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Boat Ramp Tips



The more boat ramps you're comfortable with, the wider you will range and the more fish you'll catch. If you don't mind switching between fresh and salt water, you'll find a ramp close to good fishing somewhere no matter how the wind blows.

Ramp anxiety keeps lots of boaters at home, which is a shame because handling a trailer is a fun skill to master. To get good at it, practice in an empty parking lot and on an actual ramp when it's not busy.

Pompano fishing is suddenly hot, so I'll be heading out early in the morning from DeLand straight to the wind-sheltered concrete ramps at the northwest end of the South Bridge in Fort Pierce. It's a two-hour drive down I-95—but only a 10-minute run to great fishing.

The ramp is across the street from the Captains' Galley breakfast restaurant, and it shares a parking lot with Buoy 12, which might be the best fried-fish restaurant and beer joint in Florida. The ramp is a just a block from DeBrooks tackle shop and offers a fish-cleaning table with running water. There's even a concrete bunker/toilet if you need one. Now, that's a perfect boat ramp.

When I'm thinking about fishing a new area, I rely on my Florida Atlas and Gazeteer a mapbook and ask questions about ramps at local tackle stores. I mark my map and take a closer look later on Google Earth. And, with all the hurricane impacts around the state, it's wise to call a local to find out the status of the ramp.

Once you know the ramps, you can plan around winds and tides. For example, a high tide and strong west/northwest wind can make the ramp hazardous at Fort Desoto in St. Pete. From the other direction, a stiff southeast wind can make the ramp dangerous at Pinellas Point on Tampa Bay, which faces southeast. As a third alternative, you might choose the protected ramps at Maximo Park at the north end of the Skyway Bridge. All three access the same general areas.

Currently my favorite Florida ramp is Tedders in DeLeon Springs, minutes from my home. The specs are biting on Lake Woodruff, a short skiff trip on a glassy calm,beautiful Florida “run.” Here's the drill at Tedders: I drive up, get out and unhook the boat straps, put in the plug and climb in the boat. Jack Tedder then backs my boat in the water, and I power up and off. When I return later in the day, I holler for Jack. He backs the trailer in the water, and I run the boat up on it, and Jack pulls the rig and me up on dry land again. It's nice, even though the old concrete ramp has more potholes than Falluja. He charges $5, but he's a nice guy, and there's a fish-cleaning table and water hose and power for my electric knife.

I carry a Danforth anchor and 50 feet of 1/2-inch line in my SUV, which I use at a favorite lake an hour from home. There's a shallow, sandy area where it's possible to offload a small boat, but it's a challenge. I back out in the lake as far as I dare, until water's up to my front wheel hubs and the bottom feels fairly solid. The boat still won't float, and I can't push it off the trailer, so I wade my Danforth anchor out behind the boat and sling it as far out as I can. Then I pull the line to set the anchor and tie it to a stern ring on the skiff. Now I can drive the trailer out from under the boat.

It's worth the wet feet and aggravation. The lake's spectacularly beautiful with ancient, gnarly cypress trees and some nice, peaceful fly fishing. I found it by asking a local man at a bar if there was a boat ramp on a mysterious lake I'd seen through the pines. FS

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