Growing up I spent a lot of time going back and forth between New Smyrna and the Orlando area. In between these two places is a wonderful oasis, and one of my wife's favorite spots to be "buoyant and cool" while she was pregnant with Scale Lily. Sadly, this was Lily's first time back to the park, outside of the womb. We made the drive often when we lived in New Smyrna, but the move to Panasoffkee put us so far away.
It was about a 30 to 40 minute drive by way of I4, coming from the South west side of Orlando. It was Sunday though so the traffic wasn't bad and with no holiday the park was not full to capacity when we arrived. That does happen during Spring break and sometimes during the Summer, so leave early, have a back up or wait till slower times arrive.
The Spring flows into the St. John's river, and boasts the wild life that comes with that great water way. There were a lot of Ospreys, some bass, including spawners, Blue cats and hundreds of gar. I saw schools of mullet and big groups of Tilapia.
The park also rents kayaks and canoes, and today we were able to view a manatee and her calf, but there is a strict rule about remaining 50 away from the manatees. My experience with them in different areas off the state is that the manatees are often unaware of this rule, and will rub the bottom of your kayak, trying to scratch it's back or approach you while swimming.
On Pleasant Hill Road, where the possibilities are many, we found a nice paddle, giant bluegill, red bellies, and oh yea, those one's with the big mouths too. We parked at the bridge on Pleasant hill road where it crosses Shingle Creek, and then paddled east towards the glories of Toho.
The sunfish in here are aggressive, beautiful, and very robust. The Blue gill below managed to take drag after swallowing a white Rooster tail. It reminds me of Econ in parts but without as much dead fall and it stays rather deep at this end.
I tried pitching a craw, a rattle, and a worm, but ended up taking all my fish on top water, and between 1 and 4pm, not my usual time for throwing top water but it was the Lunar period. We got a lot of hits but only several good sets and fights that made it into the canoe. It's a nice paddle and inside the creek you do find some shade but make sure you bring plenty of water to deal with the afternoon.
The Zoom toad got a lot of attention near the mouth of the creek flowing in to Toho. This was my nicest fish for the day.
A great run in your kayak or canoe and you get to enjoy some good creek fishing on the way to one of Florida's premier bass lakes. Beautiful day!
This was to be my third attempt at exploring Shingle Creek with my daughter. The first time Lily wanted to see the creek and hunt for snakes, so we pulled over by the bridge on Sand Lake road. There was a smaller, very clear stream, flowing towards the creek, and as we walked beside it we could make out the sounds of splashing up ahead. This turned out to be something other than wildlife and when Lily saw the gentleman bathing beneath the bridge, she was done with the adventure. Ah, the city, you never know what you will see. Underneath the bridge on 192 there was the stash of another homeless community.
I didn't realize I had my camera on the wrong setting, so a lot of the shots looked over exposed. I saved a few that are ok, but nothing really does justice to the beauty of the south end. It is a magnificent sunken forest of cypress, with stained water, reminiscent of my trips to Econ but what a different feel.
The water was quite cool in the swamp and with a decent amount of flow between the trees. It can get a little tight in spots as you try to navigate your way around other paddlers.
The fishing, well, I tried a few things and talked to another angler that was kayaking the North stretch. He had caught one on a shiner and one on a wacky rigged Senko. I tried a spinner, a soft craw and finally switched to top water to see what would happen. There several follow and a few bumps on a Tiny Torpedo, but nothing made it to the boat and some were most definitely gar. Econ gives me a lot of nice bass on poppers, and so I gave it a try. I took two small bass and the blue gill above helped me free my lure from a branch. Now that's an aggressive little guy there. If I still had my ultralight or a fly rod set up, I would probably go with throwing a small Rooster tail and some fly poppers in here. The creek flows all the way to Tojo, which is world renown bass water, so the next time I may launch closer to the lake.
So, we are back at the launch, a great park, free, and easy to get to. It is right off 192 and we took John Young parkway south and turned right on Vine (192). It is only a few miles from there on your left. Shingle Creek regional park is a great little paddle and not far from the city of Orlando, Kissimmee and Disney. I highly recommend it and it's free if you launch your own kayak, but there are also rentals on site.