It’s barely 50 degrees—frigid for South Florida–as I load up my yak and push off at 8:00 a.m. for a day of snook fishing on the Faka Union River, one of my favorite Everglades upcountry waters.
Riding a falling tide, I glide through a tight mangrove tunnel for 30 minutes and finally emerge into the first shallow lake. Belying the weatherman’s prediction of calm winds, there’s a stiff breeze blowing out of the north, and my usual honey hole, where I caught a couple of dozen snook only a few weeks ago, fails to produce. I valiantly try to take a video, but almost get blown off the water. I pedal on dejectedly. I manage a few smaller snook in the next lake and connecting creek but it’s beginning to look like an ecotour rather than the epic fishing day I had hoped for.
Then I hit what I call snook flats, a nondescript stretch offshore of a mangrove-studded shoreline further downstream that produced a couple of 25” plus snook back in February. It may be my last hope. This trip the snook seemed to be ignoring my usual redoubtable white Gulp curlytail, so I switch to a gold DOA paddletail. The old veteran anglers down here swear gold is the ticket for big snook.
I pitch a long cast out in front of the kayak and start to crank it back. Something big swirls and my rod nearly jumps from my hands….a big snook erupts from the surface and a furious fight is on.
(Note: See my April 2018 article for an update on fishing the Faka Union River.)
The Faka Union River, known as the Fiki Uni to some long-time locals, is an important fixture of one of the largest pristine areas in Florida—the Fakahatchee Strand. It is the retreat of flocks of wading birds, deer, black bears, and the endangered Florida Panther. You may even see, as I did, an endangered American crocodile in this wilderness that has
been designated by Florida as an Area of Critical State Concern. And the chances for a coveted angler’s slam–snook, redfish, and tarpon–are as good here as anywhere in the country. I’ve scored several over the past few years. You may even hook a hungry bull or black tip shark to boot.
Although not apparent on the surface, the environment here has been severely altered by get-rich-quick development and drainage schemes over the past 50 years. Only in the past decade have serious remedial efforts been undertaken. The Port of the Islands development, the aborted Southern Golden Gates Estate project, and Faka Union Canal just up the road barely a mile from the put-in are poster children for the carnage.
Yesterday I was out in the Everglades backcountry on my annual pre-Thanksgiving anticipatory calorie reduction kayak trip. It was a beautiful day—sunny sky, and the wind hadn’t kicked up yet. I was gliding over the crystal clear, copper-tinged water with a smile on my face. But like every fishing/kayak trip this past week, something was gnawing at me. It didn’t feel right to be enjoying myself so much and soaking in the wonderful gifts of nature all around me when there seemed to be so much hurt, so much evil in the world around us. In France, in Mali, in Lebanon common folk like me were suffering terrible pain at the hands of misguided zealots from ISIS and other fanatics.