Skip to main content

Bike Bassin' in Broward for Peacocks, Largemouths

Wheels and reels along the canals open new fishing horizons.

Bike Bassin' in Broward for Peacocks, Largemouths
Cypress Creek Greenway, Coconut Creek. Other quiet bike paths in this area include Linear Park in Davie and New River Greenway.
  • Jeff Weakley is Editor of Florida Sportsman magazine.

Among lots of other fishing interests, now and then I get the urge to drive south into urban South Florida to walk canal banks and cast for peacock bass and other fish.

Recently, I was heading to Miami to attend a memorial service for one of my fishing heroes. To further celebrate his memory, after the memorial, I figured I’d stop and fish on the drive home.

As I was leaving my house, I decided to throw not only my flyrod and sling pack into the truck, but also my 7-speed bicycle. Wow, what horizons it opened!

bass fishing collage
Clockwise: Bass hooked off a bed behind a commercial building on a quiet Sunday; “park and ride” at Fern Forest Nature Center; Cuban sandwich with side of flies.

In case you’ve never been down there, here’s a thing about the South Florida canals: Parking is a limiting factor. The bike—if you can figure out how to get one down there and commit to safe operation—offers freedom to explore not only long stretches of designated, water-side bike paths (like the Cypress Creek Greenway in Coconut Creek and the Linear Park Trail in Davie), but also small lateral canals and ponds which dot adjacent neighborhoods.

With a smartphone map, a little creativity, and a weekend morning (forget weekday rush hours!) you can get to places that would otherwise require a long hike or dicey parking.

Full disclosure: I know more than a little about this fishery, as I lived down there for a number of years. At various points in time, I’ve lived in South Miami and also in Margate, which is central Broward. I’ve snooped all around the two counties.

I learned long ago that some of the best fishing isn’t in the obvious places. Fetid ditches behind strip malls, littered with shopping carts, fast-food wrappers, energy drink cans and other trash, are often home to peacocks as well as largemouths and wild cards like snakeheads and jaguar guapote. Culverts are always good places—when the current is moving, fish face into the current, awaiting edibles. When the current isn’t flowing, fish face out of the culvert, staying shaded to avoid themselves becoming edibles. Fish have no shame in their reproductive habits, and will bed in the grungiest, most public, places you can imagine.

On my recent trip, I parked at a gem of a nature preserve off Atlantic Blvd. in Coconut Creek: Fern Forest Nature Center. Before setting off on my bike tour, I did a quick lap on the boardwalk to admire the tropical hardwood hammock. In a little creek I spotted an alligator snapping turtle, a rarity these days.

The broad Cypress Creek Canal, connected to the Fern Forest preserve, itself looked to be in good shape. Ten- to 20-foot wide margins of submerged eelgrass waved in the tannic, yet clear, current. Same for a few lakes I looked at. Coming from a less-developed place like Stuart, where you’d think there’d be healthy grass but there isn’t, it can come as a shock to visit “the city” and find grass and wildlife thriving. (Sadly, a recent visit to Snake Creek, in South Miami, revealed a staggering loss of grass and total lack of fish—perhaps a victim of spraying?)

Midday on a cool, sunny Sunday, I spent a few hours pedaling around suburban Broward County. I probably looked nuts, with my flyrod sticking up out of my seat-stay rodholder. But not as gonzo as I did when I walked into Pollo Tropical carrying my kit. I revisited a few spots I fished when I lived in an apartment on Cypress Creek (early 2000s). I also fished some new spots. I was pleasantly surprised at how many peacock bass I caught. Twenty years ago, they were pretty rare in this part of Broward; when I lived there, I’d drive further south, into Miami, to catch them reliably.

peacock bass
Pretty spectacular grass coverage in some of the urban lakes of Broward County. Exotic peacock bass (inset) thrive in these places alongside native sunfish.

On this trip, all my catches were on fly—one fly, in fact, which I never changed: a size 4 streamer I tie myself with a yellow marabou tail and a body and hackle of pearl chenille. It’s about an inch and a half long. To the novice, it looks like a crappie jig…and in fact crappie jigs are excellent lures for non-fly anglers.

Whether you’re fishing a jig or plug on a spinning rod or a favorite fly, when it comes to peacocks, the pattern is less important than the presentation. Speed is often what triggers the bite—whether reeling quickly or, in the case of fly fishing, stripping the line quickly. Peacocks have an amazing ability to decide at the last second whether to eat or reject a meal.

Recommended


Light leader is another asset against these sharp-eyed predators; I favor 10-pound-test fluorocarbon.

I’d tell you all the nooks and crannies I cast into, but the truth is access on a circuit like this is sort of a judgment call. While I can say that I follow the letter of the law in terms of “No Trespassing” and “No Fishing” signs, if I revealed a specific patch of grass from which I threw toward a culvert, there’s always the risk that I maybe missed a sign and someone will hold it against me. Possibly you will blame me, when you go there and run afoul of law enforcement or a property manager.

Also, the point here is exploration. You go find your own spot and keep it to yourself!

One thing that favors the both of us is, the average city-dweller is definitely not in fish-finding mode. Along a busy parking lot off a major thoroughfare, I struggled to land a 4-pound bass in a crystal-clear canal. The big fish was thrashing all over the place, and I was skidding down the bank trying to avoid landing in the water. Small fish you can pretty well derrick into your hands for release, but I actually had a fight going on. There were people walking by and none so much as paid the slightest bit of attention. After I released the fish, one man ambled up and asked, “What were you doing?”

“Just caught a big bass,” I blabbed. (I know, I know—I should’ve said something cryptic like “Washing my shoes.”)

“What were you using for bait?” he asked.

Saving face—and potentially the future quality of my new fishing hole—I answered as any savvy fly fisherman would: “Nothing!”

So, before you write to chide me, an obvious word of caution pertains to riding bikes in the urban and suburban landscapes. This is, after all, South Florida, where defensive driving is critical when you’re behind the wheel of a truck or car. It’s even more critical on a bike.

This business of bike-fishing around populated areas is not a little dangerous, it’s actually a lot dangerous. Best we can do is make it less dangerous.

Take care of the things you can control. Wear a helmet and bright clothes. Keep your head on a swivel, especially around intersections and blind alleys between buildings or foliage. Look and look again.

Drivers are unpredictable and seldom, it seems, attentive to bicycle riders. I read a report recently that of the 20 most hazardous counties in the U.S. 
for bicycle riders, Florida has 14 of them; Broward ranks 17th. Of course this hazard is a “two-way street,” so to speak, and anyone who’s lived in Florida for any length of time (one or two days would do it) has witnessed unsafe bicycle practices. It’s lawful in Florida to ride bicycles on sidewalks but do so cautiously. Ride with the flow of traffic so that drivers preparing to enter the roadway are apt to look in your direction.

Wait for crosswalks, but don’t trust that drivers are paying attention!

Install a rodholder (check with a local bike shop) and sensible cargo containment so that you can keep both hands on the handlebars at all times. Don’t haul a bunch of unwieldy crap that’ll compromise your balance; keep your tackle minimalist. Use a bell to signal your intent to pass pedestrians or other cyclists. This is particularly important in an unfamiliar, urban setting: Do not startle.

Lights are also a smart addition. I use a flashing red tail light and a forward flashing white light; they both run on rechargeable lithium batteries and are super lightweight.

One other thing: Carry a bicycle lock; you’ll want it come lunchtime. Finally, wear a helmet. I said that already, but here it is again.

Bike fishing is definitely a thing. At home, on days when my schedule is busy or I don’t feel like launching my boat, I frequently throw a rod on my bicycle, sling pack over my shoulder, and pedal around town for some bass fishing. I live in a quiet neighborhood where there are many small lakes and creeks. There’s also coastal waters within range.

Now I’m thinking I’ll start doing more road trips. Put the bike in the truck and go!





GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

How to Buy and Rig a River Fishing Kayak

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Power or Paddle? Bonafide PWR129

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

It's a Skiff, It's a Kayak: Bonafide SKF117

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Hobie Mirage Lynx to the Next Level

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight Packed with Features

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Extend Your Range in the Salt Marsh

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Florida's Capital Fishing

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120 FULLY RIGGED Fishing Machine

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Mounting Forward-Facing Sonar on A Kayak: Mounts, Scanning Applications and More!

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

On The Water with Old Town: Bass Fishing at PRIVATE GEORGIA LAKE

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

DECKED-OUT Old Town Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 Complete WALK-THROUGH

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Dreambuild: Old Town ePDL Gets Rigged to the Hilt

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use