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Florida's 'Road to Nowhere' Uncovers Fishing Fortune

Even in the Sunshine State's remote Big Bend, there are fishy places remoter still.

Florida's 'Road to Nowhere' Uncovers Fishing Fortune
Redfish like this are the treasure to be found out of small boat ramps along County Road 361 in coastal Dixie County.

Florida’s Nature Coast has its so-called “road to nowhere” (Hwy. 361) located between Steinhatchee and Horseshoe Beach. The road begins at Casey’s Cove grocery and gas in Jena, last call for necessities. Old newspaper stories claim the road was built by county officials for drug trafficking in the 1970s, as the road offered access to three saltwater creeks.

The long, straight road, perhaps eight miles and close to the Gulf, became notorious for landing small aircraft late at night. Today, I can’t vouch for what goes on after dark, but the anglers in small boats accessing the Gulf here avoid boat traffic, wake zones and fishing pressure back at the nearest town, Steinhatchee. What will you find out there?

angler in aluminum boat
It takes nerves of steel and a hull of aluminum to help in the search for fish off Hwy 361.
  • Rocky Creek Road has a turnoff sign right off 361 and offers a modern boat ramp, floating dock and two acres of free parking. The dock is a little askew after last year’s hurricane, but still works. This is a well-named creek, and any newbies with propeller craft should idle the first mile during high tide, while memorizing the path taken from passing boats. Even offshore a quarter mile, depths can be 1 or 2 feet at low tide. There are a few haphazard PVC pipes leading offshore, some marking rocks, others the old channel. Locals plane out the entire way, knowing every twist and turn. (On the other hand, I’ve seen boats towed in minus their entire lower units). Kayaks can fish in the creek, but with boats passing close by, it’s best to fish the bay and shorelines out front in the Gulf. Venturing north of those PVC pipes will put you into a minefield of rock where propeller craft seldom venture. It’s also a haven for big trout during winter.
  • Sink Creek, farther south on 361, sits on a long turnoff road, not well marked, but a half mile or so past the Rocky Creek turnoff. Sink has a primitive ramp and you have to wade around to pull the boat off the trailer. Numerous rocks are marked by attached “kelp rock” growing to the surface. As the creek widens into the Gulf, there are salt ponds and grassy islands offering refuge and topwater action in windy conditions. Farther out, the Gulf offers miles of 3- to 5-foot depths of sand and grass.
  • Cow Creek, farthest south at the end of the road, is marked by a small concrete bridge, at press time still blocked due to hurricane damage. The primitive sand “ramp” is across the bridge on the right side, but they didn’t leave a path through the boulders to access that side. Cars can park short of the bridge, but the creek on that side is several feet deep and more difficult to launch a kayak. This winding, scenic creek has lots of big rocks. Out front in the Gulf, the water is mostly protected by the Pepperfish Keys almost a mile offshore. A serious low tide here will leave boaters stranded, having to drag their boat back to the bridge, and that can be a pain even for kayakers. It’s happened to scallopers during summer, with no water and lightning cracking down, their cars and safety on a distant horizon.

If You Go

  • Target Species: In the shallows within a quarter mile of shore, it’s strictly trout and redfish, with the occasional big flounder. A mile out in 6 to 8 feet of water are Spanish mackerel, bluefish and sharks, among others.
  • Tides: Reading the day’s tide prediction is key. Except during winter, you can expect 2 to 3 feet of water above sea level or higher, every six hours. (High tide is usually 3 feet and a very high tide, 4.5 feet.) Winters are tough; high tides at mid-day are scarce as hen’s teeth. I strictly avoid low tides around these creeks at mid-day. In winter, I carry a survival bag in case of stranding or fog on this isolated coast.
  • Rocks and Weather: We fish from a 16-foot aluminum boat with outboard and after numerous trips on these three creeks, we know where to avoid limestone rocks. Each creek offers shelter and a short route back to the “road to nowhere,” in case a bad storm or fog cuts us off from Steinhatchee, which has happened. We’ve parked under the bridge at Cow Creek during a deluge, with lightning strikes all around. And we’ve bummed a ride with kayakers in dense fog back to our own car and trailer at the next creek. It’s a lot easier driving those few extra miles along the coast in a vehicle, than plowing back to Steinhatchee in wind, rain and fog.

  • This article was featured in the May 2024 issue of Florida Sportsman magazine. Click to subscribe.



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