On my drive from Everglades City to Naples, Florida, for weekly provisions, I routinely hustle by Collier-Seminole State Park.
For the past three years I have been meaning to plan an outing down the Blackwater River in the park, a trip I need to make to complete the kayak fishing guidebook to the Everglades environs that I’m working on. But I’m always put off because I know the park, being so close to Naples, gets heavy use, especially on weekends when canoes and kayaks descend for ecotours. The image of being engulfed by a flotilla of brightly colored boats filled with chattering tourists has limited appeal. But with my annual migration to Colorado looming, I figured it was time to bite the proverbial bullet and get on the water. I’m glad I did…SO glad! When I start to do a little pre-trip research, my interest is definitely piqued. None of the dozens of posts by visitors mention any serious fishing. I find almost no information about fishing in the park on official websites aside from some general remarks about it having both salt and freshwater fish. I do finally discover on Pinterest one post by a nature tour company offering guided kayak fishing that features a photo of a happy angler with a big snook. Maybe the place is a sleeper!
Anglers can’t resist showing off a big fish, where size really does matter. Ever wonder about the back story behind the smiling pix, the agony as well as the ecstasy? Here goes….and this is a true story!!
My erstwhile fishing buddy Bob Wayne and I love to probe hidden backcountry tidal creeks in the Everglades where big snook lurk in narrow channels lined with downed trees and mangroves.
The mangroves are an essential element of the ecosystem here, providing shelter for myriad small fish, crabs, and other life. But their thick, dangling air roots will tangle a fishing line in a flash if a hooked fish dives under them, not to mention they are covered with razor-sharp barnacles that will slice and dice anything that rubs against them.
In these tight quarters only a small, narrow boat like my Gheenoe can squirm through, and our hard-earned experience has taught us it is a real team effort to hook and land big fish successfully.
One Angler with a 6-to-7 foot medium/light spinning rod and 2500 Series reel is positioned upfront on the small bow deck with the Wingman in the back of the boat where he is outfitted with the remote controls for a small quiet electric trolling motor and the shallow water power anchor that with a push of a button unfurls and pins the boat firmly in place. The Wingman doesn’t fish.
Our efficacious technique to land big fish in these mazes has been honed through trial and error, with the emphasis on the latter. By the numbers, here is how it is supposed to work: