I first began fishing Strickland Creek in 1975.
In those days I couldn’t afford much of a boat, but whenever I could manage to float down that stream I knew fish would be coming home with me.
If you are not familiar, Strickland sits about a quarter mile east of north U.S. 1 and runs about three miles up to the Tomoka River. It is a tidal creek that contains brackish water that leans toward the fresh.
In the beginning dead shrimp was all you needed to catch a great fish dinner. It was my go to spot. Back then both black and red drum were easy to find and all it took to get them was shrimp. As the years passed the drum fishing fell off and I began to fish it less and less.
On a nice fall day, I launched my 17-foot Polar at the natural ramp in Sanchez Park to spend some time with a stream that is an old friend. Over the years I had caught a few spotted sea trout there, but for the most part I found it to be a poor trout hole. The creek averages 10 to 12 feet in depth for most of its length, which would lead you to think it could be a good cold weather trout spot, but I never found it to be that.
In 1978, a vicious freeze hit our area with day-time highs only in the 20s. That was enough to stun the snook and many were killed. When the temperatures plunged, hundreds of snook and tarpon rushed to Strickland to try and survive in the warmer depths there. It didn’t work, but Strickland became packed with those two game fish.
My cousin Randy, who lived in DeLand, called to say a commercial fishermen friend had told him he had gone there and dipped up 2,500 pounds of stunned snook. Even in that cold weather, I was on the water the very next day. Randy, my father and I netted more than 400 pounds of snook that were swimming slowly near the surface.
After that the state began to issue warnings not to take fish in that manner. They told us the fish would survive, but we knew they were dying. As soon as the cold snap broke, I went back out to Strickland and found thousands of dead snook and tarpon. These days dipping up stunned fish is strictly illegal.
As I drifted northward on the creek, I had to smile as each turn brought back a good fishing memory. At a wide spot in the stream, I remembered being there with a friend from Chicago when we found tarpon so thick we were accidentally snagging them through the dorsal fin with our jigs. Wild fishing to be sure.
As I moved along, I tried each of my old honey holes with no luck. In order to keep with tradition, I was baiting with dead shrimp that was only appealing to small mango snappers. I found some of the downed trees I had fished in the '70s were still there. Once those trees had yielded coolers full of drum, but no more. When I did catch a small black drum, I anchored up. In the past, whenever I caught any drum, it would mean a school was waiting, but no more. I did manage one under-sized red fish.
Folks, Strickland Creek is a great place to boat and especially kayak. It is a no-wake manatee zone for the entire length. It also is a great place to try a fly rod. On occasion, you may see an alligator, otters, roseate spoonbill wading birds, osprey and bald eagles. Some years back, it was home to a big ole rattlesnake we named El Cid. It was not uncommon to see that seven-footer swimming across the creek. There is still lots of fun to be had at Strickland and it is all within the Ormond Beach city limits. Give it a try. You won’t be sorry.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.