Wow! Small world! I fished Staunton Lake for years when I stayed with my grandparents and uncle for the summer! My Uncle caught big bluegill over 2 lbs from Staunton Lake but I fished there for years and biggest is only about 9.5"! Lucky Uncle! I don't see that fish because it was before I born! But my father went fish with him! They ate it! No photo! I went to Jerseyville a few years ago to watch Civil War Event and its real cool! I don't go to Staunton area for several years and maybe someday !
My son caught a 11" redear sunfish came from a private Sportsman's Club near Staunton in Illinois. My friend is a member of the private lakes that let us to fish there with him! I fished Beaver Dam for years where my grandparents live nearby but I don't fish there for a long time. This lake suppose to have some nice bluegills but not as good as good old days! Not easy to find pond or small lakes that have real big bluegills in Illinois! Mostly from farm ponds, private lakes and unfished ponds! I avoid any lakes that have shad! Big crappies but poor bluegills! Maybe lot of between 6 and 8 inch but no monster!
I will give it a try on were to fish out of Vero. There are a few places west of Vero....1 is the Stick Marsh better know as Farm 13. It is an inpoundment and has a lot of Bass and panfish.
There is a spot called Garcia's that I have fished several times and it has Bass and some GOOD Bluegills and it would be a neat place to paddle. If you go there launch at the only boat ramp and go straight West from there(it is the South most canal) down a 15 ft wide canal and it will open up into a large lake. Start fishing the South bank all the way to the end and turn left. Go about300 yards and you will see the East shore turn to large overhanging mertyl bushes. fish from there to the bridge to the South. There are some GREAT Bluegills to be had. The west bank is also good but is easier to fish and gets more pressure.
West of Garcia's about 4 miles is a lake called Blue Cypress. Blue Cypress is a large lake with HUGE old growth cypress trees all the way around it. There are Bass and panfish and it would be a VERY senic day for your Kayak. It is very easy to get on and very easy to stay were motor boats can't get.
You can look up all these places up on the internet (by the names I have listed) and get directions for travel. As far as fishing goes Garcia's might be the best panfish lake followed by Farm 13 and Blue Cypress is beautiful.
I haven't looked at the travel time from Vero but my guess is that it would only be 1hr to 1:15mins travel. Bring your cooler loaded to Farm 13 and Garcia's as there isn't anything there but the boat ramp and a rest room. Bluecypress has a bait store 10 ft from the ramp.
Hope this helps,
Hey Dave...got any blue cats down your way? Those flats are impressive! I hear that flatheads aren't neccessarily loved in some areas of the south because of the volumne of sunfish they eat. Great pix!