Saturday, November 27, 2010

Everglades Seasons

The seasons are changing in the Everglades... Summer fishing season to Winter fishing season.

A photo of a very nice snook I caught late last November in Chokoloskee Bay, this one was around 38”. A somewhat of a rare catch and for many it would be a catch of a lifetime. Add to the scenario of catching a larger snook as this out of a kayak and well, it’s even more of a rare occurrence. For those who have fished for snook know what I’m talking about and for those who haven’t you will only know what I’m really talking about when you get the opportunity to experience it for yourself. With all the time I spend on the water I still only get the opportunity a few times a year. I’ll never forget catching this fish, using light tackle as I normally do standing drifting and fishing an oyster bed shore line in the shallows. I knew instantly when I hooked up with that fish that chances would be slim getting it in the boat. I had previously just caught a couple of other snook so my 30lb leader was somewhat worn and may be nicked along with only having 10lb power pro braided line, not a good scenario around the sharp oysters let alone the razor sharp gill plates of the fish (I’ve been cut off by snook even when using 50lb leader). Anyway, I got lucky, kept her away from the oysters and was able to turn the fish somehow as it freight trained away and worked it back to the boat.

I’ve missed a few larger snook over the last couple of weeks fishing the backwaters, the last a couple of days ago. I’ve been spending time up in the backcountry doing a lot of exploring and kayak fishing. Fishing an area I know fairly well I was looking for tarpon. It was pretty windy and there were no signs of them feeding or rolling so I was just making blind casts with a plug as I covered a large open area. This is the second or third time this has happened recently and around 10ft from the boat hooking up with a larger fish as I retrieved my plug. She never surfaced but I saw it was a large snook as it passed by the side of the boat. Thinking I had a good hook set the fish ran giving me a good (sleigh) ride only to throw the hook with a violent headshake. So be it... I will be back soon. This happened in the same place a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been spotting more larger fish in the backcountry but without a real cold front to cool the outer bays and gulf waters I don’t believe many fish have migrated yet still. I have been catching  fish in the back, mostly smaller snook (up to around 22") and baby reds and an occasional juvenile tarpon. I got out and fished the bay (Choko) yesterday and when the tide changed to incoming the fish began feeding, I caught a few snook, a couple of trout and smaller redfish and also many ladyfish and a couple of gag groupers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jurassic Park ?

It looks like today, Tuesday, would be the only day that I would be able to get some fishing in this week, at least until the weekend. Saturday I skipped going fishing because it looked like the weather was going to be crappy (which it turned out to be a nice day) and I did an early morning road trip and did a little exploring through a part of Big Cypress Preserve and then over to Fachahatchee Strand. I didn’t realize hunting season for deer was open in Big Cypress where I was and there wasn’t much activity except for the hunters so I made my way over to Fachahatchee. Ironically not very long after driving into Fachahatchee where there was no hunting allowed, a nice 6 point buck came out and crossed the road just up in front of me. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of other activity here either, a few different birds but just being here in the early morning is awesome. The morning mist with being in the jungle makes me think of Jurassic Park as a good description. I didn’t see any dinosaurs but a few more miles up the road I had the rare opportunity to have walk out into the road ahead of me this time a good size Florida Panther. He walked out on the dirt road, stood there for a minute and then casually walked back into the jungle. Of course I wasn't ready with my camera.

I finally made it back out in Chokoloskee bay today. The north - northeast winds have really died down only today they shifted to the south. If they were stronger persistent south winds they could have the tendency to shut down the bite in this area. Also today the tides would be fairly slow being in the middle of the moon phase. With saying all that I didn’t expect much success today but surprisingly I caught quite a few fish. My goal today was to find some larger redfish. For the last couple of weeks all the reds I've caught along with the reports that I have gotten are everybody is catching smaller (rat reds) fish. Well I never did find any larger redfish and only again caught a few of the “rat” reds which was still okay. I also checked out a couple of my trout spots and caught a few of those. When first fishing in the morning looking for the reds I caught a couple of smaller snook but my highlight of the day on a top water plug I caught a very nice snook. Close to 30", and very healthy. She gave me a real nice fight with the light tackle I was using. As I was getting ready to take a photo of the fish it slipped out of my hands and off it swam. It was an exciting catch as there are not as many larger fish around so now every time when catching a bigger snook it shows there is promise when so many died during the freeze last winter. I also caught a couple of jacks, ladyfish and a weird looking lizard fish.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Backcountry Everglades

This past week turned out to be a great time to be out in the Everglades. Cool mornings warming into the upper seventies and hardly any bugs. A couple days were a bit windy so I spent all my time up in the backcountry where there is more protection. I fished a couple of days and also got a couple of requests from people to show them some of the areas I explore. Each time going into these areas is different but on the two different trips where I brought people they got to see and experience for themselves some of the wonders of the Everglades as there was a lot of activity with the wildlife this week. There have been a lot of different bird species around, the different resident birds like herons and egrets and also many migratory birds from large flocks of ducks to a lot of different species of raptors.

I kayak fished two different days and concentrated on fly fishing for snook in the mangroves. A bit of a challenge casting into openings and under the mangroves but I managed to catch a dozen or so smaller fish. None larger than around 20” but was a lot of fun with the fly rod. There were some tarpon around and I could see them rolling in a couple of different places. I made a few casts but never could hook up with one.

As I mentioned above there were a lot of different birds around this week. Trying to photograph a lot of the different bird species can be a real challenge and almost impossible a lot of times, especially when my strongest lens is only a 200mm. Pictured below are a couple photos of two young black crowned night herons that tolerated me getting fairly close to them, kind of a rare opportunity. I was back in the area where I had seen that group of Grebes again and saw that there were only two of them there. I figured the rest of the group must have moved on when one being near some mangroves starts this crazy squawking and out from the trees comes a large hawk, I believe was a Red Shouldered hawk and goes after and attacks that little bird. Somehow this Grebe got away but I think I have the answer as to where his other friends went.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A New Day

We have our first real cold front of the year coming through the area as I write this. It’s nice for a change to have some cooler weather but hopefully in a couple days it will warm back up. Forty degree temperatures would be t-shirt weather when I lived up in Vermont but here after months of ninety degree days it may be time to dig out some warmer clothing. The fish here will be making some changes also and a few species, like snook, will start to migrate up into many places in the backcountry. Many fish will spend the winter months in these protected areas that will generally stay warmer and will harbor bait fish through the winter season.

I had the chance to kayak fish a couple of days this past week in the bay. I got out last Sunday to catch a couple of nice trout to bring back for dinner as it was the last day of the season to keep them and the season will not open back up till January. Along with some nicer size trout I still have been catching some snook and redfish although they tend to be mostly smaller fish. I will fish out there as I can but should these cooler temperatures and winds continue I will start spending more time up in the backcountry.

One day during the week I paddled up north of the bay near the Ferguson River and West Pass to do a little exploring. It’s a good paddle (3 miles +) from Everglades City but there are many places to fish along the way and I plan to head back to the area soon to explore more.

A pair of Raccoons swimming along who apparently must have misjudged the fast incoming tide and got stranded on an oyster bar.