Darwin Camping 3/17-3/19

Finally got to test out the new boat on a "hardcore" fishing trip this past weekend. I had recently purchased a 2004 16' Stumpknocker (for a steal) I saw on the side of the road up here in Palatka. After replacing the water pump kit, tuning the carbs, and installing all new electronics the "Flat Bottomed Girl" was ready for the glades. I was so impressed with this boat the whole trip. We ran through some places that I would have never thought possible (all the back bays off Gopher Key Creek) and had plenty of room for fishing and camping equipment. Anyways, enough about the Stumpy...

We played the gambling game and decided to get out permits the day of the trip. There were 3 boats and 7 people in our group and we wanted to permit out Darwin's Place. We arrived early at the ENP Center to stake out the first spot in line and it was a darn good thing we did! By the time the doors opened (8:00) there were at least 10 other parties trying to get permits. While half the crew got the permits, the rest of us launched and loaded up the boats.

The permit gathering was successful and off we went into the back country as the tide continued to dump out. We stopped at a few places along the way out to scout out some new areas and hopefully put some snook in the boat. With a boat full of camping gear and tackle, we put about a dozen small to decent sized snook in the boat including a 30” snook off one of my first casts.
Around midday we ran the rest of the journey to Darwin and set up camp. After camp was set up we went down Gopher Key Creek and caught some decent snookies. We called it a day early and headed back to camp for some grub.

Day 2 began with a long run down gopher in search on hungry reds and boy did we find them. With water clarity at about 6” we got within 10’ of most fish and almost all were hungry. After 30 mins we decided to bust out the fly rod and get it done. My buddy got his personal best red on fly after about 15 minutes of slapping the water. Around noon we took off to the back freshwaterish creeks in search of large and hungry snook. We certainly found large snook but none that were hungry. We explored some new areas and as usual, found some awesome places to fish for different tides and/or different times of year.

We decided for the last day we were going to play with our redfish friends at first light, run back and pack up camp, then hit some creeks on the way home. This led us down gopher key creek about an hour before sunrise which was kinda spooky. The redfish bite paid off as the fish were just churning and burning in about 10” of water over an area the size of a football field. We put some nice fish in the boat then ran to pack up camp. On the way home we stopped at some creeks and caught a handful of little snooklets with some decent fish mixed in. Inside a creek about 5’ wide I hooked my personal best snook that would have been pushing 36”. This fish jumped from side to side and smoked me up under the mangroves multiple times only to wear through the leader after about 2 minutes in heaven. Disheartened, we kept on fishing. When fishing the next creek a 40” log turned into a monster snook and inhaled my buddy’s lure about 3’ off the bow of the boat then proceeded to burn down the creek at an unstoppable pace. After an exhilarating 15 seconds the lure came flying out along with our excitement. Once the adrenaline wore off we decided to head back knowing the Everglades always gets the last laugh.

All in all, it was a great trip with fantastic friends. I’m already counting the days until our next journey down.
We didn’t film as much as we normally do but here is a clip I made with the clips we did have:




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