Everglades angling experiences can be as diverse as there are ecosystems here. Anglers can cast a lure for freshwater bass and bream on inland rivers and creeks or head for the wide open ocean and try for six-foot tarpon. The mix of salt and fresh water in between make for more choices, overwhelming first time anglers.
Conditions vary day-to-day and by time of year. Bait shops and guides in Everglades City are good sources of timely information, as is the marina in Flamingo. Anglers should look for signs of life, minnows and such, around areas of moving water, like creek mouths, rivers, fallen trees, and where shallow and deep waters meet. Use the tides to your advantage when they create moving water.
Snook, Jack Crevalle, ladyfish and mangrove snapper will take a well-presented lure. Popular lures are Mirrolures, gold spoons, Rapalas, and surface poppers such as those made by Heddon. Sea trout, reds and other fish inhabit the rivers and coastlines of the Everglades. Many anglers like to use bait, such as shrimp and squid, though it is harder for paddlers to keep the bait from spoiling.
Consider trolling with lures on long paddling days. Use heavier tackle for the large and toothy Everglades fish than you would normally use from self-propelled craft. Be apprised of the latest license, regulation and bag limits before you set out.
Reds, once unglamorously known as drum, have become a highly sought after prize. They are generally around oyster bars and shallow bays, such as Snake Bight. Anglers can sight fish for reds with a gold spoon. Good locations are Broad River Bay and the shallows near Flamingo Campground.
Many anglers consider snook to be the park’s premier game fish. They like to hide around structure, such as mangrove roots and fallen logs. Snook use the tides to gain an advantage over minnows, patrolling creek mouths on a falling tide. Cast Mirrolures on a rising tide from the beaches at Pavilion Key, Highland Beach or Cape Sable. Cruise the mangrove shoreline of West Lake for a day trip.
Obviously, search freshwater regions of the Everglades for ol’ bucketmouth, farthest from the coast. Largemouth bass will take surface lures, such as Heddons. Floating Rapalas, twitched just right, will draw great strikes. Follow the Hells Bay Canoe Trail into the first few open bays and toss the perimeters for bass. The upper reaches of the waterways east of Whitewater Bay, such as North River and Watson River hold bass, as do feeder creeks of the upper Everglades paddling area like Rocky Creek near Willy Willy campsite.
Seatrout are fun to catch. They are one of the less toothy Everglades fish and thus are easy to handle. They are also the best eating in my opinion. Since they often swim in schools, catches can be fairly numerous once you hit a school. Paddlers heading along the Gulf Coast from Everglades City to Cape Sable should slowly troll with a floating minnow to nail these attractive and tasty fish. The grasses of Florida Bay are also likely seatrout haunts.
In my opinion, Jack Crevalle are inedible. However, they are my favorite game fish in the Everglades. They are prevalent, easy to unhook and are big fighters. They hit surface lures and gold spoons. My best experiences have been on the rivers, such as Lane River, Roberts River, and around the Hells Bay chickee. Cast the shorelines or troll. And when you catch one Jack, others usually follow.