Everglades National Park
For whatever reason it’s easy to think of a national park as being land based. And at a million and a half acres, it’d be easy to think that the Everglades National Park (www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm) consists of a tremendous amount of land. One of the park’s outstanding attributes is that 1/3 of it, or 500 million acres, is water. The fact that a tremendous amount of gamefish are in these waters means that when you set your compass to head to the subtropical wilderness you’d do well to bring along a variety of types of fishing tackle. There are a lot of different species of fish to catch.
Some of the biggest fishing ports are located within or near the park that basically runs from the Northern boundary of Route 41 (the Tamiami Trail) to the Southern boundary of Route 1 (through the Florida Keys). Everglades City. Chokoloskee. Flamingo. The Thousand Island archipelago is along the Western side, and alone could represent enough water to fish in a lifetime. What makes the park even better is the park is open 24/7, 365 days of the year.
Water depth is pretty consistent throughout the park and is under five feet deep. Opportunities for a backcountry slam for snook, redfish, and sea trout are good along the southern and western areas. Highland Beach and Cape Sable are good for snook and reds can be caught near the Flamingo Campground. There are also seasonal opportunities for a flats slam of bonefish, tarpon and permit. Fly fishing for these species is very common, but using a freshwater spinning rod and stickbaits like Mirrolures, Bass Assassins, Twisty Tails, and jigs tipped with shrimp work great, too. Jack Crevalle, ladyfish, and mangrove snappers are commonly caught species.
The park has a lot of different terrain, from shorelines, grass flats, channels, mangrove tangles, and deeper recesses known as potholes. Look for moving water found in creek mouths, rivers, and where shallow and deep water meet. Fishing structures like deadfall trees, mangroves, and oyster bars are good ideas, too. And while lots of anglers think of the saltwater species they can catch there is a surprise; the park has freshwater rivers and creeks too, which means largemouth bass and bream. Jumping a tarpon in the morning and catching bass and bream in the afternoon sounds like a pretty good day to me.
There are a tremendous number of guides who fish throughout the park, and camping is available year-round. 108 sites are at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center and 234 sites and services near Flamingo. If you’re looking for a real wilderness experience there are chickees which are platforms built on posts and covered with roofs. Paddlers or boaters usually set up tents on the chickees.
This year, add the Everglades National Park to your places-to-fish list. You’ll be glad you did.
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Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits. When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters. His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.