The barge canal was built as a commercial transportation corridor between Port Canaveral (the Atlantic Ocean) and the Intracoastal Waterway known locally as the Indian River Lagoon. It's main purpose was the transportation of crude oil from offshore oil tankers via barges across Merritt Island to power plants on the Indian River Lagoon. A lock system was provided by the Army Corp of Engineers to allow safe navigation and deter shoaling and tidal flow in the narrow passageway in the west end of Port Canaveral.
Merritt Island became populated with the construction of the Kennedy Space Center and the "Space Race" in the 1960's and 70's. Prior to 1950 the area was sparsely populated and considered one of the best places to grow citrus and pineapple although it was mosquito ridden and swampy in many locations. Evidently the sandy portions of North Merritt Island were fabulous for growing the world famous Indian River Citrus Fruit.
The construction of a barge canal to the Intracoastal Waterway from the Atlantic Ocean cut off the northern half of the Island for many years and to this day remains more rural than the central and southern parts. State road 3 or Courtenay Parkway now connects the two halves of the island together again and has been widened to four lanes. The small towns of Merritt Island vanished with the coming of the Space Age, towns like Georgiana, Courtenay, Tropic, Fairyland, Orsino, Angel City, Wilson, Lotus, Shiloh, and Indianola now only live on in the names of streets and historic churches. At one time the Guinness Book of World Records claimed that Merritt Island was the largest unincorporated city at around 60,000 during the 1970's and remains unincorporated today.
Today's barge canal offers some fishing for the dedicated angler looking to go far into the manatee zone in search of game fish. Because it's a navigation channel between to fairly busy bodies of water, there is no vast clear shallow water and grass beds for fish to forage on. However there are times when the fish will congregate and travel in this corridor between the Indian and Banana River lagoons and it can have it's moments, like many of the saltwater canals and inshore waters on Florida's coastlines.
Lagooner Fishing Guides do not regularly take people into the barge canal for fishing trips. However rumors of a fish bight or schools of redfish, sea trout or snook may bring us deep into the canal in search of elusive game fish from time-to-time.
Traveling from east to west along the the barge canal you will immediately notice various boat yards and junky looking marine scrapyards on the south side. Further into the waterway you'll discover Harbortown Marina also on the south side even further the Sea Ray boat immediately east of State Road 3. Dining and docking is provided by Harbontown Marina and the food is well liked by many locals.
In the shadow of the SR3 drawbridge (Christa McAuliffe Bridge) you see the ruins of the once poplular Tingley's Fish Camp where weekly mullet fries and dining where common place into the 1970's. Once a popular fishing destination, this has become a ghost town as the Manatee Restrictions prohibited the business from flourishing.
The Barge Canal has lost much of it's luster in the past twenty years as a recreational waterway due to the exploding manatee population and controls the Federal Government and Florida Wildlife Commission has placed on boat traffic in this four mile stretch of water across Merritt Island.
Gone are the days that boaters would speed thru the canal to gain access between the Indian & Banana River. What used to take us ten minutes now takes us almost an hour of idling or pulling the boat and re launching. The only "no wake zone" WAS under the SR-3 bridge and Tingley's Fish Camp where fried fish was served every friday night into the 1970's.
While I'm no "hater" of our native manatees, it would seem that the beloved "Sea Cow" has been used to control recreational boat traffic. Locals know that most of the manatees killed in the barge by man are done so by the oil barges ferrying cargo from Port Canaveral to the Indian River power plants in Frotenac.
Oh well, enough of my reminiscing about the old days and how it "USED to be"...
Florida Fishing Guide / Lagooner Fishing Guide Service
The month of Christmas welcomes in the winter months and ushers in some of the best fishing on the Banana River Lagoon. Colder temperatures will make fishing better as it concentrates the fish into winter holes where they find cooler stable waters to sit out the fronts in. After each cold front you'll find fish adjacent to the deeper holes on the flats where they'll be laid up sunning and feeding on what ever comes their way. Most of December is great fishing on the lagoon with the exception of the Christmas holidays when it get crowded as vacationers come home and have time off to go for a winter-time fish before going back north and back to work. Savvy anglers will fish before and after the Christmas Holidays.
To find out more information about taking a fishing guide service on the Banana River Lagoon, please at (321) 868-4953 or fill out the request form above and Lagooner Fishing Guides will be prompt to respond.
The Banana River Lagoon is a shallow saltwater lagoon adjacent to and between Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island, Florida. The barrier and spoil island on the Banana River Lagoon make an awesome fishery and angling opportunities for anglers to catch redfish, spotted sea trout, snook and tarpon. Call Captain Gina today and ask her about information and a fishing trip on the beautiful Banana River Lagoon.
The easiest access for launching boats and demarcation on the Banana River Lagoon is at Brevard County's Kelly Park located directly off of SR 528 approximately 35 minutes from the Orlando International Airport (MCO). Go to our maps page and get detailed directions to the nearest boat launches on the Banana River Lagoon.
Banana River Boat Ramp
2550 North Banana River Drive
Merritt Island, FL 32952