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tbblom 01-04-2013 08:55 AM

DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
Due to finances, my saltwater excursions have been a mostly DIY process or research, tying, and finding fish-able water.
On a recent trip to Florida, I was fortunate enough to be invited on a couple of Everglades backcountry trips on a 20' flats boat.
Lots of firsts were had.
1st red on fly, 1st trout on fly, 1st mackerel on fly (offshore wreck on fly!), a pompano, lots of jacks, ladyfish, barracuda, and even a weird parrotfish and some assorted snapper. Even managed my first 2 snook (on a spin rod) in 25+ knot winds from a jetty.

Here is what I have learned about saltwater fishing in Florida. Public fish-able shoreline is at a minimum.
1. You need a boat
2. If #1 fails, you need a friend with a boat
3. If #1 and 2 fail, you need to hire a guide with a boat.
4. If #1,2, and 3 fail, you need to rent a kayak.
5. If #1-4 fail, you can fish from a jetty, pier, or bridge like the [less affluent] locals. I can almost guarantee you will the only fly rod out there. You'll get some respect for catching fish while the locals use bait.
6. There are a couple of wade-able flats off highway 1 in the keys, but none were very productive when I tried.
7. You can fish public Miami beaches before 8am.
8. If the whole boat is throwing live bait, your flies will be less productive:(
9. When you finally catch a nice fish on fly, your bait throwing friends will be impressed:).
10. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. i.e. pick up a spin or bait rod when the fishing is slow, the boat is crowded, or the wind is up (vacation is short!)
11. They call it the silver king for a reason, 3 trips in, still no tarpon for me. Saw a bunch under bridges in the keys (see rule #1). Hooking one from a bridge would be a great way to get spooled and lose a whole fly line.
12. Unless you're in a tournament, use heavy bite tippet. I ran 40lb. fluoro bite leader with a 20lb. fluoro break section above it. Oysters, rocks, barnacles, toothy fish, and mangrove roots will destroy lighter leader with quickness. Everglades water is tannic and off color, fish are not leader shy. I used lighter leader for fishing off jetties in clear water.
First red on fly, #2 shrimp pattern (I was getting pretty jealous of my bait casting friends and their catch rate... but I persevered for the biggest red of the day at 24.5")

Plenty of toothy little buggers, bring pliers and steel leader! (flies will not survive long, so offer up your least favorites when the cudas are around)

Backcountry camping in Everglades National Park. Waiting for the full moon tide to put the boat back in! We found a lot of cool sea life on the tidal flat while waiting to get back to fishing.

Fishing with bait anglers, we did take our limit of a couple species. Nothing finer than fresh ceviche while camping... I released all the fish they would let me!

wt bash 01-04-2013 09:14 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
Cool man! I always thought DIY trips are more fun. You never know what you're gonna get into!

tbblom 01-04-2013 09:52 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
yeah, its a pride/ego thing for sure to figure it out yourself. Not that I wouldn't hire a guide if I could. But I was pretty darn proud :D:D:D
Especially when the guy who owned the boat was telling his friends of all the fly catches. At one point, we all took turns landing mackerel on the fly rod. The two bait fishermen were laughing all the way to the live well. What was rather simple for them on spin gear became a whole new game on the long rod.

wt bash 01-04-2013 09:57 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
Spanish or King macks? Either one is a blast! I remember as kid catching Spanish macks at St Lucie Inlet by the hundreds at the time i had no idea what they were but they were fun!

mcnerney 01-04-2013 10:04 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
Great trip report and photos and like WT said, doing it DIY just makes the whole trip all the better, congrats! I lived in Panama City, FL for four years while in the Air Force but back then I was into sailing so I never did any fishing, kicking myself now for that mistake. :D


tbblom 01-04-2013 10:05 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
I think they were mostly spanish, but we caught 2 small kings also (a bit more colorful if I remember correctly).
Most were 14-20", we released all the smaller ones. Took several to be smoked, but I never got to try the smoked mack.

The sound of fly line ripping through the water on the initial runs will never be forgotten!

I think at some point a big fish ate one of my macks. A small fight turned into a big fight that started taking drag before breaking off a 20lb. leader section above the steel. Shark? I'll never know... :eek:

wt bash 01-04-2013 10:14 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
Shark or monster cuda, a friend Bernie used to work on the Lady Stuart and when bottom fishing was slow he would set out what they called a flat line with a live bait. Bonita would usually take it when fishing over the wrecks and reefs in that area. The first one would get boated but then a wolf pack of huge cudas started to hang around just off the stern and no fish was safe! Man you got me missing fishing down in Florida, I was too young to know what I was missing with o fly rod!

theboz 01-04-2013 11:39 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
Congrats looks like you had a great trip! That cuda looks nasty! They do wonders to a fly dont they! And the Spanish , King and Cero Macks can really tear some line out especially in deep water ! Now I can't wait for March!

chuck s 04-01-2013 02:19 PM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry
Great trip report and this needs to be pinned for your initial and opening statements!! Way to go and your experience mirrors mine almost to a T.:)[COLOR="Silver"]

Ard 04-02-2013 12:11 AM

Re: DIY Salt Noob strikes again; Everglades Backcountry

That was both informative and entertaining. All of it good tips for anyone thinking on doing what you are doing. The picture of the boat waiting for the tide is the best for me. A few years ago my river boat was blown ashore almost that bad by a barge on the Yetna River. Think huge flat bottom landing craft with 4, four, 350 HP Merc's on the transom running on step. Got that picture...... now put about 15 55 gallon drums and a John Deer 450 Dozer on the barge and think about the wake from that boat :eek: Yeah baby, I damm near died getting that boat back into the water!

Anyway, great tale so far and I love the boat pic,


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