Over the summer, Teresa and I loaded up our three pups and made a pilgrimage to Blue Cypress Lake, the headwaters of the St. Johns River, the longest north-flowing river east of the Mississippi. It is only an hour from our house, yet we had never explored it mostly because my family conveniently has a house on nearby Lake Okeechobee, which I know like my palm. When we got out of the car, Teresa's face was a picture of shock-by-beauty.
"Why haven't we been here before," she said?
The 6,000-acre lake is about a half-hour west of Vero Beach, and 11 miles west of Fellsmere, home of one of my favorite "Cracker" restaurants, Marsh Landing. They serve the best collard greens, froglegs and catfish around, among other southern delicacies.
The lake gets its name from the blue shadow that the towering cypress leave on the water in the early morning light. It is so breathtakingly beautiful I stopped casting for a few minutes both mornings just to take it in. A cypress hammock encircles the entire lake, and hundreds if not thousands of ospreys nest in the trees, along with a new Florida resident, the black-bellied whistling duck, which has migrated up over the past decade from Central America. Both of these bird species call constantly, playing a mesmerizing music that carries over the lake.
Although we timed it wrong by going on the exact dates of the full moon, bass fishing on the lake is usually excellent. There are lots of big fish, and decent crappie and other panfish fishing. We didn't really mind that the fishing was off. It was heaven watching the big moon rise and sparkle on that gorgeous lake while we sipped wine on the deck of Middleton's Fish Camp.
The Middletons are great hosts. They'll point you to the fish and get you outfitted with good guides or the right baits and tackle if you're bringing your own boat or renting one. They offer clean, spartan rooms at the fish camp, with a fridge, small stove and AC/Heat. It's really nice to get there and stay there. You can buy water, sodas and snacks at the camp, but bring everything else you need in terms of food/beverage.
Again, Blue Cypress Lake is a stone's throw from Vero Beach, where accommodations run the gamut from basic to luxury.
The Middletons also offer boat tours, and they are walking encyclopedias of this area's natural wonders and history. Check out some photos from our stay in this mesmerizing place.