Fishing report, Everglades backcountry
As usual it's been two weeks since my last fishing report. I've been dividing my time between fishing out of Flamingo and out of Everglades City. As the weather has gotten hotter and the thunderstorms more frequent, the fishing has heated up as well. This is the time of year when tangling with a very large sawfish is a daily possibility along the coast. Our last big one was on the 31st of May out of Flamingo. Estimated at 12' it put up the kind of fight that makes most of my anglers move away from that side of the boat.... Bill Heitman and his fishing partner did get a close look at the dangerous end, though, before we released it. A really big sawfish can swing that three or four foot long bill like a major leaguer swinging a bat. Although they're now on the endangered specie list, there are lots and lots of them in the Everglades if you know where to look (and some of them are bigger than twelve feet - a lot bigger. I've seen saws that were more than 20 feet long along the Gulf coast of the 'Glades). Two days later, out of Everglades City, we had three saws in the five to seven foot range feeding around my skiff for an hour in water so shallow that my skiff was aground... At the time we were fly fishing a large group of small snook that were tearing up glass minnows fifty feet away...
The best fishing now along the Gulf coast is for snook with flies, lures, or almost any bait you choose... If you tire of that, the grouper fishing is just on fire.... The grouper are either gags (most under the 24" minimum) and baby goliaths (jewfish for old timers) that average 10 to 15lbs and eat anything put in front of them. Even though we're fishing right on top of the grouper in water less than 15 feet, they'll test your gear to its limits with every hookup. The grouper spots are so good now that every drop is a bite if you're on the right spot... If you drop a live fish it gets bit before you can even put the rod in the rod holder... Not to be outdone, the goliaths in the interior of Whitewater Bay are also very hungry. We had one the other day eat a 20 inch snook hooked on a fly in less than three feet of crystal clear water. After it ripped the small snook off of the hook the goliath moved under a shoreline tree with snook sticking out of each side of its mouth for everyone to see.... The next great fishery waking up now along the coast are the small to medium sized tarpon that have moved into a few of the many nameless rivers that drain into the Gulf, north and south of the Shark River. If you find them in the right situation they act like schooling jack crevalle, just tearing up small schools of mullet at the surface. In a week or two they'll be a daily part of the action. The giant tarpon are still to the south but will be returning to feed hard as summer progresses.
Our snook fishing has been mostly with artificial lures on light gear or fly fishing. The flies that have produced for us are sized to what the fish are feeding on, mostly very small maribou flies when they're on glass minnows or much larger woolhead mullet patterns when the fish are on larger forage. Here are a few photos...
Bruce Rueben with a ten pound fish taken on 10# spin with a small lure as a thundercloud rolled in on us. He caught and released another one slightly smaller moments later while fly fishing the same spot.
This fifteen pound fish was caught and released yesterday by the angler on the left, Craig, who was fishing with local University of Miami professor, Tom Balkany. We caught and released another half dozen but none as big as this overslot fish.
Here's Tom with a nice gag grouper from yesterday... just a bit short of 24". There are so many around now that we're even catching them while fly fishing....
This is one of a half dozen we caught and released yesterday at just one spot... They ranged from 10 to almost fifteen pounds (the bigger ones just tore up my gear and did their own releasing...).
As good as the daytime Everglades fishing has been, the local night scene is on now as well. Sight fishing for small tarpon in the 10 to 30lb size is a great option any night in Biscayne Bay for the rest of the summer. The tides this week are perfect for an early evening start time.... We'll be either flyfishing them or tossing arties with light spinning gear during the falling tide within sight of downtown Miami or next to Miami Beach... Tarpon heaven and a nice break from the high temperatures during daytime.
Capt. Bob LeMay