Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 13 March 2018
I have been fishing throughout the Everglades mangrove fringe seriously since the 1980s. Previous to that, there were many trips to Everglades National Park and the Keys during my childhood, and that was all fun and games, not a rigorous study. My father and I fished all over Florida. For a while, after graduating college I seriously fished the Florida Keys for a few years but the open waters lacked something, or maybe they reminded me too much of my part-time stints as an offshore commercial fisherman that helped with my education costs. It seemed every time I drove down to the Keys I could not help but feel the allure of the mysterious mangrove labyrinth that I was passing. Eventually, I gave in and turned right at the bottom of mainland Florida and headed into Everglades National Park, wondering if someday I might actually have a clue about the famous unknown waterways and backcountry.
Once I started I never stopped. I guess I am either a home-body or a simpleton, but I really have had little interest in fishing the famous places around the world. I like to defend my choice by saying I would rather have an in-depth knowledge of any one thing than a general overview of many other things. And while I do not believe that a single person, in a lifetime, could ever know and understand all the waters and secrets of the Everglades, I am pretty sure I have as good an understanding as anyone else alive today. I know I have covered (and fished) all of the major waterways, and I expect I have explored much more of the intimate areas than most.
My training and career as a scientist taught me to document my trips. After years of notes, I started to suspect patterns. I began to make guesses based on the perceived patterns and the real fun began. There were so many wrong guesses! Being wrong became as entertaining as being right. I am sure that I do not have to explain to this crowd that the fun of solving the puzzle ends when all the pieces are in place.
The advent of the digital point-and-shoot camera was a real boon to my note-taking. It was so easy to just snap a fast photo at the beginning of a trip to document the start time and the conditions. Photographing fish or scenery was secondary, but eventually, I built up a pretty large repository of fish porn and what many refer to as “Hippy shots”, things like rainbows and cloud formations, but most of my pictures are simple documentation.
There is this one little bay that I stumbled across that has yielded some fine fishing days. It is well protected and off the beaten path. If entered quietly and slowly via canoe, the sight fishing can be quite rewarding… if the conditions are right. And by conditions, I am primarily meaning water depth. Too much water and the fish cannot be seen, too little and they will not be comfortable, so they won’t be there. The puzzle is how to guess ahead of time how deep the water will be. Tide charts are meaningless in this area, but a careful interpretation of wind, moon phase, barometer, and seasonal rainfall can predict the situation well enough to make the trek worthwhile. Over the years I have taken a number of photos of a far corner to document the conditions and help me solve the puzzle.
The first three of the following photos are like the beds of the Three Bears: the first is too deep, the second too shallow, while the third is just right. The subsequent photo is the prize for getting it right. Sadly, the last photo is recent, taken just last week, and shows the extent of the hurricane damage and recovery six months after Irma made landfall.