Something different

Something different

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Hell… the fact that I actually went fishing was different! That we went “out front” was different (for us). And that we fished out of a canoe was definitely different – at least compared to all the other folks who were crazy enough to go fishing out of Everglades National Park this past weekend.

The last few weeks have been like living in a tropical rain forest. Of course, it is not unusual for it to rain in South Florida during the summer, but the weather of late has been crazy wet.

I am no meteorologist, but it seems like it started when a tropical wave moved across southern Florida a few weeks ago. A tropical wave is a huge area of moisture that, given the right combination of factors, can turn into a tropical storm or a hurricane. If a storm does not brew, the wave of moisture simply drops a lot of rain. Since then, light winds and the heat of the sun have joined hands to make it rain almost on a daily basis. Essentially, the central core of South Florida is the Everglades, and as such, it is a huge freshwater wetland. As the day warms, the onshore “sea breeze” moves inland from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, where the warming ponded waters are evaporating. The sea breeze helps the warm wet air rise, which creates impressive clouds, and they then drop their moisture in the form of rain back to the ground. Rinse and repeat.


At least it is not cold rain, but it can be torrential, and the possibility of lightning strikes does cause some concern. A few weeks back a motorcyclist travelling at highway speed was struck and killed by a lightning bolt to their helmet. Things like that can make you repent and re-evaluate your lifestyle, and it definitely can dissuade one from floating slowly on the surface of a water body waving a long stick in the air.


Despite the probability of getting soaked, a friend and I could not endure another weekend without fishing. The massive influx of rainwater severely affects the fishing in the backcountry, not to mention the clouds of mosquitoes and the ever-present heat, so we decided to fish outside, which means off the coast of the Everglades along the shore of Florida Bay.


Florida Bay has not had a very nice time of late. Like almost all of the near shore waters of South Florida, a heartbreaking algae bloom has plagued the Bay. Along the SW coast of Florida, the problem has been what is called a “Red Tide”. The problematic species is Karenia brevis – a bacteria that taints the water brown that causes fish kills and effects other life forms, even those that breath air. On the East Coast, the problem has been cyanobacteria: a toxic green ooze that coats the surface, and, you probably guessed it, kills aquatic creatures and underwater plants. Both of the above problems appear to be caused by too much nutrient-rich fresh water being diverted to coastal estuaries.


Conversely, Florida Bay has suffered from excessive salinity. Not enough fresh water has been allowed to filter down through the Everglades, so the water in the Bay has been concentrated due to evaporation. Without dilution, the hyper saline water has caused the benthic seagrasses to die off, which decompose and fertilize algae, which cloud the water, which decreases sunlight to the seagrass, so more die, and the cycle continues to spiral downward… and you get to where we are today.


Despite all that bad news, the fishing, at least down around the huge area of the undeveloped Everglades, is still rather good. It is sort of a funny counter-intuitive fact, but the fishing is actually rather excellent right around the isolated marina at the southern end of Everglades National Park. What is funny is that most of the boaters that launch there run miles to get to where they think the fish are, but if you launch a canoe you can fish immediately outside the marina and likely have shots at more fish. Sssshh! Don’t tell anyone.


So, that is what my buddy and I did. We were casting flies to tarpon after hardly wetting a paddle. We put a few into the air, mostly smaller fish, until we got to the tarpon hole, where we started to see some larger ones. Bigger rods came out, and some larger fish were hooked. One fish that took my fly jumped not far from the canoe, but it was a rather unimpressive jump and its belly was facing the canoe. I wondered out loud is it was not a snook? Without a clear profile I could not tell, but it looked “snookish”. My buddy chuckled at my obvious delusion. What would a snook that size be doing in a school of tarpon!


A while later I had a deep bite and, guess what… after a longish deep battle I brought a nice snook to the canoe. The water where we were fishing was a deep hole and apparently the snook and tarpon were intermingling. The deeper you fished the more bites ya got. If only someone would make a decent long-belly intermediate tropical 10 wt. flyline!


If you look at the attached photo, and past the snook, you can see in the background a typical Florida thundershower moving onto the western shore from Florida Bay. The Bay this weekend looked like a checkerboard of such storms.


We ended up casting to fish almost the entire day, and we caught a few too. Oh yeah… we also got soaked.