Fishing for Panfish in the Wekiva River

Fishing for Panfish in the Wekiva River
A redbreast sunfish comes to the surface.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself with a few hours to kill, and wanted to get out and do a little fishing. Given that it would be in the heat of the day I thought it might be a nice change of pace to head over to the Wekiva River to find a bit of shade, some cooler water and possibly a few fish along the way.

After loading up the canoe and making the short drive to Wilson’s Landing, I was in the water and paddling up-current with the idea that I would get as far up river as possible (or that I could endure), then drift back while casting along the shoreline. To say it was a bit warm and humid would be an understatement. I would paddle until my eyes filled with sweat and I couldn’t see anymore, then find a nice big tree to sit under and drink some water.

Taking a break from fishing in the Wekiva River.

Once I felt like I was comfortably far enough upstream, I grabbed an ultralight spinning combo and tied on a small roostertail spinner bait. I love throwing these little roostertails, as they seem to attract many different species and allow me to cover a lot of water.

Small spinner bait.

I used to fish the Wekiva River with my grandfather when I was a kid. I recall that he wouldn’t let me go fishing with him until I could cast a lure and land it on a trash can lid. While it certainly did improve my casting skills, I’m fairly convinced he primarily didn’t want to spend the day retrieving lures out of trees. The scenery was just how I remembered it.

Scenery along the Wekiva River.

It wasn’t long before I had my first fish, a scrappy redbreast sunfish, come along the side of the canoe.

Redbreast Sunfish and Lily Pad.

This sunfish was followed by many more, as I continued cruising down the river. Unfortunately, given that it was the weekend, there was a lot of boat traffic at times that would disrupt the peaceful setting. Fortunately, it wouldn’t take long for things to get quiet and settle back down, and the bite would resume.

Fishing for panfish in the Wekiva River.

Some of the scenery is spectacular, and I often found myself just sitting under a tree or along a shoreline and taking everything in. It definitely had me wondering what kind of Florida my ancestors experienced back in their day.

Scenery along the Wekiva River.

There was plenty of fishing action mixed in with the scenic views, and I lost count of the number of redbellies I caught along the way. There were a few small bass mixed in as well to mix things up a bit, and I saw a number of large gar that would have really made things interesting on the ultralight tackle.

For the majority of the time the water was clear, which made for some great sightfishing. I had an absolute blast watching the fish rush out of the eelgrass and take a swipe at the little roostertail flashing along in the clear water. Even though all the fish were small, they did put a spirited fight on the light tackle and the swift current added a little to the challenge as well. I was amazed at the colors of the fish every time I brought another one up.

Vivid colors of the redbreast sunfish.
A redbreast sunfish comes to the surface.
Close-up of the vivid colors of a redbreast sunfish.

After a few hours of fishing, relaxing and reminiscing of days spent with my grandfather, some building clouds in the west accompanied by some rumbling thunder provided a cue that it was a good time to pack things up and paddle back. Even though I brought along a couple of other rods and lures, I ended up using the same rod and roostertail the entire day. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I guess that garbage can lid exercise paid off.

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