Flamingo Camping Trip
Pops has been wanting to make a trip down to Flamingo for some time now. We recently had a chance to get down there for a weekend and do some fishing/camping. Once my brother (shallowexpectations) got off work Friday afternoon, we loaded the boat down with fishing and camping gear and headed south bound on I-95. We arrived at the Flamingo camp groups around 4:30. This was my first time going to Flamingo and I must say, "WOW that place is beautiful". So remote, with salt marsh as far as I could see. I knew right away this was going to be a good trip.
Upon arriving we got the tent set up and a small fire going right away. Trey and I decided to walk down to the mangrove shore line to cast around a little while my dad cooked up some burgers for dinner and before it got dark. At first we didn't catch anything, and were happy just watching the sunset from the shore. Just as the sun was setting I saw a school of minnows being attacked next to the shore line along with a fin swimming through the small school of minnows. I start walking over and noticed a kind of bill breaking the top of the water. No way, within 20 minutes of being in Flamingo I saw my first ever live sawfish. I casted my DOA shrimp in front of him and he moved right over it. Fish on, I hooked and landed my first saw fish. No giant but hey I'll take it. Trey ran back to camp to get the camera so we could provide proof of this catch and upon his return, and to my surprise another sawfish of the same size swims in and moves right next to mine in the water as if they were buddies. Trey picks up his fly rod and puts his small clouser minnow right in front of this sawfish and hooks up. Unlucky for Trey though that sawfish was able to spit his fly after a short fight. Since Trey lost his we just got a couple photos of mine and released him so he could grow up into a big sawfish I could catch another day. He did however stay around for awhile right in front of us until a big blue crab came by. It was cool to watch the blue crab pinch the sawfish's nose and then get slashed at by the sawfish. Nature at it's finest, I guess. Anyway it was not a bad way to spend our first night.
Saturday morning Trey, my dad, and I all got up at daylight and headed way back into the Everglades. It was a pretty windy day and we learned fast why one of the bays is called Whitewater Bay. We made our way all the way back to Tarpon Bay where on arrival we encountered some gators and one little croc that were sun bathing on the mud banks. We pitched mangroves using combos of Gulp, DOA's, and topwater plugs. Fishing did not start out very hot with the morning bite only producing one small snook and a ton of baby jacks and ladyfish. We moved west toward the gulf and found a nice flats and were able to pick up some trout but they were hard to come by as the catfish and pinfish were thick in this area. Since catfish aren't our cup of tea we decided to move again fishing the gulf shoreline that was lined with tons of fallen trees. With the current running pretty hard through these trees we were sure it was going produce some nice snook or redfish. Everywhere we looked bait was getting blown up inside all the fallen trees. Sadly for us though it was only more baby jack. It was getting late in the day now and the rain was moving in. We had no good fish to show for our day. We decided to take a look at our trusty Floridasportsman fishing charts. It pointed us to a nice bay that would be on our return trip. We fished the mangrove shoreline in the bay and found more of the same baby ladyfish and jacks. Ten minutes before calling it a day, Trey takes back to back hook ups of a redfish(unmeasured) and a solid 21" trout. Having some decent fish to end the day on we ran back to the ramp. On the way back to the ramp we had to go through some no wake zone creeks so I pulled out my sub-walk and casted at the mangroves just screwing around. To my surprise a big snook came right up behind my sub-walk and took a swipe at it but some how he missed the hooks. We got back to the ramp and felt a little defeated that the day did not go as well as we had hoped.
Sunday morning we thought we would change it up. We didn't have much luck running north into the mangoves so why not run south into Florida Bay? We ran out at daylight a little south of of the camp grounds and found a nice 2-3' grass flat. Right away we started seeing huge fish crashing on the flats. My dad is throwing a DOA deadly combo to try for some trout when something big attacks his cork. Then the cork goes under, FISH ON! It makes a run to the boat and all I can think is big red, but to my surprise its a huge lemon shark. I figured he must have been foul hooked but it looked like he had the shrimp in the corner of his mouth. On light braid and a 20lb leader I knew it wouldn't take long and pop the shark wore through the leader. We started to catch some upperslot trout and Trey caught our only ladyfish of the day. Being of sporty nature we cut the lady fish in half and threw half of him out on a cork behind the boat and went back to fishing. After forgetting about the rod after a while it starts to scream. We all think big shark and I can't seem to stop the fish as he puts my 6000 Stadic into its backing. He breaches the surface and its a big tarpon probably close to 100lbs maybe bigger. I kept him on for a good 5 minutes while I tried to gain line on him but he ended up breaking the 50 lb. leader. I was kinda sad that this was the biggest poon I had ever hooked and I didn't get him to even jump. Trey tried for a picture but most of the fight he was a good 100 yards from the boat. We continued fishing and I switched over to a deadly combo. Not 10 minutes after having that big tarpon on, something slams my shrimp. It's another poon. This one was around 80lbs but he ended up breaking my line right away since I was using my trout setup. The action on that flat died down as the sun got high so we moved south once again following the tips of the Floridasportsman's charts. We found another grass flat with crystal clear water and nice pots holes that reminded me of Sailfish Flats back in Stuart. Another reason it reminded me of Sailfish Flats was the trout we found there. Over the next few hours we must have boated 30-40 trout all from 18-23". No dinks, no ladyfish, no jack, and slob trout. What more could I ask for? OO that's right a redfish. My dad managed one just barely legal redfish on these flats which pretty much made his day because he had not caught one in a long time. He really wanted to come to Flamingo in the first place to catch a redfish. We ended our day with a few more trout from my dad and brother while I tried hooking the big sharks swimming around. Without wire leader though I just got cut off time and time again.
Flamingo is a beautiful place and I highly encourage anyone who wants to have an amazing fishing or camping experience to go down there and give the Everglades a try.
Great report! Flamingo is a magical place.
Great trip, thanks for sharing. Target low water when you are there next time. Those fish you couldn't get to in the mangroves, much easier when the water is low.
You had a good game plan, stick with it. You did a lot of right things, especially converting the ladyfish when everything else was not producing. Take them up to any island mangrove shoreline in the bay with deep water moving into the mangroves and hold on. Heck, my pops was out last week and he put 90 miles on the boat looking for tarpon and came up empty, nada, nuclearsquadoosh and he's been doing it a while.
I posted this on another thread, search out the 20 minute video call "High in the Lowlands". It will be some of the best 20 minutes you have spent on the Internet.
The elusive sawfish. One word of caution besides them being on the Endangered Species List, don't mess with them any larger. They can do a lot of bodily harm and not to mention damage to equipment. The first One we had on well to the north, I was trying to help my buddy figure out how to get his jig out. I thought, real down like when you are caught in the mangroves and push it backwards. Now mind you that this was prolly 20 years ago....well, my buddy lost 5 of his 6 guides in a matter of 0.5 seconds. They get up to 25' in the park with the biggest one I have seen at about 20'. I saw 13 about 4 weeks ago one day. I steer clear of them these days and just enjoy watching them.
Gonna be doing my first camping trip of the season at the end of the month. Besides the joys of parenting, these are the best times of the year. The fishing is not to bad either.
Ya the first day there I think we put in around 60miles just searching, then the second day under 3miles round trip. The only problem with low tide is we didn't know how low the water was gonna get in any given area and we are in a 22' deck boat. It can draft about a 1.5' but if it gets stuck its hard to push off. The sawfish was a very cool catch for me and if I encounted a bigger one I don't think I would mess with him. I have seen the damage they can do. I hope I can make another trip down there this winter or spring while the bugs aren't so bad, I hear summer they will carry you away.
yup, you're screwd. ;-)
Originally Posted by greenie-slayer
Ya I would love to get into areas like snake bight but thats never gonna happen in ta boat. I think i'm fine with the flats just outside flamingo they hold everything i want to catch( reds, trout, snook, poon, sharks) and all in good size.
Hi! I am the manager of the International Sawfish Encounter Database at the FLorida Program for Shark Research and anytime you observe or catch a sawfish it would really help us out a lot with our research if you could report those encounters. You saw 13 sawfish in 1 day! Wow! that's amazing. You can reach our encounter form at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/sawfish/form.html I was telling Greenie-slayer earlier that you won't get in trouble for accidentally hooking a sawfish so dont ever be nervous about contacting us. In fact, if you are out fishing a lot and see them frequently I would love to chat with you over the phone and get some details. You can contact me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or my office number at 352-273-1978. Hope to hear back from you soon! Cheers
Great trip. and that sawfish encounter is awesome.