SaltyShores Close-Up: Flamingo, Florida
Though recent times has seen the Everglades National Park shut down for about two weeks, and now re-open, the flats fishing was, is, and no doubt will be stupendous- providing the habitat does not get peppered by debilitating cold fronts.
This is the story of two half-day trips Alan Williams and I made with Captain Jason Sullivan. If my schedule were less hectic, I’m sure the same marvelous results could have been achieved in one day. Jason’s 17-foot Maverick HPX performed wonderfully and got us into the skinniest waters.
Alan and I would meet Jason in Florida City and drive with him down to Flamingo.
On the first day, Jason made a long run in search of a huge school of redfish he’d “been on” during the last few days. After an hour, we found them. The school seemed to stretch for fifty yards with tails popping up seemingly everywhere. When Jason got us in casting range Alan and I both fired off weedless soft plastics into their midst. I immediately got a strike, and my fish blew up the water instantly with thrashes, spooking the huge school in all directions. After a minute, my hook pulled, leaving us with nothing more than some frothed -up water and fast-beating hearts! Though I wanted to pursue the reds, Jason declined. He felt the tide would be perfect for snook back towards Flamingo and he wanted to pursue un-pressured fish in the few hours we had remaining for the day.
It turned out to be a great decision, as we caught a pile of snook in the remaining time, including a trophy-sized snook Alan took on a topwater plug.
On our second half-day trip, Jason was highly optimistic about the redfishing we’d be doing for three reasons: glassy calm water, fishing during the low tide, and the recent reports of lots of single fish to make presentations to, versus huge spookable schools.
Towards that end, we were into tailing reds within ten minutes of leaving the Flamingo marina. Indeed, those superb conditions plus Jason’s expert guiding delivered up redfish all morning long.
Capt. Jason Sullivan
This past weekend I made the 3 hour drive down to Miami to fish with good buddies Capt. Honson Lau and Capt. Jeremy Alderman to do some Tarpon fishing in their home waters. We launched Honson’s 18ft Maverick Mirage HPX at Jeremy’s house in Key Largo and made the long run all the way to Islamorada. The 115 Mercury Pro XS made the run a piece of cake, and man, that motor scoots!
Fishing the Tarpon migration is not easy. You gotta know where to sit, what direction to point, what tides are doing, what fish to feed, what flies to throw, how to strip the fly, where to put the fly and so on, and these guys know it all, and exactly what to do.
Sure I wanted to catch a Tarpon on fly while I was down there, but what I really wanted were some good action shots of Tarpon jumps. I was on bow a couple times and had some good shots at some laid up and cruising fish, had a few follows but no takers. I had Honson take my place on the bow while I was behind the lens and Jeremy on the push pole. Sure enough after a few shots, Honson jumps a nice fish that gave us a spectacular air show! The cool thing about this fish was that the first cast at this fish, it tracked the fly all the way to the boat but didn’t eat because the fly was fouled, Honson quickly picked it up, fixed the fly, slapped it back in front of the fish and next thing you know, there’s explosions in the water. Of course like what most Tarpon would do, this one gave us a good short show then shook the fly out of its jaw. You can see the fly ejected from the fishes mouth on some of the photos.
Next up on the bow was Jeremy with Honson on the push pole and me behind the lens again. After sitting at a spot waiting for fish to show up only seeing a few here and there, we decided to leave since it was a little slow. As soon as we were about to power up. a pod of 50-60 Tarpon come heading our way and Jeremy quickly grabs his rod, strips out some line and fires out a shot into the pod and hooks up! The fish never knew it was hooked and stuck with the school just daisy chaining around the boat and then shortly after, th hook pulls without a jump. Frustrating, but that’s the name of the game. After that, we called it a successful day and made the long run back to Key Largo.
The next day, my friend Ramiro invited Honson and I to hop in his Maverick Mirage HPX-T and fish the Everglades National Park. The conditions were horrible with 20-30kt winds and some storms brewing so it was going to be a short trip. We launched at Flamingo and made a good run to some spots that were holding a bunch of Redfish. It was too windy for fly rods so we all threw some D.O.A. Cals on spinning outfits. The fishery down there is amazing, beautiful water, healthy grass and lots of fish. We caught Redfish, Snook, and Sea Trout until we got chased out by storms. Great day on the water with great company, that’s what it’s all about!
I’ll be back down very soon for more action and hopefully better conditions. Stay tuned for part 2….
-Capt. Willy Le
Gone are the days of wearing jackets, jeans, and hoodies…hopefully. Gone are the days of sitting in a creek in the Everglades to catch 50 undersized redfish…hopefully. And gone are the arctic blasts that keep our warm weather fish from being happy…hopefully.
It is really starting to feel like the warmer weather starting to set in. My 2 favorite species to target on a fly rod are starting to find this favorable and fishing has certainly been pretty good when the stars lined up. As the warmth really starts to settle in, the sight of dark water will soon be replaced by bright torquise hues, green backed figures, and spiked up fins. The early season stuff is fun, but I can’t wait to get to the meat and potatoes.
Speaking of warm weather… I got a couple of technical fishing shirts from Howler Bro.’s the other day and have been wearing them during these warm days on the water. I can honestly say that I have found the most comfortable fishing shirt on the market that I’ve worn so far. The unmistakable monkey brand is definitely cool and made unique from everything else on the market. These are definitely premium clothes, that are comfortable to wear, and make a statement about the fly fishing and surfing lifestyle. Check it out… www.howlerbros.com
The cool winter weather should send lots of fish up on the shallow mud flats trying to warm themselves in the afternoon sun. At this point in the game, a quiet shallow draft skiff and a good pair of polarized glasses will be vital for sneaking up on these weary fish. Think small flies, small arties, and stealthy presentations… break out the 6wt or 7wt and tie some small weighted and unweighted muddlers.
Happy Holidays… stay tuned…
Fall has definitely set in, followed by cooling temperatures, lobster sized live shrimp in the baitwell, blue bird skies, and lots of muddy minded fish. Redfish in Flamingo are swimming on the mud in the afternoon heat and hanging off the deep end of mud banks on cool mornings. Bonefish on the other side of this little world in Islamorada are mudding their tails off, fattening up for the winter. The deep backcountry of the Everglades is also teeming with life. On a recent day in the backcountry, we caught snook, redfish, bream (I haven’t caught a pan fish on fly in over a decade), and gar all in the same few coves. As temperatures cool, catches of 40+ redfish are becomming less uncommon in a single day. We’ve been having a ball catching a bunch of backcountry redfish on DOA CAL shad tails in the new Fiji Chicken color fished on a 1/8oz or 1/4oz chartruese CAL jighead. Fall fishing is just straight up fun and relaxing.
Days have been real windy so it has been fun tackling some big chop in big water in my new 18 Maverick Mirage. I recently added a Minnkota Riptide ST trolling motor with iPilot for some of the deeper water backcountry stuff and it has worked amazing. The spot lock feature on the iPilot trolling motor is pretty amazing (thought it does kinda promote my laziness).
This is definitely a cool time of year to fish…
Stay tuned for more skiff fish porn…
The Everglades is part of what I consider my local waters. The usual shallow water suspects sought after during chillier days are redfish and snook (yes snook). The temperatures are starting to stabilize with highs in the 80s during the day and lows into the 60s in the evening and wee hours of morning. Though I did not miss the massive cold temperatures of this past winter, I did miss the occassional warmer winter days and slightly chilly morning run through buttonwood canal. The backcountry of Flamingo becomes a real special place after extreme warmth of summer passes. Whether planning on coralling wads of finger mullet and pilchards into your baitwell or simply tying on your favorite lure or fly, the Everglades will fail to dissapoint the bait soaker or sight fisherman in us. Once you are exiting out of Buttonwood canal you enter natures realm of big fish eat small fish, starting from Coot Bay, into Whitewater Bay, Oyster Bay, Shark River, and the entire gulf coast outside of there. The incredible fishing is only bested by the vast unspoiled wildlife that surrounds you. Now that the mullet are here, porpoises, tarpon, and other big predators are having their fill devouring massive quantities of these half-brained delicacies. It’s pretty cool watching a redfish chase down and flare it’s gills at a small mullet imitation fly or soft plastic, but feeling a helpless baitfish at the end of your line struggling as a big redfish or snook closes in, is pretty exciting in it’s own aspect.
My buddy Paul and I set out a couple of weekends ago to put the new 18 HPX out in it’s paces covering quite a bit of water in the SW portion of the Everglades from Shark Rivers to Snake Bight and a bit further East. We met up with my Dennis and Jason in their 17 HPX-V and set out on a 2 boat adventure into the unknown. We encountered windy creeks, big storm brewed chop, drastic changes in weather, and lots of redfish in muddy water and clean water. While fishing on each side of Flamingo, we saw tons of bait.. mainly finger mullet. But the redfish didn’t show much interest in the mullet… rather they followed the mullet around and pounced on every little shrimp or crab that the schools of mullet would spook up. It was pretty neat to watch aggressive redfish in the dirty water pounce our DOA Shrimp , then travel 50 miles back to the shallow clear flats of Snake Bight to watch schools of big redfish blow up on the same DOA Shrimp. By far the coolest sight though was sneaking right up on top of a tailing redfish rooting in the grass for a crab and seeing it dig out the crab and munch on it right under my feet (crab legs were still sticking out of the fish’s mouth and mud flaring out of gills). The ‘Glades always offers a spectacular show for it’s visitors. This is a very special place.
Stay tuned for more ahead…
All my life, I have always tried to seek out the best of the best and this comes especially true when choosing my next flats skiff. This will my my third skiff I own and my third product from Maverick Boat Company as well. Currently, Maverick Boats is building my next skiff… and for the first time, I was able to build one from scratch with every little nit pick detail that I desired. After a 12 year run fishing the shallows from Flamingo to Islamorada, I have finally spec’ed out everything I wanted in a skiff; both for guiding and for fun fishing days.
I learned to run a boat and fish the shallows at age 12 on a Hewes/Maverick Light Tackle 18 flats skiff (currently the Redfisher 18). It had a 2 tone commander blue and white hull with Yamaha 150HP Saltwater Series motor, lots of weight, and a fishy attitude. I tried to get into places where this big flats boat was pushed to it’s limits from big water Dolphin fishing to shallow water Redfishing. This was hardly a skiff, but a big water flats boat, which my buddies and I actually did end up still trying to pole. For many years, I first learned to fish Whitewater Bay before learning how to fish the flats out front in Florida Bay. Along the way, my buddy Capt. Frank had also taught me how to bonefish in Key Largo as well as introduce me to fly fishing. I did a lot of this in either Frank’s Hewes Bayfisher 18 or my Hewes Light Tackle 18. These bigger skiffs were adequate and got me where I needed to be dry and comfortably. I fished the hell out of my 18 Light Tackle from the day I bought it in 1998 until the day I sold it in 2004.
In the next few weeks, I will keep an updated blog on Saltyshores of the entire skiff building process that goes into a Maverick Mirage HPX from start to finish. Until next time…. stay tuned for the “Hatching”!!!