I believe I left off in Part I with the loss of a behemoth Snook.
I wasn't really even upset that I'd lost this fish. After all, the chances of landing it on such light tackle were slim to none. But nevertheless, I wish I had at least gotten to fight it for longer than 3 seconds.
It was getting late and my dad and I were both pretty tired. We kicked up the trolling motor, and started making our way back to the boat ramp. On the way back, however, we decided to make one more stop just to see what we couldn't catch.
The area was out of the wind and the mangroves butted up against some fairly deep water. After lowering the trolling motor and cutting the engine, I proceeded to launch a flawless cast approximately 30 feet up into the mangrove swamp. I honestly don't think my DOA shrimp had even the slightest chance of finding water with such a cast. Since we were running so low on DOA's for the day, it was decided that the best option was to use the trolling motor to get up into the mangroves and try to free the lure.
After several minutes of maneuvering, ducking, pulling, cursing, and swatting at mosquitos, the little shrimp was finally free. We were now pretty deep in the mangroves, even underneath some. I noticed that there were several small pools of water around the base of some of the mangrove roots. These, however, we about 5-6 feet away from the boat. I still don't exactly know why...maybe just for gits and shiggles...but I underhand tossed my shrimp into one of these pools and watched it sink. Gave it a twitch...and BOOM. A snook inhaled it, turned with it, and broke me off on the roots.
We couldn't believe we'd gotten so close with the boat and still managed to hook a fish. I proceeded to tie on my last DOA, and give it another try. This time, in a different little pool, but still just as close as before. Sink. Twitch. Boom. Snook.
We did this for the entire stretch of shoreline, stopping every few feet to drop a shrimp into the hole. I desperately wanted to toss a fly to these fish, but it would have never worked. Even the fly rod itself would have been too long to wield amongst the limbs and roots. We made the choice to back out of the trees just a bit, and I gave the fly rod a go. By this point, cloud cover had moved in, and it seemed like the fish were readily leaving their cover in the shade of the mangroves to hunt a little farther out.
After casting half of my rod into the water, getting my fly line tangled on the trolling motor, and casting my deceiver into the mangroves countless times, I was on the verge of just throwing the whole fly rod into the water. It amazes me how fly fishing can look so relaxing and elegant at a distance, yet once up close, it can give even the most seasoned angler an aneurysm from pure frustration. But once again, the fishing god's smiled upon me, and my troubles were rewarded.
Having eventually had our fill, we ran back to the dock and called it a day. That evening we stocked up on DOA's and heavy Florocarbon for leaders. We awoke even earlier the next morning, and took off for Flamingo well before light.
One thing I had noticed on our first day was that I never saw a single Snook striking or chasing bait on the surface or underneath the trees. We got out onto the water about an hour earlier this day and the -very- first thing I see is Snook striking bait all over the place. First cast of the day resulted in a Snook and the bite kept up like that for about 30-40 minutes. My dad and I both caught Snook and hoooked and lost baby tarpon. I always seem to forget just how hard one must set the hook on a Tarpon, so we failed to land any of them.
The sun got just a little higher in the horizon, and it was like someone flipped a light switch. The bite completely stopped. No more bait being chased. No more Snook and Tarpon hitting the surface. And no more hook ups. It seems that it was once again a prime example of how game species keep horrible hours. Early early, and late late.
With the bite now completely off, we decided to just go explore. We took off into Whitewater Bay, and just worked various shorlines that were out of the wind. I did manage to convince a nice Red to come out from under the mangroves and chase my DOA, but I wasn't paying attention and worked the shrimp to the boat before he could grab it.
After a few hours we made our way back to the ramp, stopping at a few spots along the way. We saw a manatee that, like always, scared the crap out of us (we don't exactly see a lot of them in Pensacola), and we even managed to land a few small Snook on the way back.
Overall, the Everglades Backcountry was an amazing fishing trip. I was pleased that we actually managed to find fish to catch. The place is giant and depending on the time of day, year, and tides, one can either do great or get completely skunked. I think that like most places, being able to consistently catch fish just requires the angler to put in the time and do his/her homework. A lifetime honestly isn't enough time to learn the Everglades. It's just too big. But I'd still love to try.
Stay tuned. Florida Bay/Keys fishing report, right around the corner!