One of the greatest challenges faced by modern man is a lack of free time to explore, learn and grow. Too often we are bogged down in routine tasks, leaving little time to try something new. As a fisherman and outdoorsman, I have tremendous natural resources and diverse habitats to explore in my native Georgia. Even though my home state boasts just about any type of water you can imagine, I end up fishing the same places time and again out of convenience, routine or just a lack of time to explore. Too often as an adult, I let my adventurous boyhood spirit be stifled because of demands for my time by everyday tasks. Recently, I decided to venture out and find new waters outside of my comfort zone. Within a couple of hours, I found myself in a cool, shaded creek deep in the heart of south Georgia. Striking out early one Saturday morning led me to the unfamiliar waters of the Kinchafoonee Creek.
The Kinchafoonee Creek originates near Buena Vista and flows almost 92 miles in route to join the Flint River near Albany. Having passed through the area many times and crossing the Kinchafoonee on Highway 32, I had often wondered about the creek and its wildlife but never took the time to stop and explore it. After some Google Earth recon, I decided the Kinchafoonee would be a great starting point for exploring south Georgia’s waterways.
I reached out to area resident Nick Baker (known as Nicodemus on the GON Forum) for some general pointers. Nick was kind enough to give me some basic information on float times and what type of trip to expect. Armed with Nick’s information and a desire to explore, I set out to make a maiden voyage on the Kinchafoonee.
I left my house and drove to the Highway 32 bridge in Lee County one Saturday morning. After a quick visual inspection of the high and fast-flowing water, I decided not to battle the stiff currents to paddle upstream. I hopped back in my truck to check conditions at a couple other boat ramps farther downstream.
On the way, I passed Backwoods Outdoors in Leesburg and decided to stop and see if anyone had local reports on the water conditions. I walked in and began talking with the owner of Backwoods Outdoors, Doug Griffin. After being very helpful, he decided to call Ryan Edmonds of Up the Creek Kayak and Canoe Adventures.
Within minutes, Ryan was at the store filling me in on the Kinchafoonee. To say that I got connected to the right guy would be an understatement. Ryan and his wife Marla have been in the kayak outfitting business since 2014, offering services on the Kinchafoonee Creek, Muckalee Creek and Flint River. While Ryan was explaining the trips he offered, I learned that he had lived on the Kinchafoonee since 1986. His passion for floating and fishing the creek is what inspired him to start offering float trips and shuttle services.
That day, Ryan dropped me at the Century Road Landing south of Leesburg, and I made the 3-mile float back to his house. With an afternoon thunderstorm a heavy possibility and having my 8-year-old son Clint along, I was content to take the kayaks out and plan a return trip for a longer float and some time to fish.
The float from Century Road to Highway 19 at the south end of Lee County is Ryan’s most popular trip and offers some nice scenery. It takes about three hours without fishing. You’ll pass the popular blue hole, waterfalls and other Kinchafoonee notables. Expect crowds on summer weekends, with more recreational paddlers than fishermen. After taking my first trip down the Kinchafoonee and desiring to see more, I made arrangements with Ryan to come back for a longer trip.
Exactly two Saturdays from my first trip to the Kinchafoonee, I found myself at Ryan’s house early in the morning getting a crash course on fishing the creek. This time I’d be floating from the Highway 32 bridge down to Century Road.
“The Kinch is my favorite water to fish. I was introduced to the creek by my dad as a child and fell in love with it. I’ve been fishing here ever since,” said Ryan.
Ryan advised me to keep the tackle and techniques simple.
“Use Beetle Spins and Rooster Tails,” said Ryan. “Expect to catch a good many bream and redbreast during your float. The average fish won’t have much size, but the action will be consistent, and the fish will have beautiful colors.”
I found Ryan’s advice to be very accurate and caught 30 to 35 bream and a couple of small, feisty bass on my float from Highway 32 to Century Road. I also asked Ryan about the bass fishing on the Kinchafoonee before departing. He referred me to a local angler who frequently uses his shuttle service.
“Anthony Jarrett is a customer of mine who fishes the creek a lot. He’ll be floating the creek today,” said Ryan.
We gave Anthony a call, and he got me up to speed on the local bass population.
“Use Trick Worms and finesse worms in watermelon and pumpkin colors. Work the shoals and you’ll catch some bass,” said Anthony.
After talking a few minutes, Anthony gave a brief description of himself and said he hoped to meet me on the creek.
About two hours later, I beached my kayak on a sandbar and began working a small hole for bream. Two young men paddled up and began to talk fishing. After a couple of exchanges, one of the men asked, “Are you Ryan’s friend?”
I answered yes, and he said, “My dad talked to you this morning,” said TJ Jarrett.
After stating that his dad was close behind, I decided to wait to meet him before moving on. About two minutes later, a fleet of roto-molded flotilla landed on the sandbar. TJ introduced me to his dad, Anthony, who appeared to be the commodore of this south Georgia Navy. After spending a few minutes talking with the crew, we pushed off the sandbar to begin fishing again. I was thoroughly impressed to witness a group of family and friends, perhaps 20 strong, floating a creek and enjoying life together.
After about five hours on the water, I landed at Century Road, with Ryan awaiting my arrival. We talked about the water I covered and the fish I caught. We discussed Anthony and TJ Jarrett and their crew of kayakers. I thanked Ryan for his hospitality and help in exploring a new place. I asked Ryan for advice for people planning to float the Kinchafoonee for the first time.
“From Highway 32 south, the water levels should be no lower than 2.5 feet as measured at Pinewood Road Bridge. Any lower than that and you’ll spend some time dragging your boat.”
Ryan suggests using the NOAA website for current information. If you are coming from out of the area and traveling in a single vehicle, Ryan’s shuttle services are very reasonable. He can also rent single or tandem kayaks and canoes ($25 and $50) if you don’t have boats or don’t want to bring your own. He includes necessary gear, such as paddles and life vests.
My advice is to bring snacks and drinks, a camera and be mindful of surroundings. My fishing partner was retrieving a snagged lure and encountered a bunch of angry wasps in an overhanging branch. After receiving five or six stings and a dose of Benadryl, we decided anymore snagged Rooster Tails would be left alone. I haven’t floated the Kinchafoonee north of Highway 32 yet, but plan to in the future.
Nick Baker (Nicodemus on the GON Forum) says if you plan to fish the northern stretches, bear in mind that these areas are isolated and have large gators.
“Highway 118 to Prison Road (Pinewood Road) is a drift that can be done in a day. Some downed trees but not too bad. Be warned that there are some big gators through this stretch that are 12 feet plus. Not much civilization through here either. Good fishing, though,” said Nick.
I plan to check out the more isolated stretches of the Kinchafoonee in the near future.
Life is busy. Life is also short. When you get the chance, load up the kayak, some tackle, and go explore somewhere new. There’s nothing wrong with having go-to spots and places you are intimately familiar with. There’s also nothing wrong with going somewhere completely new and foreign. It may take a couple of trips to get dialed in to a new place. You may strike out or not do as well fishing a new place. Or, you might bump into a lifelong resident who happens to be a kayak outfitter just by happenstance. Either way, you’ll enjoy time on the water and gain new experiences.
While I didn’t catch tons of fish or any remarkable specimens, I definitely had a successful trip. Catching fish in new waters is always exciting. I also had my son Clint along and got to watch him captain his own kayak in a new place. Having a curious 8-year-old boy with a sharp lookout for river pirates, hippos, giant crocodiles and other hazards sure to be found in a small creek is entertaining and refreshing. I may bring Clint back to the Kinchafoonee on a Saturday in the future. Or we may go somewhere new. Either way, it will be time well spent void of electronics and engaging the natural environment. I encourage everyone who can to do the same.