The Everglades National Park, put simply, is one of the best and most incredible all around saltwater fisheries here in the United States. The Everglades provide the opportunity to target a myriad of species on the fly including tarpon, redfish, snook, jacks, snapper, grouper, and many more.
One of my favorite things about the everglades is the ever-changing nature of the fishing, as tides, weather, time of year and location play their roles. One day you could be jumping 100+ pound tarpon, then run 25 minutes to sight cast to snook, or chase redfish. You can literally do it all in the Everglades which is why it has become one of my favorite destinations to fish.
The Everglades offers up a massive amount of water and area ]to fish, which almost leaves you with the sense that you are fishing water no one else has ever thrown a fly into. As you weave in and out of the mangroves running deep into to the glades, it is easy to feel lost, which for me is one of the best sensations while fishing a new locale. Fully relying on the knowledge of your guide and knowing you are exploring an area that only a select few have ever fished is exhilarating. And, as cell phone service transitions from weak to non-existent and any mark of mankind is left far behind, it gets that much better.
I had previously fished Flamingo for baby tarpon but have always wanted to experience the less traveled side of the everglades; Chokoloskee. Fishing out of Everglades City, an old Florida small town located literally in the middle of nowhere but surrounded by some of the best waters in the country, is sort of like going back in time to the 1960s. Last March, my good buddy Harry and I headed down to fish for a couple of days with Capt. Jeff Legukti for big, laid up tarpon. We filled the truck up with rods, gear, food, beer, and headed south on I-95 for our first Chokoloskee experience.
Weather is always a risk when traveling to fish and of course as we pulled in to Everglades City it was obvious we had bad weather ahead for the two days we had booked with Jeff. As a guide, I know what its like to have clients who are die hard no matter what the weather and it was almost ironic being that crazy client who still wanted to fish in 15-20 mph winds, muddy water and tough tides. Thanks to the conditions, chasing the tarpon that had lured us down was out of the question, but Jeff recommended we give snook and redfish a shot and of course Harry and I were game for just about anything. We had fished fished snook before, but never deep in the glades, so it was still to be a trip of firsts.
We started around 630 am the next day, a slight hang over in tow, got all our stuff together and walked down to the dock to meet up with Jeff. Right away I got the vibe that no matter how productive the fishing was we were going to have a blast with Jeff exploring the glades and enjoying a completely new fishery. Despite lousy conditions and bad weather, Jeff still managed put us all over snook and redfish during our two days fishing in Chokoloskee. We spent much of our time casting along the edge of miles upon miles of mangroves, pulling Snook out of their resting spots.
Several shots at big, laid up fish were squandered thanks to casting that was a tad aggressive. As Jeff noted, "it's all about the butta cast for these laid up snook man." When you're casting to fish sitting virtually still in less than 5 inches of water, a quiet and soft presentation is called for, though doing so successfully can be challenging when trying to shoot you fly line into and under overhanging mangrove.
Almost every fish of the trip that we hooked we saw eat our fly and ended up with not only good numbers for two days of tough conditions, but learned so much about throwing the fly in the everglades. We watched in awe as Jeff navigated the Everglades waters, get us into areas where the wind seemed to shut off completely, while still putting us on numerous fish.
After those two days plying the waters of the Everglades, given a change to take in a truly deep breath of it all, my view of this amazing resource has changed considerably. So many different kinds of life thrive in this almost untouched area of water and mangrove.
I already have my days booked with Jeff for March of next year and beyond. If you've yet to experience the Everglades, I highly recommend you add it to your list. You'll thank me later.