Fishing In The Everglades

Types of Fish in the Everglades

If you’re seeking the fishing adventure of a lifetime, the Everglades is the place to go. It’s a landscape unlike anything else in all of North America.

The Everglades is a subtropical wetland ecosystem that is made of two million acres across central and south Florida. It has freshwater lakes, canals, sawgrass marshes, pinelands, mangroves, and brackish cypress swamps, all lending themselves to the incredibly diverse set of fishing opportunities.

Some saltwater species you’ll likely see are Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, and Trout. Some of the freshwater species you might catch will include Redfish, Speckled Trout, Snapper, Black Drum, and Jacks.

As stated before, the Everglades are massive, so fishing in the Everglades without a specific fishing charter can be challenging. Where you go will affect your success and what kind of fish your trip yields. Here’s a list of some of the best places to fish:

  • Florida Bay: This bay stretches from the southernmost tip of the mainland all the way out to the Florida Keys. There are tarpon, redfish, trout, and snook to keep you busy and fill your freezer.
  • Snake Bight: One of the most productive fishing destinations in Florida Bay is the island of Snake Bight. Redfish and Snook are known to cruise the shorelines and large quantities. Because this is such a productive place for a weekend fishing trip, you’ll be fishing with many anglers unless you go on a weekday.
  • West Lake and Bear Lake: Carved into the shoreline that lies between Snake Bight and Whitewater Bay is a series of lakes. All you need is a kayak and a paddle and you can row your way through some stellar fishing that includes Snook, Speckled Trout, Redfish, Snapper, Jacks, Black Drum, and Baby Tarpon.
  • Whitewater Bay: While you’re in the lower portion of the Everglades, check out Whitewater Bay. Inside this, one of the largest bodies of water in the area, you’ll come across Snook, Jacks, Redfish, Tarpon, and Speckled Trout just waiting to be caught.
  • Ten Thousand Islands: This is located in the lower portion of the Everglades, falling within the boundaries of Everglades National Park. There’s easy access to the surrounding channels and bays as well as large Tarpon, along with Redfish, Trout, Snook, and other fish species.
  • Everglades Holiday Park: Many of the local Bass fishing guides take you out of Holiday Park into the L67A canal, which is one of the best Bass fishing spots around. The canal eventually takes you to Tamiami Trail where the fishing pressure is a bit less. Everglades Holiday Park also rents out 14 ft. jon boats for those who want to go out fishing or exploring on their own.
  • Pine Glades Lake: This is another great freshwater lake to visit. You’ll find some nicely sized Largemouth Bass, Crappie, and Bluegill. It’s just nine miles from the Everglades National Park entrance which makes it fairly easy to access and settle into. The still waters make for a nice spot if you want to test out your fly fishing skills.
  • Lake Okeechobee: If you’re seeking bass specifically, you might find yourself at Lake Okeechobee, which is the largest freshwater lake in all of Florida. This lake is actually so large that it feeds all of the Everglades with freshwater. From its depths, you can catch Crappie, Bluegill, and Largemouth Bath.

Fishing the Everglades Canals

When the weather gets hot around, the water levels in the Everglades drop. Because of these dropped water levels, the fish stack up in the canals meaning fishers have the opportunity to catch more fish than they know what to do with!

It’s a great opportunity for easy, light-hearted fishing in the Sun-soaked Everglades.

How to Fish the Everglades

From the Shore

The Florida Everglades area is heavily protected, and rightly so. It is a delicate ecosystem that houses hundreds of species, several of which are endangered or threatened. That being said, fishing is allowed, and, quite popular. As long as you take care to follow all the rules and fish in approved areas, you can have a lot of fun.

To relax in the sun and bask in the thriving nature that is the Everglades, try a bit of shore fishing. All you have to do is grab a chair, your rod, and a cold drink. Fishing is about enjoying yourself and getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. What better way to soak in all that you miss while you’re at work?

From the Kayak

Kayak fishing is one of the most exciting ways to go fishing in the Everglades. You not only get to be on the water, but you get to soak in the sights and sounds of nature from a perspective you maybe haven’t tried. There are plenty of places to rent a kayak and head out onto the water. Maybe do a bit of sight fishing while you’re there.

As you float down the many winding canals and waterways throughout Everglades National Park, you will be struck by the true beauty of the last Florida wilderness. As the sun warms you and your hook waits patiently in the water, you might see alligators, dolphins, manatees, and all manner of wildlife.

Tips for fishing the inshore waters of Everglades National Park

Thankfully, bait selections aren’t that tricky. If you’re fishing Tarpon, use swim baits and jigs, and if you’re fishing Snook, use twitch baits and jigs.

For rods and reels, use a 5000-size reel and a 12-20 pound rod for Tarpon, and, for Snook, use a 3000-4000 size reel with an 8-10 pound rod.

Your line weight should be 20 pounds for Snook and young Tarpon, but 60 pounds for large, main river Tarpon.

Your leader selection should look something like this: 3 feet of 40 pound connected to 18 inches of 60 pound for Tarpon, and then 2 feet of 40 pound for Snook.

To retrieve using swimbaits, do a slow and steady retrieve for Tarpon and a twitch-pause retrieve for Snook.

Best Fish Species to Catch in the Everglades

Everglades Peacock Bass

Though “Bass” is literally in the name, Butterfly Peacock Bass are actually cichlids. They’re native to the Amazon River Basin and Orinoco River Basin but have been introduced to Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands, Brazil, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. These fish usually have a gold color and three black, vertical stripes. They typically weigh around 2 to 4.5 pounds.

There are four distinct species of peacock bass, but a common characteristic of all of them is the circular, black “eye spot” rimmed in dramatic gold at the base of the caudal fin. This spot closely resembles the iconic spot found on the tail plume of the peacock fowl. That, combined with the very bass-looking profile of the fish is where we get our name

Largemouth Bass

Everglades Bass fishing is one of the most popular activities in the area. Everglades Holiday Park, as mentioned above, is known as a great spot for bass fishing. The staff is happy to provide tips and tricks.

Largemouth Bass are the largest of the black basses and they have an olive-green color that’s marked by a broad, black stripe and a jagged line of dark spots down each side. This coloring in combination with the black edge of the caudal fin makes these fish very recognizable.

One of the reasons largemouth bass are so sought after by anglers is because of the thrilling fight they put up after being hooked. It’s common for the fish to jump out of the water to try and free themselves.

You’re likely to have the best luck with lures such as plastic worms (in natural colors such as black, green, and blue), crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and jigs. For larger fish, anglers tend to favor live bait (large golden shiners, minnows, frogs, night crawlers, and/or crawfish).

Everglades Snook Fishing

Snook are a year-round fish. November through May usually yield the best results for sight fishing in the shallow water, but they can be found at all times all over the Everglades. Their unpredictable habits make them alluring and challenging to many fishers.

Snook are considered one of the most exciting catches in Florida by many anglers. They fight harder than almost any fish and they’re very smart. They’ve been known to dive into sharp mangroves or drag the bait under roots to sever fishing lines.

On top of being challenging and exciting, Snook are delicious food and they can’t be commercially harvested, which means you can only ever eat it if you catch it.

Redfish (Red Drum)

Redfish are strong and eager. They readily eat flies, plugs, and many other artificial baits. They are another year-round fish, but the best months for them are August through February.

These fish hover near the shallow waters where small marine life such as crustaceans and mollusks are frequent. The shallow water also offers protection from larger predators that need a little more depth to move around effectively.

Everglades Tarpon Fishing

During the spring and fall months, thousands of Tarpon pass through the Florida Everglades. The reason for this is that they spawn in Boca Grande and head back south to the Everglades for rest and food before they complete their journey to the Atlantic, Caribbean, and further.

Tarpon in the Everglades average 60 to 120 pounds but it’s not usual for the first to reach weights of 150 to 180 pounds. The Florida Everglades is the only place in Florida to find Tarpon in their unpressured and natural state on a daily basis. This is due to the lack of boat traffic and fishing pressure, making the environment (and the fish) every fisherman’s dream.

Freshwater Fishing Vs Saltwater Fishing

The equipment required for freshwater and saltwater fishing is a bit different. Saltwater fishing needs durable gear that can withstand the corrosive effects of saltwater. Most anglers opt for heavy-duty rods and reels made from rust-resistant, noncorrosive metals such as stainless steel.

While saltwater favors stronger equipment, freshwater usually manages better with more flexibility. Smaller rods, reels, and more delicate fishing lines are just the ticket.

Everglades Fishing Regulations

Firstly, it’s important to recognize that you cannot fish in the Everglades without a fishing license.

The following are a few of the prohibited items/actions, as per National Park Service regulations:

  • Fishing in fresh waters by any means other than hook and line while rod or line are closely attended.
  • Chumming or placing either preserved or fresh fish eggs, fish roe, food, fish parts, chemicals, or other foreign substances in fresh waters with the intent of feeding or attracting fish to be taken.
  • Commercial fishing, except that which is specifically authorized by Federal statutory law.
  • Fishing using drugs, poisons, electricity, and/or explosives.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, but as you can see, there are things to keep in mind. Be sure to research regulations and permissions before undergoing any fishing excursion.

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