Day 2 – Exploring new ground

Our plans were to explore some new water that fellow campers of last season had pointed out on the chart then revisit an out of the way bay where we had found a good number of redfish last year.
We love to catch anything the sea has to offer but snook hunting is high on this year’s agenda. We’ll fly fish whenever we can but the spin rods are officially unlocked and in new waters become great tools for finding and catching fish. Fish holding in shallow water are desperately spooky so the swing of the fly rod spooks, the tiny shadow of the fly line spooks and when water visibility is at a minimum the fly becomes extremely hard for a fish to spot. Remember this country connects to the open sea where everyone is lower on the totem pool than something bigger. It’s the food chain and the thought of being on the menu has everything very edgy. Spook a fish and it roars off for deeper water taking his biddies with him.
Spin gear on the other hand allows the fishermen a cast of much greater distance with a fine diameter line that has no shadow and can be operated effectively in tight spaces where there is little room to manage a fly line overhead. The fly is replaced with a lure that wiggles like a fish, has rattles producing subtle sounds fish detect, and when made from some new, high-tech form of rubber possess a smell that can be absolutely irresistible to most fish.
Just like the fly, a spin fisherman has to be extremely accurate plus know exactly how to twitch that lure so it appears real enough to fool a fish into believing it needs to eat it. It’s not rocket science but skill level is equally as important when using any form of artificial bait. During the steep portion of the learning curve it’s wise not to leave any stones unturned when you’re trying to locate fish in a new area you have never fishing before.
We started finding a snook here and there always right where the textbook told them they’re supposed to be. It could be at the downstream edge of an eddy line, on a point of land, or along the deep edge of a creek the tide follows on its way in and out. If we weren’t catching’em they were leaving big mushrooms of mud as they spooked from their ambush zones. We began feeling good with our snook game even though we hadn’t come face to face with any real life bruisers.
We eventually found our way back to the out of the way bay at the perfect time during the low tide. We did spot a few very spooky redfish but only had a couple good sight casting opportunities. No one was eating. Sometimes they don’t. A unexpected surprise we did stumble onto were sawfish, a prehistoric beast of a fish sporting a saw blade snout one third the length of the fish ringed with sharp teeth that give this fish it’s name. They were neither shy nor spooky, swimming about in less than 2 feet of water. The odd creatures were up to 5’ in length, maybe longer. It was a chance encounter, few people experience. They were at one time hunted to near extinction and now extremely endangered so any sightings need to be reported to the Sawfish Commission. I’d make that call when I get back. What a treat.
Before the day was done we returned to what are now becoming reliable spots, iced a couple spotted sea trout for our night meal then landed a boatload of jacks, ladyfish, and mangrove snapper reassuring ourselves we can still find all the fish species of the Everglades. We’ll refocus our effects back to snook come morning.
To us campsite life has become equally as important as a good days fishing. We now have two powerboats so why not bring the kitchen sink. Steve and I have never been accused of traveling light.
Our neighbor Randy on the other hand also began his Everglades camping career in a motorized canoe where space is at a premium. He took the minimalist approach, with a one man pack tent, power bars, self heating evening meals and a couple good books. It’s a good approach, leaving his boat uncluttered. He could now fish his way in and out eliminating unnecessary gear occupying space more efficiently used for essential snook tackle. Randy is strictly a spin/bait casting, very focused snook fishermen and the son of a now retired profession bass angler. Needless to say Randy operates at a different level than most and his enthusiasm and willingness to share his knowledge of the artificial lure world has taken my snook game to an entirely new level.
I don’t believe Randy ever imagined camping alongside two guys with a “Lets bring ALL the comforts of home” approach. When he finished his long day of snook hunting he returned to camp finding us enjoying a very happy hour with our 13’x13′ tent equipped with full kitchen/dining room and separate bedroom complete with cots made up with fitted sheets finished with full size pillows. He took photos to show his wife and friends.
Our new found friendship began to grow as we got further aquainted. Randy was sporting a, new to him, Maverick flats boat. He had done substantial custom work on it and invited us for the grand tour. Remember this is the son of a professional bass angler. He was taught by the best and a lot of thought went into transforming an already fabulous flats boat, the envy of every flats guide, into a customized fishing machine. The list of updates started with custom rod racks to a deluxe charging system for the 24 volt trolling motor power pack, and on and on, finishing the tour as our daylight faded by hitting a switch igniting under gunnel and compartment LED lighting. His lengthy overhaul was complete. This was his new boats first trip into the Everglades and Randy was obvious a very proud parent of a real life Dream Machine. I’ve only been around one other artificial lure fishermen that operated at this level and Eric out fished my fly rod every single day of our seven day trip into remote Canada. Needless to say I’m paying close attention to every little piece of advice Randy is willing to offer up. It again proved invaluable.