A fishing partner was feeling much the same as I. The difference was he had a specific hankering while I was game for anything. I just wanted to get out. The weather predictions suggested that at least we would not get rained upon, but the winds were expected to be 10 – 15. The latter prediction was a bit under what we found, but compared to how the winds have howled of late, it felt like a vacation.
My buddy had a strong desire to sight fish and throw flies to tailing redfish, which is usually an honorable pastime in these parts during the summer. The thing is, normally during our summers, we have hot and humid calm spells that allow the water to settle out clear and produce acres of mirror smooth surfaces so you can see tails from long distances. That is what my friend was fantasizing. What we got was anything but.
We launched his large two-man fishing canoe from the boat ramp at Flamingo. This launch point allows immediate access to the northern shoreline of Florida Bay. Most folks drop in their flats boat there and then run through miles of designated channels to fish secret spots that everyone knows. It is sort of a race get there first, fish it quick, then race to the next spot hoping another boat hasn’t just worn it out and left.
This area is within the massive protected marine zones of Everglades National Park. The ever-increasing regulations have been specifically designed to protect the shallow seagrass beds that dominate the area. While there are very few places that are completely off limits, a vast majority of the shallows have been designated “Pole and Troll” only zones. This means combustion engines cannot be operated, not even at idle, they can be on the boat but you just are not supposed to use them other than in the channels. Instead, in the zones, boats can only be propelled by push pole or electric trolling motors. Most anglers grudgingly abide by the rules as they have witnessed the improvements to the flats and appreciate the more relaxed nature of the fish.
Paddling a canoe is obviously also allowed in the P&T zones. And these zones begin within a few paddle strokes from the marina. Two fly anglers, taking turns standing and casting from a large stable canoe can have epic fishing trips if they are willing to work a little. A canoe is quite possibly the most efficient way to fish these areas. Unlike the flats boats with elevated platforms, canoes are low and stealthy quiet. Also, they are surprisingly quick at relocation when two paddlers decide to move somewhere else… much faster than the burliest guide can pole a flats boat.
That all sounds good, and it can be, or was, but the environmental situation of late has thrown a few wrenches into the gears. Even before the hurricanes Florida Bay was reeling from an algae bloom. The storms added more nutrients and stirred the pot. So clear water, at least near the shoreline, has been almost non-existent. Over the short term, we are just coming down from about two weeks of blustery offshore winds from the Atlantic, which I’m sure did not help. And, on the day we fished, there was a “super moon”, meaning a whole moon (new) at perigee (closest to the earth). That creates very strong tides. With the sun near the equator (aka, the equinox), all these factors add up to the strongest and highest tides of the year.
The conditions we had: a strong tide pushing up on a flat after a low tide in the morning is a recipe for great redfish action. If you can see them! The water since the algae bloom started is anything but clear. The winds, both over the recent past and on the day we fished, only made the water clarity worse. There were no glassy surfaces either. We saw no redfish.
That is not to say we did not catch any fish. We resorted to dredging in the channels as the late low tide came to slack ebb, and we got our strings stretched by an assortment of species. After a short period of sight fishing, and realizing the situation was not favorable, we resorted to blind casting, and caught a few more.
So the day was not a total bust. In fact, the final tally included almost every species one could hope for from the area, except we did not catch a tarpon. Tarpon are my personal favorite, and even though I had a feeling that sight fishing for reds had a low probability, I was hoping the tarpon would play. We found a bunch of ‘em, but they ignored our flies.
So, two anglers headed home, neither of which got what the hoped for, but neither was complaining either. It was just nice to finally get out.