The bike angle
SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
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.