Finding New Fisheries

On a recent trip to Lake Toho, a very well known Largemouth lake near Kissimmee Florida (and a bass angler’s dream), I found a little “out of the way” municipal boat ramp as opposed to those located near large marinas.  I chose this ramp in the middle of February when my trip wasn’t going to be until June.  I even had the drive time pegged at 27 minutes from my hotel to the ramp.  I figured there would be a handful of other anglers with boats right at dawn so I prepared myself to get there and wait to launch.  However, when I got there, I had the place to myself….all three days.  Fast forward a week, when I was on a guided trip inside Walt Disney World, I told my guide where I had launched and my experience on Lake Toho.  He asked me, “how did you find that place?”    A question I’ve had to answer quite a few times.  I’ll tell you what I told him.

One of the huge benefits of fishing out of a kayak; I don’t need a boat ramp or a well known lake.  All I need is to find a body of water that is open to the public and then I select the easiest way to get there.  I’ll begin and end with saying this, please be sure the body of water you’re fishing is open to the public and do not trespass. You can always ask permission of the landowner and the worst they can say is “no” and keep searching.

If you’re like me and have bass on the brain frequently, then you may have driven by any body of water and immediately begin processing how you would fish it.  Chances are, with a kayak, you can.  However, some of the best honeyholes are those you can’t see from a road but instead, you need to rely on something else to find them.  That’s where technology, once again, makes life easier.

What tools do I use?

If I don’t have an area in mind and just want to look for new bodies of water, that’s where Google Earth comes in handy.  I’ll spend hours just flying around on Google Earth looking for a body of water that may hold fish and that I can get to without too much trouble.  The first thing I look for is proximity to a road.  Then, I’ll zoom in and see what surrounds the body of water.  Typically, I stay away from low-land and swampy areas or any other area that has flooded.

Once I have a couple lake’s picked out, I’ll take whatever information I have and will do some research.  Sometimes the lake has a name and through that, I can google it.  Sometimes, I can even find a property owner’s name so I can ask permission to use a driveway or just their land to launch.  Other times I can’t find any information at all.  The whole process is a gamble but it can pay off big or leave you looking.  This is part of the process that I enjoy the most, though.  It’s the hunt for new lakes.  And once you get there, there’s no telling what’s in store.  Perhaps the lake is chock full of vegetation and you’re punching mats or sometimes it’s a shallow pool and anything goes. Either way, it does seem like a lot of work but it can pay off ten-fold when you’re on a lake with monster fish that have never seen a lure.

On the flip side of things, if I know a little bit about the place I’m looking for and want to find out if anyone else has launched there in the past, I’ll consult paddling.net’s Launch Site Map.  Just zoom in on the area you’re interested in and look for “pins” which are user-placed launches. If you click on them, they’ll rate the launch and will give some details such as facilities available, fees, or any other comments.  This is a very handy tool.  In addition to the website, they also provide smartphone and tablet users with their own app.

Paddling.net Launch Map
Paddling.net Launch Map

Since I do enjoy fishing from well-known public places, I’ll look for published and non-published boat ramps on larger bodies of water.  This is also done by scanning  shorelines in Google Earth.  The process I go through here is I look for a ramp and then google the nearest street intersection.  Typically in the state of Michigan, it’s either a Department of Natural Resources ramp or a municipality ramp and the search will turn up some information.  If not, I dig a little deeper and just do a google search for “boat ramps” within a certain city limit.  This is exactly what I did to find the ramp for Lake Toho and the municipality website had it listed and I could find an address to enter into the GPS.

Scan shorelines for ramps as indicated here
Scan shorelines for ramps as indicated here

Another key area I look for while searching Google Earth or Google Maps are parks with either beach areas or shore fishing zones.  The nice thing about researching parks is there is always a name and an address making life easy. It is also easy to swing by the area and check it out, too.  This is a luxury you don’t have when finding your own body of water.

Look for parks and boat ramps (circled)
Look for parks and boat ramps (circled)

I won’t be giving away any of my secrets but below you’ll find a couple links to get you started.  The best advice I can give is to thoroughly enjoy the process of finding new lakes and fishing them.  It is an enjoyable process that can lead to huge fish or huge busts but either way, there will be stories along the way.

Paddling.net Launch Site Map  http://www.paddling.net/launches/

iPhone App https://itunes.apple.com/app/launch-sites/id505471592?mt=8

Google Play  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.milabs.paddling.MainPagePack

Google Earth https://www.google.com/earth/

Google Maps https://www.google.com/maps

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