Kayak Fishing2023-05-22T16:51:27-04:00



Creek Fishing: Guide on Paddle Fishing the Tributaries of the Indian River Lagoon
May 22, 2023

Creek Fishing: Guide on Paddle Fishing the Tributaries of the Indian River Lagoon


Snook Caught on Elbow Creek

A Beautiful Summertime Creek Snook - Caught on Elbow Creek this Weekend

Happy Monday, SpaceFish…

So this week, I am really excited to talk about what might be my favorite way to kayak fish here on the Space Coast –  “Creek Fishing.” I am talking about the Eau Gallie River, Elbow Creek, St. Sebastian River, Crane Creek, Turkey Creek, Goat Creek, Horse Creek (lots of generic animal creeks). There is another one I have never been to, called Turnbull Creek that flows into the IRL just north of Scottsmoor in the northern reaches of Brevard County. But essentially, we are talking about all of the tributaries that flow into the Indian River Lagoon.

Why Kayak Creek Fish the Space Coast?

#1 Species Diversity

I love to catch Snook and Tarpon, and sometimes you can even get on some Bass depending on how deep you’re going and how much freshwater is in these creeks. I caught my first ever “backwater slam” last year and for all intents and purposes I think being able to catch Snook, Tarpon, and Bass on the same river/creek on the same day is pretty dope.

#2 It is “inherently Floridian”

I think every angler should ask themselves why they fish. Is it for results, or is it for the experience? For me it’s the experience. I have fallen in love with the process. When you love the process, the results will come. Maybe not all the time, and everywhere. But they will. For me, I like exploring, I like seeing Florida’s natural beauty, and I like fishing in cool places. If that means I have a tough day, so be it! I live here, I can fish here all the time, the way I see it, if you fish regularly the fish of a lifetime can always be on your next cast. So don’t be afraid to get out and enjoy yourself and fishing somewhere new! If all you care about is results then you’re so deep in the forest you can’t even see the trees. This past weekend I had to let a Snook run from a dolphin while I had it hooked. I had a Bull shark tear up a top water plug when I cast into the fray of mullet being busted up, and I had my passageway through a small cut blocked off by a territorial Gator standing his ground. If you want to see Florida, the real Florida, and you have a way to get your hands on a kayak or paddle board, then you have the means to do it!

#3 Practicality

Depending on where you are, and how the wind is blowing. Inshore fishing on the IRL, or the Banana River Lagoon can be tough in a kayak or paddle board. Most of the time, you can find wind protection in these tributaries. Not only will you find wind protection which is important if you’re a member of the “no motor dispatch” the elite amphibian force of the plastic & inflatable navy, but also you will find more isolation, especially compared to the main lagoon systems, and the residential canals beachside. Which for me, is very much appreciated and sought after.

Ibis and Anhinga's Watch Over Elbow Creek

Ibis and Anhinga's Watch Over Elbow Creek

crane creek tarpon hole

A Good Tarpon Spot on Crane Creek

Abandoned Boat House on Crane Creek

Old Abandoned Boat House on Crane Creek - Shady Mid-Day Snook Hangout

Targeted Species – Best Time of Year

So there are two big ones here. Snook, and Tarpon.

Typically, the Snook are going to be smaller than what you can target around the inlets, beaches, and more open/deeper waters. But I’ve caught my fair share of slot Snook, and even a few over slot Snook in these tributaries. For me, the definition of “Creek Snook” is coloration. If they have been living in the creeks and tributaries where the waters are stained with tannic acid (not a bad thing! This is natural) they will be a golden bronze color, dyed like an Easter Egg. But if you’re in tight areas and you’re throwing 1.5 to 2 inch baits on micro tackle and a 1000 series, a 15-20 inch Snook will be as fun to catch as a 35-40 incher in the surf, horsed in from open waters with a 6000 series real. Like the Patron Saint of all things fishing wisdom Bill Dance once said, it’s all sport if you match your tackle. So don’t tell me balancing on a stand up kayak or paddle board, slingshot casting a tiny bait into a mangrove pocket and pulling out a 20 inch Snook on tackle designed for panfish doesn’t sound like sport!

Now for the Tarpon you’re going to run across the “Juvies”, or the Silver Prince. These little fellas are going to go anywhere from a pound or two, up to 30ish pounds or above. Last night I jumped a guesstimate 60ish pounder in the middle of the river channel in Elbow Creek. I survived 4 jumps and my hook bent out on the 5th. I jumped 3 more smaller Tarpon in the 5-10 pound range through the weekend. Casted to plenty more rollers, but came up short. It’s Tarpon fishing. Tarpon fishing is a lot like trying to figure out if my 2 year old is going to eat his dinner with us tonight. If he is hungry I suppose he will, if he is not, I suppose he won’t. But either way, he won’t eat on my schedule, he will eat when his body tells him too. Tarpon fish are that way too. The key for these guys is downsize the bait. I talk to people all the time, who have never caught one on artificial; despite years, months, weeks, days, and hours of trying. It’s all about the profile! These guys are in these backwaters feasting on minnows and mosquitofish. They don’t want your 4 inch paddle tail. Give them a 1.5-2 inch Crappie Jig or Swimbait and see if they hit it.

Now for the time of year. I like the summer when the heavy rains flood these tributaries. Bringing in fresh, cooler water, and most importantly – flushing the bait! Because at the end of the day folks, it’s all about where the bait is. Plus the rains will raise the water levels as well, making more of the backwater areas accessible to fish, bait and paddle anglers.


Elbow Creek Tarpon: Caught on Creme Spoiler Shad


Elbow Creek Snook - Caught on Tsunami Spoiler Shad

My Set Ups –  What Works for Me

So I am going to run you through my 4 set-ups for “Creek Fishing” What I like to use, when, where and how.

#1 Sunrise Starter – Topwater

I have really been enjoying the Rapala Skitter Walk SW-08 in Holographic Silver, Holographic Bone, and Bone. I like to throw these on a Baitcasting set up. 6”10” Extra Fast Action Rod, with 20 pound Braid – to 40 Pound Mono. This past weekend in the first hour or so after the sun rises I was catching decent numbers of Snook and Jacks on this bait. I even jumped a massive creek Tarpon on this last night as the sun was going down. If the top water action stays hot, pick up a couple because my plugs got beat up to hell and back. I lost two Saturday morning to letting Snook run from Dolphins and then breaking me off under docks. I was down to my last one in the bag, a Salt Strong Moonwalker and this bad boy got battered and bruised and ended up a very tired and confused young bait by the end of the day after getting whacked by Snook, Jacks, and then the final nail, a 3 foot Bull Shark.

leader line

Snook, Jacks, and Bull Sharks made this a very Tired and Confused Top-Water Plug

#2 Confidence Bait

The Knox Robinson “go-to” a 3-4 inch White Paddle Tail on a ⅛ oz Owner Twistlock Hook. I throw this on a 7 Foot Ugly Stik Elite with a 3000 Series Penn Reel. 10 Pound Braid, 20-30 pound Fluorocarbon Leader.

leader line

A 6th Sense Whale in Ghost Ice Minnow on a 4/0 Owner Twistlock 1/8 Oz.

#3 When They’re Not Hitting Swimbaits: Jerkbait/Fluke

This weekend it was the Mini Mullet by NLBN (No Live Bait Needed) but I have thrown Zoom Flukes or Bitters Skip Shad for a while now too. The classic “flukes” I would throw on a 4/0 oz Owner Twistlock, but with the Mini Mullet, I threw it weedless and weightless on a 2/0 screw lock worm hook. I caught my biggest of the weekend on a NLBN Mini Mullet in Smoked Mullet. If you are interested in these baits, go to Strike Zone in Melbourne! They have an end of the aisle display! I threw these on a 6’6 Bass Pro Shops brand rod, and a 3000 Daiwa Spinning reel on 10 pound braid, and 30 pound Fluorocarbon. I like this shorter, stout rod for mangrove and dock skipping in tight spaces and having the ability to stick and turn their heads out from the structure. What is special about this particular rod, it was a gift from my Uncle Rhett, who used it for 20+ years, and it was a gift from his father-in-law, who, like me and my uncle, was a teacher and football coach that loved to fish. That rod is over 25 years old and still putting the heat to ‘em! Coach Turner, I am not sure if you ever envisioned this rod whoopin’ Snook in a backwater creek in Central Florida when you bought it for my uncle 25+ years ago, but let me tell you. It damn sure is!

Snook love the NLBN Mini Mullet

Snook love the NLBN Mini Mullet

#4 Tiny Baits Get Bit

The most action in the creeks and tributaries will come from the smaller baits, the 2 inch spoiler shads, and the little grubs and jigs. DOA also makes great little bait called the Tiny Terror Eyez, but they’re much more expensive and only two hooks come in a pack of 6, and as many of these as I go through, it’s not feasible financially to fish these over the Creme or Tsunami baits. I fish these on a Bass Pro Shops brand rod, the Micro Lite. It is 6’6” and I have it currently on a 2000 series Penn reel, but last year I had it on a Lew’s 1000 series spinning reel which was a nice reel for this size tackle. Usually I got 8 pound braid, to 14 Fluorocarbon, but this week I beefed up to 20 pound Fluoro.

Launch Spots

So there are several ways to get to the main creeks, that I personally, fish a lot. For the Eau Gallie River/Elbow Creek it is Ballard Park. For Crane Creek you can go the long way launching from Scurrah’s Landing, or the First Street Ramp, or you can go in the quick and easy way – Promenade Park off of Melbourne Ave. Turkey Creek, there are two public launch sites that are easily accessible (and one that is not) – but the ones with easy accessibility are Goode Park on the southern bank of the Creek, and another public boat ramp located at the end of Main Street NE in Palm Bay. Horse and Goat are a little tricky to get to, and Turbull in the north can be reached from Scottsmoor Landing.


For an angler in a paddleboard or kayak, this is a great time of year to get into the tributaries, creeks, and backwaters and target Snook and Tarpon. As you get further into these creeks, things will get tight and your smaller, quiet craft will become an advantage, and like a true backwater bandito, you will have a chance to hook into a few in tight areas and have a big ole time! It really is a lot of fun to kayak fish in the backwaters of the Space Coast. I hope everyone reading this finds themselves in happiness, and health, is enjoying the sunshine and warm weather, and planning on getting out this week and wetting a line.

Until next time!

by Knox Robinson
Spacefish Prostaff



Spacefish Community


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