Friday, September 24, 2010

Everglades to Pine Island

For the last couple of weeks there have been predominant winds blowing from the east- northeast. It’s calm early but by mid to late morning the winds pick up blowing around 15 mph plus. I ventured out across Chokoloskee bay a couple of times and also the Goodland area but the water has stayed churned up (muddy) and it’s made fishing somewhat tough. I did manage to catch a few fish including snook, trout and mangrove snappers.

With the way the weather has been with the winds I decided on going back into some other areas to do a little exploring where there is more protection from them. I ventured into a couple of different areas in Factahatchee Strand and also Big Cypress. I love going into these areas but it’s been a few months since paddling in there. It can be a little tough with the vegetation growing in during the summer months, the insects and of course the local wildlife which can make it a little intimidating especially when going solo and setting off before sunrise. The next photograph shows how overgrown it’s become on one of the trails I take into Factahatchee. A couple of these areas are where I love to fish for snook and tarpon especially during the winter months where the fish will migrate to for the warmer waters. On these outings I did also catch a few snook but mostly small fish and twice I got into a couple of schools of tarpon, one school of juvenile fish around five to ten pounders and one school of younger fish. I never got any of the fish in the boat but had a few hookups and that was fun and exciting enough. I’m looking forward to spending more time back in these areas again as the cooler months come.

This week I finally made it up to kayak and fish Pine Island, Florida for one day. It’s another place in Florida I like to visit a couple of times a year along with Matlacha which is by Pine Island. It’s still kind of rural and has a great fishery. It’s very different from the Everglades in one way that there are miles of grass flats to fish which the Western Everglades lack and you approach it a bit different when fishing. Target species are pretty much the same (Snook,Trout and Reds) but their habits are a little different. I spent most of my time standing and site fished from the kayak drifting with the wind which was blowing pretty good there also. As I drifted I caught some nicer trout casting the pot holes as I looked for redfish. With things starting out slow I starting spotting some reds as the tide changed to incoming. The water there is crystal clear compared to what I am used too but with the water being a little choppy from the wind my view was a little obstructed and I would see the fish (1 or 2 at a time) after they already saw me. I would have never seen the fish had I been sitting in the boat. Some of the fish were very large and I would have to say some of them were around 40” (aka Bull Reds !). Finally, I got a break and surprised when I spotted a large fish tailing in about three feet of water. I could tell it was a large fish by the size of his tail and could see he was in a school with other fish. I made my way towards them and on my second or third cast with a weedless setup and DOA Cal I hooked up with a fish and saw as I fought it the rest of the school stayed with him, A dozen or so of big fish. Very exciting! After a good fight on my light tackle I was very happy to catch this nice red who was a little over 30”, not one of the bigger fish in the school but still a nice catch. I fished a little more but the winds were picking up more and the tide was just about in so I called it a day plus I had a fairly long paddle back to where I launched. I look forward to getting back there again in the near future!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Everglades Mud

I found myself on a large dry mudflat when only an hour before I was sight fishing for redfish in about a foot of water. The majority of the area was now either dry or the water was only a couple of inches deep. With the new moon this was a negative low tide. I just happened to be in a spot where there was sort of a creek running through the mud where the water was draining and it was just deep enough where the kayak was still somewhat afloat. As the tide dropped I watched as more and more birds flew in to take advantage of the situation to feed. Plans for the morning was to do some fishing but now any fish that were here have now vacated the area for deeper waters. Watching all the birds coming in I thought maybe there might be a good chance to get a couple of good photos of them. I wasn’t at the best vantage point but for the most part the wading birds seemed to ignore me and would come fairly close to me as they foraged in the mud for crustaceans and such, a rare opportunity. The bazaaro birds, The Roseate Spoonbills I think are one of the spookier birds and it’s rare to be able to get near them. Today I watched as a small flock worked their way around the area pre-occupied with their foraging and worked their way towards me. They realized I was there when they were only around ten feet from me but instead of flying off they acted funny almost as if they were annoyed that I was there. They made their way around me and basically ignored me and continued to feed. I am basically your hardcore fisherman but in the package of fishing the wilderness of the Everglades comes being able to see and enjoy all these different things the area has to offer. Today would have been a dream comes true for a real birder seeing a lot of these different kinds of wading birds and being able to get so close to them.

(Notice this bird is banded. Reading the band, The Audubon informed me it was banded 12/31/08 on an island in SE Florida Bay when it was just a chick.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Everglades 9/1 - 9/7

I got on the water a few times over the last week. A couple of times out in the bay in Chokoloskee along with a couple of times out of Goodland and one day in the backwaters up off Rt 41. I never have a bad day on the water kayaking here, between the scenery, the wildlife and the excitement of fishing these places, every trip offers something different. I look at every trip as a new adventure.

Talking to my son he asked me how the fishing was and my response was that it was not the greatest. He laughed and said “I know you’ve been catching something”, and he was right, I've been catching fish but I guess I was feeling maybe a little melancholy because I lost a few large fish over the past few days. I haven’t really been fishing for the snook except for in the backcountry but I hooked up with three larger fish this last week and lost them all for one reason or another. Today I hooked up with a very large snook that at first I thought might be a tarpon. She made a couple of awesome jumps and when I thought I won the fight she jumped once again near the boat and with a vicious headshake sent my topwater plug flying back at me.

My sons question was maybe somewhat of a wakeup call. I may have become a little spoiled with spending the last few years here. I spend most all of my time kayaking and fishing in what is really old Florida, not in the way it was but in the way this area is and has always been, unlike pretty much the rest of overpopulated and overbuilt Florida. There are no concrete highrises or houses here looking down at you and rarely do you see other boats around. It’s kind of funny on one day I complained about a power boat I could see and my friend Chris made a smirk and brought to my attention that it was probably a mile away.

There’s a hint that the weather is starting to change. It’s still very warm during the day but the nights are getting cooler and with that the water is starting to cool down. I’ve actually seen a few different migratory birds on my last few times out. I’m looking forward for it to be a little cooler during the day. Before you know it camping season will be here.