By Terry Gibson
Talk about babes in the woods. When we were seven and eight years old, my parents first shoved my sister, Anne, and me down the waters of Fisheating Creek. We’d canoed the creek and other waterways around the state together, four to a boat.
But we were getting too big for that, so my folks, always ones to seize the day, decided it was time for us to learn for ourselves how to navigate life’s unending series of adventures, by working together.
To this day, Mom jokes that they never worried about where we were that morning, even as my folks lagged behind to fish.
They could hear the loud reports of aluminum banging against cypress stumps reverberating through the primeval forest. I’m sure a few epithets rang out over the birdsong as well. We had a few strokes to learn and some timing to develop.
And learn them we did, right there on one of the most beautiful, free-flowing wilderness watersheds in southern Florida.
Thanks to the Fisheating Creek Outpost on Highway 27, in Palmdale, families continue draw closer as they explore, connect and reconnect with this ribbon of bright water flowing through towering cypress.
This place, which the Seminoles named Thlothlopopka-Hatchee, or “the creek where fish are eaten,” radiates such an inviting and enchanting aura that you’ll find yourself yearning to return. After nearly 40 years of canoeing and camping that creek, it remains our favorite place to escape urbanity, connect with friends and family, and reconnect with the rhythms of nature through our dipping paddles and taut lines.
Here are a few images and tips about how and when to enjoy it.
This is the view from the canoe/kayak launch at the the Fishingeating Creek campground. Several large oxbows connect here, offering excellent fishing by boat or from shore. There’s no better spot on the creek to enjoy the flights of wading birds heading to roost through warm, evening light than right there on those shores.
Campground concessionaires maintain fleets of canoes and kayaks that are available for rental. You’re welcome to bring your own boats. They also offer shuttle services for day and overnight adventures down the creek. Inquire about water levels before booking a trip.
The creek’s beauty and the gorgeous blue skies of southern Florida reflect vividly on the creek’s slow-moving, tannin-stained waters, magnifying its incredible beauty.
Daylight on Paradise Lake, one of several slow, deep elbows in the creek, and a great place to camp. It’s located below the Fisheating Creek campground. Most mornings, only alligator wakes, surface-feeding fish and the gentle swirls off a paddle break the mirror calm.
Fisheating Creek is a fly fisherman’s paradise. The towering cypress trees protect you from the wind, the fish are plentiful and aggressive, and you’re unlikely to see another angler all day. I prefer shorter, four- to six-weight fly rods to cast popping bugs, sinking spider imitations and Wolly Buggers against the cypress.
Bluegill bream are one of the most abundant species in the creek. And they are delicious. This one fell for a No. 6 chartreuse popping bug.
Saw palmetto, lit in the foreground, and live oaks, also dominate the shoreline vegetation. The palmettos grow nutritious berries that white-tailed deer, Osceola turkeys and wild hogs depend on. Live oak acorns are also vitally important for many birds and larger animals. On any given trip down the creek, you’re likely to see Florida’s endemic Osceola turkey, whitetail deer, and wild hogs, as well as otters.
For more than a half century, the Beetle Spin has proven itself one of the most productive lures for bass and panfish. No angler should leave the shoreline without quite a few of them in the box. Also, make sure to bring a few small topwater plugs, as well as a good supply of four-inch plastic worms in purple, red and pumpkin colors. Rig them Texas-style.
These beautiful waters, which teem with fish, offer young anglers an endless source of fascination.
Fisheating Creek is a wonderful family getaway. This family enjoys a leisurely hike through the oak forest that parallels the creek.
La Belle is a quaint town about 15 miles west of the Fisheating Creek campground. The Log Cabin barbecue restaurant is a favorite among locals and visitors ready for someone to prepare a hearty meal for them.
Warning: Paddling the creek causes hunger. Just a short drive away, The Log Cabin serves up all you can eat.
You can also order ahead or go through the drive through, to enjoy great barbecue creekside.
The food is served with southern charm and hospitality.
Never hesitate to ask for seconds.
If you’re craving solitude, the creek is a great place to enjoy some quiet time and reflection.
When you go:
Fisheating Creek is only about an hour from Fort Myers, and two hours from Orlando or West Palm Beach. The Fisheating Creek Outpost offers camp sites for primitive camping and RV’s. The nearest grocery store is in LaBelle. The Outpost general store has a limited selection of beverages and charcoal. You can purchase wood for a fire there. They also offer basic fishing tackle, but serious anglers should stock up before hand. There are tackle stores in Labelle, Moore Haven, Lake Placid and Clewiston.
If you’re tent camping, be sure to bring a waterproof tent and ground cover.
Campground GPS Numbers: N 26 deg 56 min 12 sec, W 81 deg 19 min 12 sec
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