Now For The Rest Of The Story:  Behind The Big Fish And Big Smiles Lurks Mangrove Mayhem

Early April 2019

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.

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Robert Wayne, Esq., An Expert Fly Fisherman And Noted Big Fish Angler, Subdues Muscular Mayan Cichlid In The Wild Everglades Backcountry

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.

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Grasping Air Roots Of Mangroves Spell Trouble For Unwary Anglers

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.

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Author And His Trusty Gheenoe

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:

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Rabbit Key Pass/Lopez River Loop: A Piscatorial Smorgasbord

Late March 2019

After a couple of days last week navigating and casting in the tight, sometimes maddening, quarters of backcountry mangrove tunnels, I’m ready for an easy day of fishing in my kayak.  One of my favorite close-in trips starts at the historic Smallwood Store, just a long stone’s throw from my winter abode on Chokoloskee Island, Florida.  The route wends its way past some productive oyster beds then snakes up channels to cross Rabbit Key Pass before circling back to the Lopez River and back home.  It’s a trip that always produces a grab bag of fish with a good chance at a slam—a redfish, speckled sea trout, and snook, with feisty jack crevalles and high-stepping ladyfish to keep you busy throughout the day.  Let’s go!!

 

 

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Fishing The Forgotten Parks Of The Florida Keys–Curry Hammock State Park

January 2019

For the first two articles in this series, see my earlier pieces on fishing Indian Key and Lignumvitae State Parks 

Most visitors to the Florida Keys whiz down the Overseas Highway (US 1) heading for destinations in the Lower Keys like Bahia Honda State Park (Florida’s most popular) or Key West, oblivious to the natural beauty, solitude, and hungry fish literally a stone’s throw away in four fabulous state parks—Indian Key, Lignum Vitae, Curry Hammock, and Long Key.  I have to confess that for many years I did.  A fortuitous convergence of unfavorable winds and tides on Big Pine Key where I usually set up my mobile fish camp for a couple of weeks every year got me to doing some research.  I wasn’t about to sit at home all day in my travel trailer twiddling my thumbs.  A little on-line sleuthing revealed more favorable tides and breezes back up the road about an hour between Marathon and Islamorada, as well as a string of state parks that would give me access to a lot of water.  It paid off in a bonanza of barracuda, jacks, and snapper with shots at bones, permit, snook, and sharks.

In contrast to Bahia Honda State Park near Big Pine Key that hosts over 400,000 visitors annually, with long lines of cars waiting to get in most days, the parking lots of the hidden four are rarely full and each has fewer than 10% of the tourist numbers.  Rarely do I run into other kayakers and even more rarely other anglers, and even if I do there are miles of shoreline and flats to fish.

These four state parks have now become a destination for me, not an afterthought.  In the series of articles that follow on each of the hidden gems, I will take you on an angling tour with some fascinating history and nature tidbits thrown in.  This is the third of the series featuring a hidden gem of a park that offers solitude and excellent sheltered fishing cheek-to-jowl with the hubbub of Marathon along its own fascinating history involving a genteel southern teacher lady who made it all possible.

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The Fantastic Four:  Fishing The Forgotten State Parks Of The Middle Keys

January 2019

 Most visitors to the Florida Keys whiz down the OverSeas Highway (US 1) heading for destinations in the Lower Keys like Bahia Honda State Park (Florida’s most popular) or Key West, oblivious to the natural beauty, solitude, and hungry fish literally a stone’s throw away in four fabulous state parks—Indian Key, Lignumvitae, Curry Hammock, and Long Key.  I have to confess that for many years I did.  A fortuitous convergence of unfavorable wind and tides on Big Pine Key–where I usually set up my mobile fish camp every year for a couple of weeks–got me to doing some research.  I wasn’t about to sit at home all day in my travel trailer twiddling my thumbs with fish to be caught.  A little on-line sleuthing revealed more favorable tides and breezes back up the road about an hour between Marathon and Islamorada, as well as a string of state parks that would give me access to a lot of water. 

Four Secluded, Lightly Visited State Parks Can Be Found Between Marathon and Islamorada

It paid off in a bonanza of barracuda, jacks, and snapper with shots at bones, permit, and sharks.

In contrast to Bahia Honda State Park near Big Pine Key that hosts over 400,000 visitors annually, with long lines of cars waiting to get in most days, the parking lots of the hidden four are rarely full.  These smaller parks get only 1/10th the number of visitors every year.  Rarely do I run into other kayakers and even more rarely other anglers, and even if I do there are miles of shoreline and flats to fish.

These four state parks have now become a destination for me, not an afterthought.  In the series of articles that follow on each of the hidden gems, I will take you on an angling tour with some fascinating history and nature tidbits thrown in.  I start at Indian Key near Islamorada and work down to Curry Hammock near Marathon.

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2018 HooknFly Blog High-Water Marks:  The Best, the Bummers, and the Blood-Curdling

December 30, 2018

Greetings and my best to all my friends and readers for a great 2019!! It’s been a very fulfilling and fun year writing my blog.  As well as providing an admitted excuse to go fishing and explore remote places, my main goal is to help reinforce and build the constituency to preserve and protect these wild and wonderful places.  Given the current state of politics in the country and multiple threats to our environment and natural resources, it’s more important than ever to take a stand and do whatever we can to protect Mother Nature.

An added and very satisfying benefit has been connecting with people and making new friends around the USA and the world—readers from over 60 countries.   As of Dec. 31, the blog has had over 40,000 views and 16,000 visitors, a 50% increase over 2017.

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Now it’s easy to figure out why most of my readers are from English-speaking countries, but who am I to ask why someone from the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Brazil, or Turkey would take a look.

As the year comes to a close, I found it enlightening and gratifying to look back on the best, the bummers, and the blood-curdling moments of 2018 from a piscatorial perspective.  Here you go….

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