Select Page

Our Team JK Florida trip this past week brought me into very new territory… both geographically and technically (fishing technical that is…).  The back channels and bays of the Florida Everglades provides challenges most of us freshwater folk never face; namely tides and flats.  Add Mangrove tree shorelines, oyster bars, mud, the occasional gator and “we’re not in Kansas any more Toto”.  With this unique environment comes a different set of paddling and fishing skills.  Luckily on day one I hopped into a 4×4 with my new fishin’ buddy Ben Roussel, direct from Baton Rouge and well versed in fishin’ the flats!

James on the flats... just about the time where I realized aimless casting was useless.

Tides.  Well with most of our water inland flowing in the same freakin direction daily, this whole tide thing was new for me.  Sure I’ve spent most of my youth knee deep in Atlantic mud up in Newfoundland, but never had to ‘deal’ with tides.  In Florida, as with most coastal adventure destinations, you GOTTA deal with it!  Timing is everything as the fish are on when the water is moving either in or out.  Time it wrong and you’re sitting looking at still water in the heat of the day with no fish… do it right and you are there for when the tide changes both directions.  Even more importantly is the depth of the water… when the tide is in, the flats are deeper, when they’re out they can get too shallow.  Heck, you can get pretty much grounded if you’re in one of the interior bays and the tide gets to its lowest… stuck sittin’ like an Ibis on the mud flats really would suck.

Ben Roussel: "900 miles to catch a Red!"

Ben and I put in at the town and park of Chokoloskee, a really cool retirement/tourist town that sits on a peninsula allowing access to a great series of  bays and channels and a short ways away from our host resort (Port of the Islands Resort).  With no local guide, it was good to have Ben around as he immediately headed over to what looked like great Redfish grounds.  The mangrove trees sheltered these fish with their roots and the depth of the water was perfect as we arrived at our first bay… right at a confluence of an inland river.  As I pulled into my first mangrove bay, I saw my first redfish fin.  A cool V that busted across the flats.  Of course I spent most of my time casting into current, under roots etc. where I was guessing the fish were hiding.  All the while Ben simply stood and waited… ‘site fishing’ was the way to go.  Guess who caught the first fish 😉  Armed with a jig set up with shrimp/grey colors and tossing in front of a red in motion, Ben landed the first fish of the day; as it turns out, one of very few reds pulled in that week.  With a goofy grin and a “I just drove 900 miles to catch a red” comment… the day began.  I kept tossing, but slowly started to stand on the Coosa and began siting more than just casting.  Spotted a couple, but the casts were off.  Once you spook a red, they’re gone.

We spent the most part of the morning cruising that flats area at the top of the big bay, but started to move towards a section of the bay that meandered into a maze of small mangrove and oyster bar islands.  The cool thing about this new territory is that it became vaguely familiar to me.  It had current!  Between all the oyster bars and mangrove and with the tide zipping out there were great little eddylines and deep holes dug… my kind of fishing grounds!   Almost immediately I met my first Ladyfish… my line got busy pulling about a dozen of these buggers in!  For locals this fish was the Sunfish of the south, for me ridding me of a ‘skunk’ was a happy moment.  Spent a good hour or so bringing up ladyfish of various sizes till, deeper in the mangroves we found some Trout.  Beautiful fish highlighted by two vampire teeth.  Note, don’t lip them like a bass… just a note.  The holes through the top of my thumb are still visible… scarred for life!  Caught a hand full of them at one confluence getting me even more stoked on new species.  I ended the day with no redfish, but certainly was busy catching.

As a note, it was my first full day on a production Coosa.  It was also my first time standing and taking advantage of the two-level seat.  Wow.  By the end of the day I was even coasting in and out of the tidal currents with complete confidence in my balance.

The end of the day found Ben and I at this super cool little cafe mowin’ down on massive sandwiches … all hail Cafe Havana!  Three day’s later we headed to more flats near Cape Coral and I bagged my first Red.  Did it like the master taught… Thanks Ben!

More trip reports from  Florida coming soon…

In the meantime, here’s the start of my Florida Trip Vid: