Southwest Florida is best known for Tarpon. In addition to Tarpon there are Redfish, Snook & Barracuda inshore. The are Tuna, Albacore, Marlin, Sailfish, Mahi-mahi & others offshore. When the spring comes, the tarpon addicts arrive in numbers for their chance at a migrating giant. There are the giant tarpon of Homosassa and of course plantiful tarpon of Flamingo & Ten Thousand Islands. There are so many fisheries and each one unique and diverse. Southwest Florida has some of the best backwater fishing in the state. For backcountry fishing, is angling in the extensive network of bays, mangrove islands and tidal creeks that permeate the region. There are thousands of miles of shoreline, countless oyster bars and acres of seagrass beds that attract an abundance of salt water fish. The most significant factor contributing to the region’s fishing are the vast tracks of fresh and salt water wetlands protected by state & federal laws.
Everglades National Park in the U.S. state of Florida, is a park that protects the southern 20 percent of the original Everglades. In the United States, it is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. It is also the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River. It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone. It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, A World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists. Although most U.S. national parks preserve unique geographic features, Everglades National Park was the first created to protect a fragile ecosystem, and it really did need protection. The Park is the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America, contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere, is home to 36 threatened or protected species including the Florida panther, the American crocodile and the West Indian Manatee and supports 350 species of birds, 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish, 40 species of mammals, and 50 species of reptiles. The majority of South Florida’s fresh water, which is stored in the Biscayne Aquifer is recharged in the park. Flamingo Species include Tarpon, Redfish, Snook, Bonefish, Permit, Barracuda, various species of shark. In the backcountry waters up by Coot Bay & lesser known Coot pond, Tarpon Creek, the Fox Lakes, Bear Lake & Whitewater Bay, a mecca for backcountry fly fishing. Here is some of the best fishing in the United States, mostly because it takes a bit of work to get to a lot of these places. There are almost always snook, redfish & tarpon there even in the winter as long as the weather isn’t too volatile and it doesn’t get too cold to fast. The main feature for fly fisherman is Whitewater bay but there is a ton of great fishing along the way. For kayak fisherman this is a must visit place. You can launch you kayak in Coot pond, follow the trail up to Coot Bay and fish the whole way, which is about a mile. You can contine through Coot Bay up another narrow creek (narrow meaning about 7 feet wide) which should take you out by Tarpon Creek which is a main passageway to Whitewater Bay. If you are using a guide, they’ll know where to go. Small skiffs can get to a lot of amazing places in Flamingo, but some places are overgrown with mangroves and require pulling the boat through tight viens of water. Be sure to tell your guide your expectations and how you want to fish. Many guides do not go into the smaller, tighter areas of the park. Keep in mind this is a place where both crocodiles & alligators are native and falling into the water could be very dangerous so know your own personal boundries and be safe, especially in a kayak. In fact we really don’t recommend kayaking through some of these areas. You can venture out into Florida Bay where there is a way better than average chance at a grand slam as Permit and Bonefish are plentiful here, in addtional to all the previously mentioned species. You can check the Fishing Calendars for specific seasons but most anglers who know try to plan there trip around the tarpon migration which begins in late April through June and most of July. April through July is the best time for fishing in South Florida on either southern coast. It really is the best time of year for those who are in search of a grand slam. Marine & Estuaries The largest body of water within the park is Florida Bay, which extends from the mangrove swamps of the mainland’s southern tip to the Florida Keys. There is over 800 square miles (2,100 km2) of marine ecosystem to fish here (yes, we salivated too). Corals, sponges, and seagrasses serve as shelter and food for crustaceans and mollusks, which are the primary food source for larger marine animals like Tarpon, Redfish, Permit, Bonefish, Snook & False Albacore. Sharks, stingrays, and barracudas also live in this ecosystem, as do larger species of fish that attract people like us, like Marlin (only white & blue) Sailfish, Tuna and Mahi-Mahi. The Charlotte Harbor – Pine Island Sound area, one of the largest estuaries in Florida, has relatively pure water that supports extensive grass beds and mangroves. Several large sections of this estuarine complex are designated as state aquatic preserves and there are strict regulations that protect the water quality and marine life in the system Rookery Bay, between Naples and Marco Island, and the waters from Marco Island into the upper part of the Ten Thousand Islands are also Aquatic Preserves. The upper part of the Ten Thousand Islands is slated to become a National Wildlife Refuge while the lower portion has been a part of Everglades National Park for many years.
WHAT TO BRING FLY FISHING IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA
Snook, Smaller Species, & Redfish
Snook, Smaller Species Snook, & Redfish can be caught on a 6-9 weight. Most commonly used an 8-9 weight because most anglers have one, many prefer a 6 weight because its more fun to use little tackle in general. Again as long as wind is not an issue this is certainly ok. Use a floating line with at least 200 yards of backing on your reel. Leaders should be 9-15 feet with at least a 10 lb tippet. (we use 12-15 lb for redfish & a 40lb shock for snook) The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which means a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
Try crabs, shrimp, Spoons & Critters We like the redfish crab & simple streamers for snook
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Tarpon usually require a 10 -12 weight. Most anglers prefer a 12 weight for the lifting power and usually gives the angler more control when trying to land the fish. Wind is usually not an issue when casting a 12 weight. Use a floating line or what we prefer is the intermediate sink line with at least 300 yards of backing on your reel. Leaders should be 9-12 feet with at least a 20 lb tippet. (we use 20 lb shock tippet for smaller tarpon – 60 lb for those over 50 lbs) The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which simply means a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
Offshore fishing for billfish & tuna usually involves a 12 -15 weight. Here you will have a chance at blue & white Marlin, Sailfish, Mahi-mahi & Tuna. We prefer a 14 weight and there are some which even have a butt suitable for gimbel use. Again because we are all about control of the fish and landing the fish quickly which decreases mortality and injury after release. Leader & Tippet should be 40-80 lb tippet. Some use a bimini twist and a very complex taper, some use a 6 foot piece of 80 lb. Use a 40-60 lb tippet with traditional leaders, fluorocarbon is best because of the elasticity but not required. The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which means different things to different people. To us, it means simply a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
Rods: 6 through 15 weight rods are helpful to have, 6 is too light in many situations, while 15 is too heavy Must have: 8 or 9 & 12 weight Luxury items: 6, 7, 10, 13, 14 or 15 weight Reels: Match reels with rods. Spare spools are nice, but not required. Sealed drag with little or no maintenence is preferred. Lines: Floating line for most situations and most water. Fishing for tuna or deep tarpon may require an intermediate sink or full sinking line. Leaders: if you make your own: 6-9 weight start with 40 lb test down to 10 pound test tippet (40-30-20-15-10) OR (40-30-20-15-12-10) 10-12 weight start with 60 lb test to 20 pound tippet (60-50-40-30-20) 13-15 weight start with 100 pound shock to 60-80 lb fluorocarbon tippet (80-60-40-20-60) Use loop connections to connect bigger lines to smaller & vice-versa. If within the budget, just buy them. It will save a bunch of time & energy. Flies: Search the library. You can search by species, color, imitation or location