The Florida Everglades National Park; Everglades Fly Fishing In A Mangrove Forest with Light Tackle
Updated: Mar 19
Fly fishing in the Everglades is a unique experience that offers anglers a chance to explore a vast, untamed wilderness while pursuing some of the most challenging game fish in the world. With its network of mangrove forests, shallow flats, and winding channels, the Everglades provides a diverse habitat for a range of saltwater species, including snook, tarpon, redfish, barracuda, and more. However, navigating these waters can be a challenge, and you must be prepared to face the elements, including wind and unpredictable weather.
I was once again able to join our friend Capt. Scott Miller at Reel Intense Fly Fishing in West Palm, Florida. https://www.reelintenseflyfishing.com/ . There is a link to another blog below about our previous adventure for peacock bass. We travelled to south Florida and were able to get right off the plane and onto the water for an exciting night fishing trip. Once on the boat we starting looking for fish surrounding dock lights. Baitfish are attracted to the lights, and several snook and baby tarpon cruise around these lights, waiting for those baitfish to swim a little too far away. I have to say this was one of the most unique trips I have ever taken. Casting the rod is really by feel to get the right distance. You have to picture the fly rod and fly line in your mind, consider it's speed, and determine when it is fully stretched out behind you. Cast too short and the fish are never coming out from the safety of the docks and pilings, cast too far and you are stuck on the docks and you blow up the hole getting the fly back. We caught several snook, baby tarpon, and small jack crevalle.
The next day we once again went for peacock bass. Due to weather being cool it took a while to catch the first fish, a largemouth bass. However our fishing guide had us learning to skip a fly under piers and working tough spots all in preparation for our coastal backcountry adventure to come. Heading south to the tidal gulf of mexico we talked about the wildlife and ecosystem of out upcoming fishing destination. One of the defining features of fly fishing in the Everglades is the extensive network of mangrove forests that line the shores and islands of the region. These dense, tangled ecosystems provide a natural habitat for a range of marine life, including shrimp, crabs, and baitfish, which attract game fish like tarpon, snook, and redfish. Mangroves and shallow water can also make for tricky casting conditions, as the overhanging branches and roots can often snag a fly or tangle a line. However, for experienced anglers, these obstacles can be an opportunity to hone their casting skills and develop new techniques. We are experienced anglers, but put simply, when the wind is kicking you just have to do you best where you can.
The Fish of the Everglades Fly Fishing
One of the most sought-after species in the Everglades is the snook, a powerful and elusive fish that can be found lurking in the shadows of mangrove forests and shallow flats. To catch a snook on the fly, anglers must use a range of techniques, including stalking, poling, and accurate casting. Accurate casting is crucial, as snook are known for their ability to quickly and efficiently evade predators, making them a challenging target requires precision. We found several tucked in small pockets were mangroves stuck out, making little wind and current breaks.
Another popular target for fly anglers in the Everglades is the tarpon, a massive fish that can weigh up to 200 pounds and is renowned for its aerial acrobatics. Catching the best tarpon on the fly requires strength, skill, and patience, as these fish can be notoriously difficult to hook and even more challenging to land. Anglers must master the double haul, a casting technique that involves pulling the line with both hands to generate extra speed and power. This technique is essential when trying to cast into the wind, which can be a significant obstacle when fishing in the open waters of the Everglades. Unfortunately it was too windy for us to work the open areas for these, but we also found several baby tarpon tucked in the mangroves.
Redfish and barracuda are also primary targets in the Everglades, and both can provide anglers with an exhilarating challenge. Redfish are known for their brute strength and are often caught on the flats year round, while barracuda are lightning-fast predators that can strike without warning. We didn't happen upon any redfish, but several barracuda would appear out of nowhere next to the fly. Their closing speed is really something to behold. We did manage a few small ones, and even those have some teeth!
The Everglades Fishing Experience
One of my most memorable experiences while fly fishing in the Everglades was seeing an alligator up close. While poling on the skiff through a shallow channel of mangrove mazes we spotted a massive alligator sunning itself on the bank. I wasn't apprehensive, but I had heard stories of alligators attacking boats and anglers, especially when trying to land a fish. However, as I got closer, I realized that the alligator was not interested in us and was simply basking in the sun. It was a surreal experience, and I felt privileged to be able to witness this iconic creature in its natural habitat. The bird life is amazing as well, it really is a different ecosystem.
I will not soon forget fly fishing in the Everglades as it is a unique and challenging experience that offers anglers a chance to test their skills against some of the most elusive game fish in the world. With its network of untouched mangrove forests, shallow flats, and winding channels, the Everglades provides a diverse and dynamic habitat that must be understood to be navigated. I credit our guide a lot for putting the time in to learn these back channels and mangrove tunnels. I hope to spend a longer time there next trip as there are endless opportunities for so many different fish and fishing conditions. The southwest coast of Florida should be a year-round destination and bucket list trip of a lifetime for anyone who enjoys fishing in an undeveloped fishery.