I have read that, in many locations, the winter is the end of fishing for a while. Not so in South Florida. This is what many of us down here live for! For about the last 5 months there have been fish to be had, some of them spectacular, but the hard part was deciding on what you were willing to put up with to chase them. Rain, heat, bugs, tropical storms, lightning… you had to pick your poison and hope for a less than lethal dose.
But now, the choices become quite different! The problem will become deciding which species you want to go after. Many opportunities will overlap. With only so much time available some very difficult choices will come down to personal taste. There will be unavoidable sacrifices. One simply cannot be in two places at the same time.
I have a fetish for paddles, and the more twisted and uncharted the route, the better. Apparently, I am pretty much alone with this problem as I seldom encounter others in the places I visit, which actually suits me just fine. But then again, it might be because I have found a simple recipe: paddle further then can be fished in a round trip on a single day. Then, enjoy an afternoon and evening of relaxed fishing, hang the hammock for the night, and be on the water before sunrise the next day. Enjoy the almost virgin waters and make the return trip late on the second day. Plan the winds carefully for that return trip and smile all the way, or guess wrong and suffer. After following this schedule for years I now feel short-changed if I only fish a single day… it does not feel like a whole trip.
For a limited time there will be an opportunity to take advantage of the ponded waters of the summer rains. There are areas that are accessible now that will be off the menu later on, and for the entire duration until this time next year. It is a great opportunity to explore the very remote areas beyond the reach of tides. Not all the water will hold fish, but the exploration and experience is unmatched. And when you find fish it will be shallow water sight fishing for wild critters that seem to have had no previous experience with hooks.
Also, between now and the first cold fronts, fishing for baby tarpon will likely be off the chain. After the tropical storm season they seem to recognize the upcoming changes and mass together like some sort of graduation ceremony. Once the water temperature takes that first serious drop they will begin to scatter to places unknown. But, until then…
Of course, those same first few cold fronts will start the snook migration up into the back country. Fresh off their summer vacation along the beaches, for a while at least, they will be willing to eat in preparation for a long winter of semi-hibernation. For a glorious but short period, both snook and small tarpon will mix together for some absolutely fantastic days of canoe fly fishing.
If all that seems pretty cut and dry, there is a very troubling event happening concurrently: the large tarpon will soon begin to congregate off the beaches and river mouths for the winter. Then, on their own personal agendas, they will move in and out of the large back bays. This is arguably the best large tarpon fishing of the year, and it will last through the following spring. While nowhere as concentrated as the fish of the spring migration, these fish eat flies with abandon. Multiple fish days are possible for the dedicated few willing to put in the work.
So, you see the dilemma? Way inside or open water? Sight fishing for light tackle acrobats or pulling on heavy-weight silver? Solo canoeing or boat teamwork? Decisions, decisions!
Last year I dedicated almost the entire winter to persnickety snook slobs with little to show for my efforts except an education in humility. This year I hope I can overcome my addiction and spend more time torqueing on a 12 wt.
Time will tell.
Let the good times roll!