Another Crown Jewel in Citrus County and the Nature Coast
The date was December 14, 1941. The agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. Their goal, to establish a refuge where waterfowl coming down the Atlantic Flyway could rest from their long journey. On that date,members of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) obtained a presidential proclamation to establish the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and Chassahowitzka River. Funds from the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (Duck Stamps) were used to purchase the original 2,279 acres at $1.75 an acre. By 1943, the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge had reached its present size of over 23,000 acres.
Excessive killing, human encroachment, pollution and the establishment of refuges in Virginia and the Carolinas shortstops the birds since they no longer needed to fly this far south for food. This was all aggravated by a decline in waterfowl populations after WWII. For these reasons, the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is no longer significant to waterfowl conservation.
Today, those beneficiaries are all who put a boat, a canoe, a kayak or a paddleboard into the clear waters of the Chassahowitzka River. If you have motored or paddled into this pristine wilderness, you owe the pleasure you’ve surely experienced to the gentlemen of the 1941 MBCC.
Chassahowitzka National Refuge Wildlife
The River and Refuge comprise an area spider webbed with fresh and salt-water creeks as well as an estuarine component that is a nursery for numerous marine species. There is no telling what you might see. Bald eagles and ospreys, anhingas and herons are commonplace. At least, twenty-five species of mammals inhabit the Refuge. You could see raccoons and otters, maybe even a Florida black bear.
Abundance of Fish
On the other hand, if you ply the skinny waters of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and River in pursuit of the finny tribe, you have come to the right place. The abundance of fish is astounding. This is due in large part to the estuaries that serve as a nursery for shrimp, crabs and fish fry. Game fish of several species forage for those same juveniles and hungrily roam these waters.
Another major reason for the abundance of fresh and salt-water fish in this area is that the Refuge remains undeveloped. It remains as unspoiled as when the Timucuan people hunted and fished in these environs. Still, another is that the River’s banks themselves are not conducive to normal construction. Muddy banks bristling with needle grass or limerock make for expensive elevated buildings. There are a few homes along a small portion of the six-mile long river. A short way towards the Gulf, there are some weekend cabins, but very few and only accessible by boat.
Navigating the Chassahowitzka River
Like we said the fishing is fantastic, but the navigation is tricky. Newcomers in powerboats, regardless of how shallow their draft, should take it slow and easy. Because the skipper was in a hurry, more than one lower unit bears the scars. Paddlers have the advantage of being able to cruise quietly in very shallow water. Whether in a powerboat or paddling, you should give yourself sufficient room to cast toward the shorelines of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Gold spoons, lead head jigs with rubber tails, live shrimp or live pinfish will all produce fish. The species most frequently encountered are redfish, black drum, snook, sheepshead and spotted seatrout with the occasional shark or tarpon. If you don’t own a canoe or kayak, rentals of kayaks, canoes and jon boats are available.
For the latter you will need to bring your own trolling motor or outboard. So, if you wish to experience the pristine environment and fabulous fishing that the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and River offer, come spend some time on this Crown Jewel of Citrus County and the Nature Coast.
There is something for everyone when you are at your leisure in Citrus County Florida. So if you are looking for an idyllic setting to call home, contact one of our friendly professionals at Coldwell Banker Next Generation Realty of Citrus.