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Everglades Redfish Fishing
Everglades National Park, FL
As spooky as bonefish when they are in the shallows, redfish in the Everglades are a real light tackle challenge. We hunt for them by sight whenever possible, from the Gulf Coastal islands to the backcountry bays. During the winter, redfish move to the waybackcountry seeking the sun-warmed oysters bars and the small crabs and shrimp that live on them. In the warmer months reds will be throughout the islands as they shift from their wintering grounds toward their summer habitat, the outer islands and beaches, a few lagoons facing the Gulf. The presence of large schools of whitebait at those times can produce some memorable fishing for both red's and snook.
The red drum, sciaenops ocellatus, goes by many names, channel bass, bull red, puppy drum, spot, here in the Everglades we call them redfish or more frequently just plain 'reds.' They are an atlantic coastal species and range from Massachusettes through Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Redfish love shallow, inshore waters and spend their first three to six years in very shallow coastal flats, backcountry sloughs and marshy lagoons. Those are the ones we're looking for, fish from twenty inches to, if you're lucky, over thirty inches, roughly between five and fifteen pounds. The average size of our reds is about twenty seven inches.
Sharp eyes and accurate casting are the keys to drawing strikes when the reds are on the flats. We use a variety of flies in a variety of sizes from small bonefish flies like the gotcha, small epoxy flies, spoon flies, small streamers like the EP mullet #1, zonkers, clousers and more. Six to eight weight fly rods are about right and conventional tackle from eight to twelve pound test.
some are rotten and confrontational....
When I was recently asked to suggest a fishing guide in the 10,000 Islands, I thought first of Ned Small. Ned lives and guides out of Everglades City and has explored and fished the 10,000 for many years.
I’ve fished with a variety of guides in both fresh and saltwater from Newfoundland, Canada, to the Amazon basin of Peru, and up and down the East Coast from Maine to South Florida. A handfull of guides have been inspirational and a joy to fish with, sadly, more than I would have expected have been rotten and confrontational while the majority were more or less O.K. Capt. Ned Small tops the list of the first group.
As an example, a lot of guides will nonchalantly tell you to meet at “such and such location around 6:00 in the morning” then show up sometime between 6:15 and 6:30. Nothing starts a trip off on a more sour note than standing on a dock in the dark, rigged and ready to go, swatting at mosquitoes and watching skiffs heading out while you wonder where your guide is. Trust me, if Ned says 6:00, he’ll be there at 6:00 with a well-thought out plan for the day, rigged and ready to go.
One week last year, a friend and I booked Ned for 3 days in the middle of the summer. Each morning he showed up at 5:30 with a strategy to take advantage of the tide and the movement of the fish. The first morning, in spite of being covered by a virtual blanket of no-seeums, Ned hung in on the poling platform and guided us through two hours of exceptional snook fishing until we finally gave up and begged him to push us into open water, away from the shore and hungry insects. The next morning we carved and chopped our way in the dark through an overgrown mangrove-clogged creek to get to a chain of remote open-water lagoons whose surfaces were steadily broken by feeding and rolling tarpon. Before the sun was high enough slow down the bite, we jumped about 15 tarpon up to 20lbs and brought 4 to the boat for release. The highlight of the final day was a nearly twenty pound snook that ate a small rabbit strip fly within ten feet of mangroves. With good boatsmanship, a fair amount of coaching and a little luck, I was able to keep the snook away from the mangroves, guide him into open water and safely release him.
To fish as hard as you can and still have fun is characteristic of a day spent on the water with Ned; he guides with a high level of intensity and balances it with a relaxed, non-judgemental style.
Co-Author of Flies for Saltwater...Atlantic Salmon...Steelhead...Bass and Pan Fish...Trout
Here's farrow Allen with the above mentioned snook.