The slow bite continues ... Tony Scott of Baltimore fly fishing Saturday had a tough go of things ... tarpon around but no takers. Fishing with his father today was not much easier ... lots of small snappers, small black drum and a few trout. Gary Scott (Chicago) did manage to squeak out a 31" snook at the end of the 1/2 day...
The weather was the coolest of the season. The next few days should drop the water temperature to make a big difference. The White pelicans are beginning to arrive as are the Spanish mackerels ... cobia should follow!!!
October started off with a bang!!! Tarpon were consistent and the snook bite very good. However, as we came into the middle of the month and near the full moon, the bite became much tougher.
Fishing with John Driscoll and his bass-angling friend Jerry, we found ourselves surrounded by tarpon Thursday morning. However, we had but one bite on a DOA Bait-Buster!! John did manage a few snook and a couple of redfish as did Jerry ...
I fished with Steve Whelan and Rob Leverin today and had a blast with these guys. Steve was diligent with the top water throwing a Super Spook most of the day. Steve earn the nickname of the Teflon Don with the big snook that just would not stick!! He had them busting the surface breaching two feet in the air after his plug. It was quite a sight... He managed to make a few stick, however. Rob did the same with his redfish on topwater.
Brian Rothman and Doc Harris (Miami) met up with Scott Borders and John Mathias (Tampa/St. Pete) again for their fourth Kayak Fishing Trip on the Yak Attack. Fishing was not it's best, but that did not matter in the least. It is all about being together and having fun for these guys. All caught some fish ... big jacks, reds, snook and they even lauched (not landed tarpon) ... The highlight of the trip, however, has to be the cooler...guys do not even make a suggest to Brian, he has it down... those chocolate cover rasberries are addicting!!!
Hurricane Rita skirted us to the south Tuesday and Wednesday. When these beasts pass that close they sure stir things up quite. Our shallow waters can get quite turbid, but luckily they also clear up just as quickly.
The Monday before the storm, I had a fly angler in from England for a few days. We had good day Monday with Rodger Luckin getting his first snook on fly. The tarpon elude him, unfortunately. As the weather was forecast to fall apart on Tuesday, we agreed that it would be best to take look and see what Sky-Boss delivered up. He really wanted to go "if at all possible" and stay on the tarpon till he got one.
Well, he may have wanted to go, but to his wife, who was destined to sit out the storm in our cabin, what he wanted did not amount to much ... Off they went to the Orlando area with Roger stumbling all over his lower lip. I now had Tuesday and Wednesday off.
Rita made things here were wet and breezy, but all in all, no too bad. Just before the sky opened up, I slipped the Maverick off the lift and fished very close to home to see if I could catch the pre-storm blitz like last year ... sure enough about an hour before the sky flooded, the place went off ... snook and small tarpon going nuts.
A school of snook had a large wad of minnows balled up on a corner of a creek out-fall and were working them hard and fast. The snook looked just like ladyfish when they blitzing baits on the flats breaching as they strike. The water was literally boiling with small snook eating anything around them. It took about 10 minutes of this action and noise and the poon-ettes joined in. About 75 yards away the same thing was happening to another pod of bait. The place was going nuts
Once I tied on the proper sized fly, it was non-stop action for a little over an hour. The rain started hard, I got cold and left... well not really, I left long before I got cold...cold is not part of my life ...I left the snook and tarpon still boiling on the baits.
The Thursday and Friday after the storm, the fishing was pretty bad. The water quality was awful and the wind was still howling pretty strong making the outside areas where we have been catch the large snook, reds and tarpon too uncomfortable to fish.
The “inside” water conditions were much better but the bite the snook bite was very poor. Anglers Tom Miller and Phil Guirado (New Jersey) fished hard for two days for these “locked jawed” snook. We were only able to get the smaller fish to take notice. The first two days we only raise two large snook.
The small tarpon, however, were ready to cooperate. These poon-ettes, were only about ten pounds, but there are still a blast. Both anglers got their share both days (That's Tom with one of his).
As Rita moved to the Gulf towards Texas and Louisiana, both sets of my Houston anglers evacuated there families in lieu of coming here … imagine that! Tom and Phil decided to try another day.
We left before day break as I had planned a long run to catch the tarpon on the feed at day break. Right on the poon-ettes did their thing. The guys did theirs also, putting eight fish in the air. We still struggled with the snook later in the morning.
Later in the afternoon, when we went back out, things began to pick up and Tom slammed with snook, tarpon and redfish, but the fish were all small. But in the scheme of the post storm circumstances, it was nice to see anything feeding.
I did not fish Sunday, but apparently, Sunday was a whole different world. A colleague fishing the outside with live bait, produced 10 nice snook for his anglers. It looks like things are back to normally.
This year there seems to be more tarpon in the 10 -50 pound class than I have seen in a long time. It is really going to make this fall special!!
Vickie and I are really tired of doing the hurricane shuffle and, all too often, I stay in Everglades when I shouldn't ... but sometimes it is all worth it when the fish go nuts like this...sorry you missed it Roger ... but at least you are still married.
I got some footage Tom and Phil catching the tarpon-ettes and should get it on the site shorty … keep and eye out. There is but five days left to register for the next fishing trip drawing. Also, as an incentive to try out our cabin in Everglades City, we have put together some attractive packages. We have a kayak fishing trip scheduled for Saturday 10/22 with a few spaces available for those interested.
The season sub-tropical rains are definitely here. While we have had lots of rain here, the upland area to the north of us has had even more. This causes a massive influx fresh water to our fishery. While this is the “natural order” of things, it does change the fishing somewhat.
The fresh water dumping into the backcountry and draining out to the open, obviously, drops the overall salinity of the entire area. However, in some locations, the salinity can drop so much that the water is “fresh” to the taste. The overall drop is enough this time of year that gators can often be seen along the outside beaches instead of the deep backcountry Yes, they will take a top water plug if you are not careful!.
This inundation of freshwater changes things, of course. Fish less tolerant of the fresh water move away from it. Those more tolerate move around and through it. Bait fish, particularly “white bait” are going to be very difficult to find, while largemouth bass move closer to the area most fish.
This flush of the backcountry also changes the color of the water. The areas near the rivers tend to be darker from the stained water flowing out of the back. This can create a definitive tide line that should not be over looked in your days fishing.
Vickie and I have been away on a “Busman’s Vacation” and I have been off the water here all but for a few days. However, talking to others, the fishing has been less than “stellar”.
For anglers sight fishing in the back country, the increased volume and depth has made things tougher. The window of time when the water is shallow enough to actually see the fish has shortened up quite a bit. During the low water periods, however, plenty of snook and a few smaller tarpon are being caught regularly. However, as the water rises, the fish have been moving deep back under the mangroves, essentially un-reachable … simply a time to change locations.
For the last week, at least, we have had a southwest to west breeze. This has made the outside waters very turbid. Fishing the river mouths or the use of natural baits has still been quite productive as have the flats for speckled trout.
The rains are good, but we need more … a good week or two of steady non-stop rain would be nice. Everyone is still running around doing the “Chokoloskee Macaraina” swatting skeeters. A long period of rain is our best hope for best hope. By the way, a word of advice from experience, stay out of the creeks (unless, of course, you have the in-laws aboard) … there is way too much dancing involved!!!
Chokoloskee Charters and Everglades Kayaks have just introduced a new boat to the fleet … one that is dedicated to the transport of kayak anglers and their gear. She’ll run 40+ in 12-14” of water while hauling six anglers in comfort. On board are seven completely outfitted fishing kayaks, fishing tackle, support and safety gear for all, and enough cooler space to handle a moose!
It is easy to tell that she is going to be a blast. Every angler who has been aboard so far really likes the boat and the kayak fishing experience in the remote areas. The wives epecially seem to like being on her.
However she still needs a name. If you have any suggestions, please email me … email@example.com. I sent an email to my anglers requesting the same. I received lots of suggestions … The Yak-Rack, Yak-Pack, Long Shot, La Madre, Kaya-King and Yak Attack to name a few. One said it looked like a “Sardine Can”. Another wanted to call it the Pelican because it looks like pelican with a load of fish in her bill. I need some help.
May, as usual, is producing some very good fishing despite the winds. Most anglers have been able to getting into some nice snook most every trip. The trout bite remains steady. You can count on the redfish. The cobia are consistent and should remain so well into June. Tarpon, other than, those laid up in the coves, have more difficult. With the water churned up and oxygenated by the winds, the tarpon tend not to roll on the surface as much and are difficult to spot. They are still here and will be here until it turns cold.
June, July, August and September are the real fishing months here in Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands. The weather is very predictable, as are the fishing patterns. The fish are typically big and aggressive. This area offers some wide variety of species and habitat. In the summer time, you can do it all. I simple love this time of year. It is a time when anglers book for a week and we can do something different everyday. For me, however, there is no such thing as a typical trip … perhaps a typical week.
In the summer it is hot, so like most everywhere else in the South, the best bite is in the mornings and evenings. Most species of fish tend not be nearly as aggressive in the mid-day as there are early and late … most species, but not all.
The mornings are typically, very calm … especially early in the summer. Most mornings there is a convective sea-breeze blowing from shore early that produces a mild ripple or chop. However, just about every shoreline and beach is in the lee. Mid-to-late morning, as the land mass heats up, the breeze will cease and the whole area, including the near offshore areas can go slick calm. About one to two o’clock, the sea breezes will pickup near shore and things will chop up a bit. At 3 pm, you will here the first clap of thunder … you can set your watch to it. Typically, sometime between 4:30 and 6:00 pm, the rain and thunderstorms will cease. The cooling effects of the rains, stops the sea-breezes and turns on the fishing. That is, again, the time to be out on the water.
Summertime is the time for the split day charter. On a typical split day, we will fish from sunrise until late morning when it begins to get hot and the bite slows. We return to the dock for a hearty lunch and a good long nap in the air-conditioning. Along about four-ish, subject to the thunderstorms, we head back out for the evening trip.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about summer is deciding what to do. Summer, is primetime for kayak fishing. The calm mornings, with the expansive areas of lee shorelines, are perfect for this extremely stealthy means of fishing. A kayak trip, where we transport everything, deep into the Park makes for a great trip for the whole family. We establish a home-base on one the beaches, buddy-up and fish until lunch time. Typically, for those that want, we will have a shore lunch, with or without the grill, back on the beach. After lunch, depending on conditions, we will either continue to fish the first area or move to a new one.
The calm mornings mean top water action is at its best. Throwing top water plugs near the oyster bars can produce some of the biggest snook explosions of the year. There is nothing better than a 20 lb snook crashing top water baits. However summertime top water fishing produces a lot of by-catch that you must be willing to deal with … trout, redfish, tarpon, jacks, etc.
One of my favorite types of summer time fishing, a type that is productive, all year round, is sight fishing. Being poled into a calm cove and seeing big snook and redfish laid up is very, very exciting. Picking out your fish, making the perfect cast, watching him eat and then wrestling him out of the trees is a blast. But, nothing sets off the adrenaline pump like the sight of a 150 lb silver-sided dinosaur laying two inches under the water. A well placed fly or jig and it is show time. Sight fishing and then jumping a big tarpon skyward will change your life!!
With the abundance of fish and calm conditions, mornings are also great for wade fishing. The fish are there we saw them sight fishing earlier in the week, remember. However, there is something special about being in the water with the fish. The process of unloading from the boat and getting into the water will push the fish around. Once things settle down, however, the fish will quickly move back into range. Move slowly, fish thoroughly, and you will do very well. Be sure to work the bait all the way back in. There have been many times that I have had fish strike within 10 feet just as I was about to lift the bait out of the water. You are low in the water, so do not see the fish well, but they don’t see you either so they will come in quite close.
For sheer quantity of big fish, live baiting has to be the choice. Many trips start out with a tub full of volunteers. White bait can be found on just about any grass flat. Chumming helps to bring the bait fish close, but usually is not necessary. Fishing the outside ambush points with a live pilchard is like giving candy to a baby. They love those pilchards.
The mornings on the grass flats can also be thrilling. Summertime is the time for plugs over grasses. Typically the speckled trout are a bit smaller than in the cooler months, but there are piles of them. Mixed in are jack, ladyfish and the occasional cobia. When you are in the ladyfish and they suddenly stop biting, be on your toes. Tarpon come in quickly to feed on the ladyfish. We typically lose one ladyfish per day to these pesky giants. They can really mess up a ladyfish extravaganza!
As you can see, the mornings can be a blast, and there are many other choices. The backcountry, like the river system is a whole different world to discover. What about the second half of the day? Well, the choices are just as broad ... river tarpon fishing on plug or fly; twilight tarpon trips in the passes, the offshore blue holes for everything that swims; goliath grouper fished with 8 lb jacks as bait; massive schools of permit, cobia and fishing the docks at night are among my favorite.
One thing is for sure, whatever you decided to do, however you decide to fish, summer and early fall is the time to be here.
April marks early stages of our premier fishing. March is our transition month here in Everglades National Park and the 10,000 Islands. The weather warms significantly in March so the area starts thawing out from winter and returning to is sub-tropical normalcy. Schools of bait descend on the shorelines with the predators not far behind. March has one big problem ... the wind.
By the time April rolls around, March winds have subsided and the weather is usually very predictable. For those of us who lucky enough to live here, this is the most welcomed gift of April. You can count on relatively calm winds, cool mornings, warm afternoons and very little rain. The real prime-time of summer and fall is on the way!!
The fish that begin to show up in March take up residence here in April and stay until the cold returns in late December. The tarpon migrating offshore turn in to the area feed on the abundant forage amongst the islands and beaches. Fortunately, a good, reliable population stays around through the summer and fall. Summer and fall are the best times, but those targeting big fish can certainly get it done in now as April has its share of silver king launches.
April is also the last month of the spring snook season on Florida’s West Coast. The big fish, the Common Snook, begin to move in from offshore this month. Large schools of fish “splash” the shorelines in April. They move as a school from offshore into the shoreline where they hang tightly together, sometimes for well over a week. Gradually, if left alone, this initial splash of fish will spread out to the structure and ambush points nearby. If you are careful, watchful and do not pressure them too hard, you can fish the same school of fish, following them as they spread or “splash” outwards, for close to two weeks.
Unfortunately, April is also the month many anglers show up for their annual snook harvest. Many come to the Park in April solely to harvest these big fish. For me, there are too many that show up with a “meat” mentality and very little respect for the fishery and their fellow anglers. With limited knowledge of the fishery and limited time for their hunt, April is the time to be careful and patient.
Expect to see boats racing down the shorelines blowing out every fish within 500 yards of the shore. After all with limited time, sometimes the shoreline is the fastest way to get where you are going. You see, if you were to run a few thousands yards offshore and then have to run a few thousands yards back into shore to your next spot, you would probably be wasting close to two minutes of value fishing time! And besides, if you do want to fish all those fish along the shoreline, why should you leave it so someone else can? Those two minutes are just too valuable.
Expect to be fishing a spot and have the opportunity to meet new friends at just about every stop. People are very friendly, but in a hurry in April. They will just motor right up to and start fishing right beside you. This is really great, with over a million acres of water in the Park, you can get really lonely out there sometimes. Isn’t it nice to have new close fishing buddies? However, most that you meet this way are impatient and seem to be in a hurry. They will stick around for about 15 minutes with you and then roar off to meet as many others as they can. April truly is a time for patience if you are snook fishing.
However, the snook do come in from offshore, don’t they? Hmm, I wonder if we can catch them coming in from the “deep” before they make it into the shorelines. You “bet-cha”! The near-shore structure can be absolutely blistering in April. This is the time of the “snook balls”. The offshore waters clear up in April. (the inshore can actually be more turbid due to the algae blooms of spring). The schools of snook “stage” on pieces of structure offshore and feed on the bait fish gathered on there. Commonly, the schools are packed so tightly with fish that it appears to be one big black ball meandering around. Drop a jig into the ball and watch out!
These fish are hungry and aggressive, fattening up for the spawn. If you are lucky enough catch it right, you are in for a spectacular treat. Fish the edge of the school and cut one fish out of the school at a time. Do not motor right up to and send in three baits. You will get three hook ups immediately ... maybe you even get to do it a second or third time, but that will be it. Three snook at a time struggling for their lives, sending out warning signals in a middle of a school of will get the attention of every other fish there.
Fishing the outside of the school gives you a chance to pull out the eight or ten cobia that are acting as circling body guards before you tangle with the snook. When you fish these balls, keep a close eye on the ball ... don’t look away ... don’t look up ... stay focused ... do not get distracted by the hoards of permits in the area. If you start messing with these silly 20 pound speedsters, you simple won’t catch the snook!!
They Kayak Fishing trips in April and from here on out should really be something special ... especially the Mother Ship trips where we use a “mother ship” to haul the fishing kayaks to remote fishing grounds throughout the Park. The kayak trips from April forward should produce snook, redfish, tarpon and trout. We are also looking to catch permit from the yaks ... I can’t wait!!!
Check out the scheduled trips @ www.EvergladesKayakFishing.com ... The summer schedule is up now and the winter schedule will soon follow. These scheduled weekend trips are open forum which means that anyone is welcomed aboard for the trip. If you have a group, try to come during the week for a private trip. These kayak trips are simply wonderful and make an absolutely great family outing!!
If you would like to book a trip with The Captain, contact him @ firstname.lastname@example.org or (239) 695-9107. For more information, visit www.ChokoloskeeCharters.com and www.EvergladesKayakFishing.com
Crystal Murray and John, as part of an Osprey Bay Kayaks sponsored event, brought a group of four kayak fishermen and women from the Tampa Bay to Chokoloskee. I had the pleasure to be with the four Friday afternoon for a mother ship ride.
The bite had been off for both snook & redfish in the preceding the days and the only (feeding) tarpon we’ve been able to locate are way up feeding in the freshwater (accessible only by kayaks & canoes).
The tides were poor at the time when we were able to leave, but the forecast was for 5-10 from the NE ... perfect for the flats and the grillion speckled trout around now so our plan was to scoot to the grasses for action and then work our way into the islands.
As we turned the corner on the outside that NE breeze was actually from the West killing the grass flats idea, so we headed up the Houston river a bit. We made on drop high in Storter Bay. The wind was tough as was the current, so everyone seemed to appreciate the “tow” across the bays. Unfortunately the fish still had a seriously, bad case of lockjaw!!
Susan Mitchell, who is a member of, Ladies Let's Go Fishing - Sarasota, did manage her first snook on artificial baits. However, jacks, ladyfish and a few small snook were all that were in the cards for this day. A very tough bite ... but a nice trip non-the-less. Gary, Tom, Wally and Susan … you were troopers through it all and I would love to have you all back sometime. A few good fish certainly would have made things better. I guess, sometimes, the fish have to win.
Friday's 5-10 NE forecast became Saturday's reality ... A good of mess of trout for the three anglers in a day's ride ... lots of the obligatory lady fish, jacks, Spanish mackerel and blue fish. What a difference a day makes! Good eats for the evening meal ...
Sunday, it was backwater time with Carl Miller, his son Dave and grandson (9) Zach of Boston. Dave and Zach fished last year about this time with this good success ... Zach even got a creek named for him. Carl had snook on his mind after a year of listening to his son talking about them ... He stuck to throwing a 3" shad tail and managed about 8-10 snook and one redfish. Dave landed another 7-8 on a variety of baits. Little Zach, not to be out done, landed 4 snook, 1 reds and 3 large sheep head... The largest fish (that looked like to be ~ 12 lbs) freight-trained little Zach into the trees... that is two years in row for the little guy!!! The fish need to get smaller or he needs to get bigger!!
Little Zach, after a close encounter with a palm sized spider was ready to go before we stopped. He would catch a fish a say to his dad … “That was fun, but we should go now!!” We should have listened to him!! … All three layers underneath my “semi-permeable” rain gear were soaked by that rain event Sunday. Well, at least the guys have something special to remember … a cold!
Monday was superb … Larry Henning, in from Galveston, put 32 snook over the side with his eight weight. Most were small, of course, but he did manage three slot sized fish and added three redfish that he “sighted up”. Larry is a superb marksman with the long rod … a real pleasure.
Tuesday, was on of the toughest days since, well since Friday … Gordon Reiss and his friend Steve in from the Chesapeake Bay area hung tough, however. On nice black drum, two snookletts, two redletts, three or four snapperletts and few full grown ladyfish … We could not buy a trout. That was one of the toughest Ѕ days in a long while…
Yesterday was not much better. I left with a couple from Kansas City, Mo. at noon intending on catch a few trout first off. The NW wind had the water looking like chocolate milk. The first two spots I stopped, I found other anglers fishing there before me (places where I have never seen others fish … Oh, well) so we headed into the back out of the wind. The bite started slow, but by mid-afternoon, things picked up. Dave caught 7-8 small snook on his shad tail and Charlene a couple of others. She had a tough time when she switched to shrimp … The sheep head and snappers hand it to her pretty good … caught a few, but mostly fished in awe at their bait stealing ability. However, they were a very fun to be with.
I still don’t understand the reason for winter …
The next scheduled kayak fishing trip using the mother ship trip is set for Feb 15th ... so get out off the couch and join us!!! The other dates on posted on the website.
Tight lines …
Well another year comes to an end in our version of Paradise. For Vickie and me, it has been a great year, but a year of change. We sold our home, completed the construction of another and finally moved in while managing to remain married. Some long time, very good friends, from the East Coast, moved here to live full time. Some other good friends have moved too far away. Many of our long time, regular anglers have become great friends, while others have succumbed to Father Time.
This past year’s fishing was all around as good as it gets. January and February of 2003 were very cold, averaging a full 8 degrees colder than normal. This certainly changed the fishing, but generally not for the worse. These months produced some of the best speckled trout and wintertime redfish that I have seen in years. Very few trips ended without a limit for everyone on board with many 100 trout days notched.
March was the best March that I could remember. It warmed up early in the month; the bait schools showed up strong and so did the fish. Perhaps, because it was so cold earlier, the snook, redfish and tarpon, that moved in were very hungry and aggressive. Anglers had more “slams” (snook, redfish and a tarpon in one day) last March than any other month last year.
April is usually a very good month. However, on April Fool’s Day the temperature plummeted once again and so did the fishing. It took almost three weeks for things to recover. But when it did, it recovered strong. The tarpon, however, were driven well off shore and seemed to pass right by preferring to stay in the warmer water. The permit were right on time, however.
May and June were fabulous. Many days, especially, in May, we were boating seven to eight cobia per day; the snook were big and aggressive. You could count on several very large fish practically every day and we jumped big tarpon on the flats just about every trip. Permit were caught just about anytime during the month.
July and August, were great months for the classic split day trips. Early out at sunrise, early in for lunch, air conditioning and a nap; back out after the thunderstorms for some snook fishing and dinosaur flying! These summer evening tarpon trips were spectacular. There is nothing better than launching a big silver dinosaur into the air at sunset!!
September and October produced some superb snook fishing with double digit days most every trip. The cobia showed up on schedule and the tarpon fishing was absolutely great. Redfish were something you could just about count on. The permit for some reason were hit-and-miss. This is my favorite time of year. The kids have returned to school, so most anglers who travel here are doing so on the weekends. The middle of the week, it seems that you have the entire Park to yourself. Essentially you do, you only see another boat if you choose to. But, most of all the fishing is at its best!
November and December continued to produce double digit snook days both in weight and numbers right up until the second cold front. The kingfish offshore, combined with the Spanish mackerel, cobia and some very nice snappers ended the year with a bang.
Vickie and I, along with many of our friends, camp every New Year’s in the Park. It is our anniversary on New Year’s Eve, so we celebrate where we enjoy things most … in the Park amongst our friends.
From both of us, we would like to wish you and yours a safe and joyous Holiday Season. We are looking forward to a great 2004 and hope you have as much fun next year as we plan to!!!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.