Morman Key and Darwin Camping

Seasons Greetings everyone!

I have recently returned from my annual backcountry camping trip. This year was a blast and a great learning experience, as usual. We caught fish almost all day, everyday. This year we especially caught some more quality snook than previous years.
Just like last year, I GoogleEarthed myself into a coma and over analyzed every fishing report and temperature trend I could get my hands on. (NOAA has some very helpful buoys inside the backcountry with realtime temperature data and previous data you can pull into Excel)

Day 1: With a good game plan and permits in hand, we headed out of E. City early Friday morning with our supply dinghy in tow behind us. Due to the crazy winds, we stuck to the inside on our way to Mormon Key at a pace of 5 knots.
We arrived in good time and set up camp on the Northeast corner of the island. We like that spot because it has a constant breeze and is a little steeper shoreline for parking the boat.
After we got settled in, it was time to see if we were lucky where we caught fish last year or actually found some decent spots. The tide was just about to top off and plug would be pulled shortly after. First spot we stopped at produced a small snook and nice trout, along with a cast net full of finger mullet.
With the tide being just how we liked it, we slid up the Chatham into one of our favorite spots. We caught some decent snooklets and a chunky trout as the sun was dipping below the horizon. Confident in our tactics, we ran back to camp to enjoy a fire and maybe cup of whiskey or two, watching the mangrove horizon turn into a brilliant watercolor painting.
Day 2: A front passed through the previous night and made the tent a little chilly. We rode out with the sunrise in hopes of finding big mama snookies. We did not find those but found the water temp dropped from 77 to 69.
We fished a few of our normal outside spots without any luck other than the usual jacks and ladyfish. Demoralized by our results we decided to make a big change and run deep inside to find the warmer water. Up inside some creeks near Sweetwater, we found 78 degree water and a handful of small snook and reds. Not enthused with our immediate results, we power fished and covered a lot of water with the same result. As the sun hung a little low, we ran back inside the mouth of the Chatham area where we caught some nice snook, one nice red, and jacks. Upon reeling in a jack, we had a 6 foot tax collector engulf it 2 foot off the bow. What a sight! On the ride home we saw 2 other big spinner sharks come completely out of the water after mullet. Spectacular!
Day 3: It was our last day to fish outside so we made the most of it and covered a lot of water catching our usual suspects. We had many double ups on large jacks that put our tackle to the test. In the evening we saved a couple small jacks to put under popping corks and see what toothy critters we could find in the danger zone. Both of us got smoked, and smoked fast, by sharks after about 10 minutes. I got cut off and Russ's hook got cut/broke in half.
Day 4: We were woken up by the sound of dolphin and small sharks blowing up on mullet right next to where we had the boat anchored. The fish were calling us out one last time before we moved to Darwin. We caught some snook and trout in the morning then packed it up for Darwin. After unloading and setting up camp at Darwin, we ran around and power fished a good amount of areas to find some spots. Without much luck, we reluctantly went back to camp to come up with some sort of game plan. Our camping neighbors turned out to be the best neighbors we could have asked for. It was a father-son duo who had been fishing the glades since the 70's. After passing their preliminary tests, they dropped some serious knowledge on us which helped us put those bigger snook in the boat the following 3 days. We cannot thank them enough!!
Day 5: Using the advice of our neighbors, we put some serious fish in the boat. Russ got his personal best snook at 34" and we boated more than 8 snook over 30". We did some more exploring and got geared up for a final day of slaying
Day 6: Used the same game plan from the previous day and put some nice fish in the boat. After we had our way with the snookies we went in search of the reds in an area we scouted the day before. With me on the poling platform and Russ on the bow, we put about half a dozen small to medium reds in the boat all sightfished, my favorite way to do it.
Day 7: We woke up and made a small run for a few fish before we had to pack and go. Caught some snookies then packed it on up.

The more time I spend fishing down in the glades, the more I don't want to fish anywhere else. The ole timer we camped one night said it best, "This is God's country"

Check out the link for the short video I made of the trip. (also, let me know if it doesn't work)


  • kurtwillykurtwilly Posts: 82 Greenhorn
  • RennieRaeRennieRae Posts: 725 Officer
    Outstanding report, fish and video! Thanks for sharing. Looks like a trip of a lifetime. :hail

    17 ft. Ankona Native with 40 hp Suzuki 4 stroke - Skini Rennie
  • TeejTeej Posts: 153 Deckhand
    Oh man ST, so stoked for y'all; didn't realize you were yet to do your trip this year! AWESOME vid! Looks like y'all were getting SUPER skinny on that snook action.

    BTW - Thanks for sharing your trip planning info, my bud and I are chomping at the bit for our late January trip.
  • nightflynightfly Posts: 504 Officer
    Great report. Thanks for sharing
  • southerntidesoutherntide Posts: 51 Greenhorn
    Thanks Teej
    I am happy to help. I'll email you a couple things we are going to change for next year as far as the camping and prep goes. The dry ice is definitely the ticket for long trips and limited packing space.
    Looking forward to seeing pictures from your trip!
  • EvergladesEverglades Boca Raton & IslamoradaPosts: 111 Deckhand
    Very nice. It is the only place to fish inshore for me anymore. Google earth has changed the way I fish it too.
  • TeejTeej Posts: 153 Deckhand
    Thanks Teej
    I am happy to help. I'll email you a couple things we are going to change for next year as far as the camping and prep goes. The dry ice is definitely the ticket for long trips and limited packing space.
    Looking forward to seeing pictures from your trip!

    That'll be much appreciated ST, seems everyday causes a rethink on gear and how to store things on the boat. Since we're aiming to do a long tour with about 15 to 20 mile jumps each day, much of our time will be spent setting up camp, cooking, breaking camp, traveling (hopefully up on plane) with opportunistic fishing and a targeted fishing adventure each day.

    We too have been eyeing up Darwin's as a camp spot, was it buggy? Any worries on leaving all your camp gear while out fishing? Unfortunately, had some recent bad luck and three of my best shimano reels, a star rod and and two St Croix rods were jacked out of my garage :machinegun Has me thinking along the security measures line for the trip - not that fishing gear would stay in camp - any precautions with your coolers and camp gear? Supposedly the raccoons can be a bigger problem than people.

    And FOR SURE we'll be taking pics, this is a bucket list trip; will definitely post when back!
  • southerntidesoutherntide Posts: 51 Greenhorn

    When staying at Darwin's we drove around in the boat on night cruises until about 10:00 PM each night because the bugs were so bad, except the night we had neighbors camping with us who had a Thermacell. That is one thing I will be adding to the list! That thing is incredible, I will refuse to camp in the Glades without one now.
    In regards to security, take comfort in knowing that 95% of the people you find deep in the Glades will not mess with your stuff. It is a rather trustworthy demographic in my opinion. We normally put our rods in the trees to keep them out of sight and off the ground. In the 3 years we have done a week long trip, we have left behind coolers, batteries, fuel, food, water, tackle, rods, etc., and never had anything go missing. We did our best to conceal and consolidate as much as we could to make it look like there wasn't much at camp.
    We normally throw a small lock on the zippers of the tent to keep the criminals of convenience out but a knife threw the side of the tent would render that lock pretty useless.
  • Flatwater witchFlatwater witch Posts: 605 Officer

    Renagade69 wrote: »
    Either you are mechanically inclined ore your not. The fact you had to ask told me that you can not do it. Its ok, not every one has this ability. Some people just have to pay.
  • BobberBobber Posts: 943 Officer
    Great report, almost makes me wanna dust off the camping gear.
  • NewberryJeffNewberryJeff Posts: 7,447 Admiral
    This is the report I've waited for all year, thanks! :hail
Sign In or Register to comment.