I count it among one of my prized possessions. When I got a call from Captain Todd Fuller with an offer to try out the Biscayne, Hell's Bay's newest boat, I jumped at the chance. Not only was there the opportunity to drive and fish the new model, but  I would also have the chance to meet and fish with Captain C.A. Richardson, host of "Flat's Class" a popular TV show that airs on Sun Sports, The Sportsman's Channel and The World Fishing Network.

We launched at the Green Bridge in Palmetto and ran a smooth Manatee River to Snead Island Cut where we passed into Terra Ceia Bay and an early morning chop. After navigating the slow speed zone we put the Biscayne on plane and I got my first taste of the ride. The smooth progress the Biscayne made over that early morning chop reminded me of my Hell's Bay Guide 18.  As the day progressed we were able to run and fish the boat under varying conditions that gave me a feel for the evolution and intent of the new hull's design.

Later in the morning I poled Fuller and Richardson on a shallow mangrove lined flat in Miguel Bay. While the new boat is only 16'4" long as opposed to the 18'4" Guide I'm accustomed to, it weighs almost the same . As the wind began to pick up I noticed that it pushed the stern downwind as opposed to upwind, a definite advantage when trying to control a flats skiff in a stiff wind.  The boat tracked extremely well and was easy to control when I poled upwind and then down to pot holes in the bay. It didn't take long before C.A.'s bait casting rod to doubled up as a redfish crashed his top water plug.  Holding the boat in place so Richardson and Fuller could work the area was a breeze.  I was also impressed with the quietness of the hull as I listened for wave sounds and heard none even with the increasing chop.

After catching a few more reds and trout, I asked to put the boat thru some trials on the now rough waters of the open (Tampa) Bay. I ran the boat downwind, upwind into the chop and then quartered the boat into the waves to test the ride. I was extremely impressed both by the smoothness of the ride and the degree of dryness that the boat maintained. It was the first flats skiff that actually kept me dry under theses rather extreme conditions.  After talking to Fuller I learned that the boat had been designed expressly for the demanding conditions that Keys guides encounter. Hell's Bay designers wisely enlisted the help of some of the Keys best guides in developing a boat that would handle rough water crossings, pole silently to finicky bonefish and permit and keep the guides and passengers dry throughout the day. A boat that can handle those conditions will be a great fishing platform for most anglers.

Contrary to what you'll often hear, there is no perfect skiff for every condition. The Biscayne's draft at seven inches is almost three inches deeper than the two foot longer Guide, and the hull weighs just five pounds less.  If you're looking for a boat that handles four people on a consistent basis you might want a larger boat. However, if you're a serious guide or dedicated angler the combination of dry, smooth ride, tracking and quiet approach makes the Biscayne a serious contender for your attention. Area anglers who want to get the feel of the new Biscayne can attend a "Demo Day' in St. Petersburg on Saturday December 2, 2011. For more information contact Hell's Bay Boatworks at 321.383.8223 or check out their web site at Check out C.A. Richardson's "Flat's Class" on TV or at

The Hell's Bay Biscayne

  • Weight - 595 lbs.
  • Draft - 7" with engine & fuel
  • Length - 16' 4"
  • Beam - 70"
  • Recommended Power - 60 hp - 80 hp

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