I was up early having already decided the night before to explore a little bit up in one of the backcountry areas I love to kayak fish. With the coastal Everglades pretty much being a huge estuary or fish nursery there are usually pretty good odds of finding and catching fish even though many of the fish are not huge but still makes for a fun day.
It was an overcast day with rain in the forecast and it was towards the top of the incoming tide when I launched my Native Ultimate kayak. It was a tough launch through the mangroves with the high water and the bugs were pretty brutal which made for a quick launch. I brought with me today a couple of spinning rod setups and my nice 9wt TFO BVK fly rod setup.
I had about a half mile paddle to get to my first fishing spot where I had been seeing some younger tarpon rolling and feeding on a recent trip. The paddle there was as enjoyable as most any other day in the Everglades. No sounds or sights of human civilization but only the sounds and calls of different birds and the occasional sound of a loud splash off in a distance that you can only imagine what it may have been.
This was not going to be a day for any sight fishing with the high water plus the water was very stained from all the runoff from all the rain we have had recently. I didn’t spot any tarpon at my first stop only to see the silver flash of a fish missing my bait on one of my first casts into the spot. I was casting a larger plastic swimbait I was using as a search bait on a medium heavy spinning rod. A couple more casts and I hooked up. After two nice jumps the Tarpon, maybe 30lbs spit the hook on the third. I was happy with that. Not a bad way to start the morning and I had thoughts that maybe I would catch a large fish today. The Tarpon just played with my bait after that so I went on my way to one of my other fishing spots.
I spotted other Tarpon rolling as I made my way only to have them ignore my offerings so I switched to concentrating on fishing along the mangrove shorelines. I switched back and forth between a lighter medium weight spinning rod and the fly rod. Over the next couple of hours I managed to catch a lot of smaller fish, mostly smaller and baby snook, a couple of smaller redfish, snapper and a small jewfish. I ended up putting away the fly rod even though this BVK 9wt is fairly light; it was a little overkill for the size fish I was catching. I could make a lot more casts in and around the mangroves with the lighter spinning rod with less fatigue.
I proceeded to a shoreline where I have caught some decent size fish. It’s a very challenging spot with a lot of downed trees and branches in the water so with that it's also where I've been broken off by some larger snook on a couple of occasions. The tide was now rolling out and it was raining slightly. I felt safe enough with the outfit I was using skipping swimbaits and using a strong 40lb leader.
I worked the shoreline making a few casts and then it happened. I skipped the lure way back under an overhanging mangrove branch and I felt the fish take my bait. If you have never hooked up with a larger snook you at first would think you were snagged on a branch or something else but there is a definite feel of the bite when it happens.
The split second after the snook feels the tension from the line all hell breaks loose as it did this time. This fish breached the water with a vicious headshake as it (luckily) came out from under the mangroves. I got to see that it was a very big fish as it tore off line running down along the shoreline. I’ve caught larger snook but this girl was one very powerful fish. I had my anchor out to hold the boat but I still couldn’t get any leverage on the fish to turn her. I loosened my drag a little hoping she would not break me off (or break my rod) and kept as much tension on the line as I could until she finally began to tire. It seemed like an eternity after the fish made some long runs and not once but twice going back into the trees. I finally got this beautiful fish to the boat.
I just had a good feeling that something like this would happen today. After spending so much time in some of these areas in the Everglades I’ve gained some good knowledge on how to fish them but I have to say luck can play a good part many times to get you out of (or into) some of these situations.