Tides   

Follow the Alafia River to Pristine Fish

In the spring of 1988, a storage tank owned by a company called Gardinier, Inc (a fertilizer manufacturer owned by Cargill out of Minnesota) had something go wrong with a primary valve. A few minutes after the valve got stuck, it broke.

As a result, 28,000 gallons of phosphoric acid poured into the prinstine sweetwater of the Alafia River. And from there into Tampa Bay. The fish-kill that happened as a result of that accident was sickening, and as often happens, environmentalists anticipated that the waters would never return to the condition they were in the morning before the accident.

Fortunately (as is also often the case), the river's returned in full glory. It is a superb, beautiful spring fed region that's defined as the Alafia Watershed, more than 400 miles of watershed. Much of the area's been stripped for mining and industrial usage, but much of it looks like it did 1,000 years ago. You can go up the river from where our trip map takes you into the bay, and take two years exploring the backwaters and not touch them all.

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The waters that pour into the bay are one of our primary fisheries, and the fact that you can drop your boat in at a ramp right at the mouth of the river makes it that much more attractive to people living in any part of the bay. It's a short run by boat, and the ramp is convenient, both to trailered center consoles, and the yakkers among us.

Looking north towards downtown Tampa. The Kitchen is right off of Highway 41 in Gibsonton.

As you come out of the mouth of the river, and go south, you will see Bullfrog Creek -- another excellent kayak fishing spot. A lot of this water shifts from 3' to 3", and the many cuts and edges make being low and quiet so perfect. It should be on your list of favorite spots if you're a local yakker.

The Kitchen is a small bay to the east of Green Key and Whiskey Stump Key. It's very shallow, and is only a few feet on high tides. You can see it enclosed by an oyster bar that points from the north to the south. The corner of that oyster bar -- which is alive and beautiful -- is a redfish-heaven. The spot is well known, but is not over-fished. It can't hold a lot of traffic; get in early if it's a Saturday or Sunday, those days will get some heavy traffic on the weekends. And, don't forget that fishing "The Kitchen" gives you the entire length of the bay from the Alafia River (and north of there, too) all the way down here. Look around thoroughly -- the various keys and mangrove islands are all productive structure. 



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