Caution: Hurrican Irma has changed the landscape of the East River, dramatically in places. The Fakahatchee State Park has done a good job of clearing many of the downed mangrove trees in the river stretches connecting Lakes #3, 4, and 5, but the going is tougher than ever with more brush and snags in the water. If you have a pedal kayak, I advise against using the pedals in the river sections to avoid hanging up on the snags with possible damage to the fins. More importantly, as of April 2018, the river linking Lake #4 and #5 (Crab Pot Lake) is completely blocked by a couple of downed trees about half way between the two lakes. Hopefully it will be cleared soon, but until then the trip ends at Lake #4. See the photos below. The good news is that the fishing is still worth the trip for snook, baby tarpon, and the abundant cichlids:
Here’s a scenic trip that will give you multiple shots at good-sized snook and high-flying baby tarpon…but only if you’re willing to be on the water before the crack of dawn and then navigate a couple of long, mesmerizing, but snag-filled mangrove tunnels that elicit epithets more freely than they yield fish. As a bonus, you will see huge flocks of birds, flotillas of long-nose gar, and plenty of gators.
The put-in is a small, heavily used public park about five miles east of the intersection of the Tamiami Trail and Route 29 in Carnestown near Everglades City. A word to the wise: It is mandatory to be on the water very early to beat the kayak ecotours that descend practically every day on this popular route–and more so on weekends. If you sleep late and tarry, you may not find a parking spot and on the water will have to dodge colorful, careening kayaks often piloted by novices.
January is a good time of year to make this trip, especially if the weather has been dry in November and December or several good cold fronts have blown through. Reduced freshwater flows will mean more saltwater that will lure bait and gamefish up into the lakes, and cooler weather attracts snook and tarpon to the shallower, warmer inland waters. Also, the East River has a strong tidal flow so depth is not usually a problem. Let’s go!!