Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 4 December 2018

My trip this weekend was a half-hearted investigation into the “way back”. We had some cooler weather around midweek and the water temperature took a dive. There is this small window before winter really sets in when you can find catchable snook that have just been driven into the backcountry due to the dropping water temperatures. When they first arrive they less likely to know the neighborhood well enough to quickly wrap your leader. And if you find them before they go into a temperature-induced torpor, they are quite likely to eat. Like a winning lottery jackpot, that window is a tough target to hit, but if you do - the fishing can be epic.

As it turned out it does not seem like the better fish have moved back yet in any numbers. But, then again, any day in the remote backcountry of the mangrove Everglades is a special prize.


What we did find was plenty of smaller fish to stretch our strings. We started out with large flies hoping for mature fish, and those flies were occasionally getting bounced around mercilessly. Eventually, we gave in and dropped down to smaller offerings, which turned the day around into an all-out fish fest. The majority of the fish were juvenile snook, but there was an occasional baby tarpon to liven the party. It was quite likely the last signs of any baby tarpon until next spring. Unfortunately, due to strong predicted winds, the lightest flyrods we had were 8 weights that slightly overmatched the fish.


There was one species of fish that did put a good bend in the rods, an invasive exotic: the Mayan Cichlid. This illegally introduced species from the aquarium trade is like a panfish on steroids. They seldom jump when hooked, but instead, dive deep. It was quite obvious whenever we hooked one as they pull hard enough to initially make you think you have hooked something serious. Unfortunately, they seldom exceed 2 pounds, but one that size on a 5 weight would teach you respect.


On land and in the water, South Florida is awash with exotic species that were introduced due to the pet trade. Whether they escaped or were released, we now have them in abundance and will just have to learn to live with them. Some are more of a nuisance than others, like the Green Iguanas that have overpopulated the metro areas. The Burmese Python is one that is a real concern, as it has taken up residence in the Everglades and has had a significant impact on the small mammal population. As to fish, I think there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 exotic species that now reside in our waters.


The Mayan Cichlid is a special one though. Unlike most of the others, it is not limited to a fresh water environment. It can stand a bit of salinity, which is why stumbled across them this weekend.  Oh, and it pulls like a truck!


I know I will definitely be bringing a lighter flyrod the next time I head back up there.