The concept of a bucket list is a grand idea even at a young age. With just a bit of self-reflection and a piece of paper! Some of your most amazing Ideas can start to take shape. Just the thought of all those far off lands send my brain swimming with silvery Tarpon, majestic leaping sailfish, grander Marlin within sight of land, or even Monster redfish in the Shadows of Americas space program. You see I have a unique birth place and share it with a piece of our nation’s history. Merritt Island doesn’t just come into focus in those cool (look back at earth) pictures from launching rockets. It also comes into focus in many publications, T.V. shows, and bar stool hero stories of monster redfish. “It was the size of my boat”, they say! That very well may be true in my home town.
Many years ago NASA started collecting land in a sparsely populated and Mosquito infested marshland now known as Cape Canaveral/Merritt Island. The subsequent secure areas that closed large sections of the North Banana River had an unintended consequence. In the closing of those areas our local schools of redfish were able to flourish with little to no human pressure, and the lack of development created optimum breading grounds. A little space coast fact; lagoons/rivers around the space coast play host to special redfish that spawn inshore, and that is not commonly found in their range. This amazing “closed” area is affectionately called Jurassic park by those who have seen the reds that lurk these waters year round.
In the early days boats and anglers were able ply the waters in search of fish and stopping only at the Banana Rivers “secure area” boundary (NASA Cswy/405). But an early-90’s call for Manatee protection and increased security gave birth to an extension of limited access water called the Banana River No-Motor-Zone (NMZ). The access to this Manatee area was limited only by one’s ability to paddle, push, or sail. The pristine waters that line NASA’s secure zone were now free of motors and boy did the fish respond. Many types of common and not so common vessels have been poled (pushed), paddled, and sailed into the farthest reaches of the NMZ. You may see a paddle boat with so many rods it appears to be a floating porcupine or come across four big guys in one little Johnboat, and the obvious combo package of a canoe with a sail has certainly been spotted.
I cut my teeth in the NMZ with my trusty canoe! My father would drop my fishing buddies and me at KARS Park on his way to work. He worked on the Space programs my entire life; not to mention everyone else in my family including me (about 200 years of combined service). So this gave us access to the NMZ front park that only NASA employees could use called “KARS Park”. KARS as it’s commonly called; not only has camping and a marina. It also serves as the best NMZ launch on its western shore with monster redfish caught right off the camp site docks frequently. These playful fishing missions for hours with my fish minded school friends were only the beginning of my lifelong love for the NMZ’s huge resident redfish.
Several years back I retired that trusty old canoe. These days my Fleet of fully rigged fishing kayaks get us around the NMZ with a bit more efficiency and style. But the launch spot has remained the same KARS Park. The stunning backdrop of tree lined shores and towering launch pads have witnessed broom sized redfish tails appearing from the mist of a foggy central Florida mornings for many years. And countless times I can recall the hart stopping crush of a three foot redfish eating a topwater plug on still predawn mornings with the flash of Cape Canaveral’s famous lighthouse not yet drowned out by a stunning burst of sunrise color. Or the huge American flag and NASA logo on the side of the massive VAB building adorning the horizon while you are towed off by a redfish the size of your leg that ate a mullet chunk the size of you fist. With just a bit of research you could paint yourself into one of these scenes, and KARS helped you in achieving this attainable goal by starting to allow anyone to launch in the NMZ for a $5 a boat fee. So come enjoy a guided trip or set out on your own, but this unique Florida destination should top your bucket list.
Captain Alex Gorichky is a full-time Kayak and skiff guide on Florida’s space coast specializing in saltwater light tackle angling. Born and raised on the space coast his knowledge of its finned residents is vast. Contact Capt. Alex at www.localLinesCharters.com to book your NMZ bucket list trip!