Off-road access to hidden waters
Once you get bike fishing you’ll notice the freedom. You know those park roads blocked to vehicles, like Green Swamp West near Dade City? Instead of regretfully passing it by or parking and trudging forever, you’ve taken the bike out the truck and you’re zooming on down the road to great fishing in the Withlacoochee River. Or hit the trail in the Ocala National Forest. Pack a light tent and camp as you pedal lake to lake. How about those city lakes with no parking? Just chain your wonderbike to a bench and you’re enjoying relatively virgin water. Dike roads around impoundments, often prohibited to cars, are the perfect bike fishing trail.
There are saltwater opportunities, as well: Often closed to cars, Shiloh Road extends miles along the eastern edge of Indian River Lagoon roughly between Titusville and Oak Hill. Cruise for run-outs and cast for whiting and pompano on hard packed ocean beaches from New Smyrna to Jacksonville. Take your bike on the ferry and tour Pine Island Sound’s Cayo Costa Island. And what better way to get out on fishing bridges like the Keys’ original seven miler? Anglers without bikes have a long, tackle-toting slog to the outer realms.
Everything can be bought at a bike shop and a fishing shop. My friend Mark Benson keeps it simple. And, consequently, cheap. He found a SeaSense Ride ‘N’ Reel rod holder at a tackle store and attached that to the rear axle. At a bike shop he got a platform with bungee straps to mount over the rear tire. On the handlebars is a shotgun holder purchased at a sporting goods store. This carries his fly rod case, and a bag on the handle bar carries his fly reel. Water or your preferred refreshment sits in bottle cage on lower frame. You’ll work up an appetite so pack a lunch in a small backpack or one of the bike’s accessories. For lures, strap on a fanny pack. Stash a lightweight raincoat and you’re ready for anything! Even rising gas prices.
Mark simply converted his beach bike that he found with one handlebar crying for help from a city lake. It’s your good old one-speed with coaster brake. His friend Scott diverges with a mountain bike – lotta gears and hand brakes. They both work.
We tried it out on a river with trails on the bluffs, and beaches where the land goes low. We drove there, left cars crying by the road and took bikes where no car has gone before. It was the end of the dry season so water was low and we easily carried bikes across to the opposite bank. We combined the fun of biking down hills and through the woods with the rewards of fishing on a lovely river. And nothing like a swim to ice the cake.
For long adventures it’s best to bring a small pump and tube repair kit, as well as basic fix-it tools. Also, study the area you plan to fish in advance; you don’t want to go plowing down sandy, rutted trails in a narrow tire road bike. You can buy a pretty good second-hand mountain bike for $75 to $200; double that for an entry-level new one at a bike shop.
Florida trails may be tame by comparison to Pisgah or Moab, but they are nonetheless hard on a bike. To avoid accumulating sand and grit, you’ll need to rinse thoroughly and lubricate sparingly. – FS
Take it With You
Two options for safely toting rods on a bike: At left, gun rack on the handlebar and bolt-on rear axle rod holder. Below, A cargo tray with bungee strap.
First Published Florida Sportsman Feb. 2010