Last week my family and I took a trip to Marco Island Florida. We’ve been vacationing there as long as I can remember, but only in recent years when I started fly fishing did I discover that our vacation spot if Florida was a fishermans paradise! Marco Island is on the gulf side of the sunshine state about an hour south of Ft. Meyers, and just south of Marco island are the Ten Thousand Islands; the western edge of the everglades, and south of the Ten Thousand Islands is Everglades National Park. This coastline of mangrove islands and estuaries extends all the way to the Keys, and is home to some of Florida’s finest game fish; snook, tarpon, redfish, and speckled sea trout are the primary targets for a fly fisherman.
Growing up we’ve always had a boat in down in Marco which we used to fish, but it was a bit too large for fishing the beautiful everglades backcountry; where water is very shallow and fish spooky. Using a small flat bottom boat and a push pole to quietly troll around is your best shot at putting a fly in front of a tarpon. This year we sold the offshore boat and are hoping to eventually get something more suitable for backwater, but in the meanwhile we are boatless. We found a little place in Everglades City that rents 16 foot skiffs for a reasonable price and decided we would finally explore the shallow rivers and bays that were inaccessible to us before. Going into this vacation I had worries that the fish kill that southern Florida experienced this past winter had shut down backwater fishing for at least a couple years. Although many game fish did perish, there is sill a worthy fishery down there. This time of year the big tarpon migrate back into the shallows where you can find them playfully rolling on the surface at dawn and dusk. That is what I wanted to see anyway; to just have one opportunity to cast a fly to a 100+ lb tarpon in shallow water would make the trip for me. Having never been to this area before we did a lot more exploring than actually casting, and I was on a family vacation, not a fishing trip. So, I only had one day to try and figure out this unfamiliar place and species. After a few hours of patiently coasting across shallow bays and river mouths looking for surface activity and not seeing anything that resembled a tarpon I picked up a rod and started probing the mangrove shoreline hoping to draw out a snook. I fished for a while then handed the rod over to my dad. As we passed a dock next to some mangroves I watched my dad make a nice cast right under the dock and strip once, then I saw a silver flash with the unmistakable black lateral line of a snook grab the fly viciously. He was small, but at this point we were relieved to see anything.
My uncle was with us and caught another small snook under the same dock. Our day was done with the two small snook landed. Not too bad for a few guys who never fished the area. The lack of fish being caught was made up for by the abundance of wildlife we encountered; sea turtles, dolphins, alligators, and all types of birds made the day enjoyable. Overall, an experience I would recommend to anyone fishing or not. Hopefully, on the next trip to Marco I will have a new boat and a bit more time to fish, and maybe I will get my chance at the silver king!