Snook, Creeks, Kayaks and a Rope
This last cold front really put it to the fishery here in Everglades City. We had three days of strong north winds which rarely occurs in this neck of the woods. Combined with air temperatures that were "cold as a mother-in-law's kiss", the fish got a serious case of lockjaw!
Just as the front arrived, I had four anglers come in for a four day kayak fishing trip … two from New England, one from Virginia and one from Texas. They fished hard and we had a great time, but the fish were locked up pretty tight.
We struggled a while longer here until the effects of the front passed. I thought the whole fishery would starve to death from the worse case of lock jaw I had seen in a while.
When the fishery did come back, it came back strong. With four anglers we released right at 60 snook from the kayaks. One angler, strictly fly fishing, released 17 alone. I saw him break off several others … one, that looked it would go 20 lbs.
The follow day we went deep into the backcountry to fish a creek system. The previous day we had a steady bite the entire day. This day, however, we had a slow start … just a few fish here and there. We could see them, but we could not get them to eat.
HOWEVER, once the tide turned and the water flow picked up, the feeding bell rang … between four anglers, they released over 70 snook.
I was fishing a wide part of the creek with good success throwing a light jig with a swimming shad tail. However, I kept hearing bigger fish behind me wrecking the baits that were stacking up under the mangroves. I drifted into the jungle and found a place to wedge myself against the overhanging mangrove roots. Being right handed, I had to be on the left side. The only way to cast was side arm....overhead was impossible…simply too tight.
I fish creek systems often for tarpon and snook so I use a short rod. This one was simply too long. I came very close to making a "field modification" so I could cast better.
I have bowlines on the front of my Heritage Redfish 12 kayaks that I use to deploy and recover the yaks from the Yak Attack. This line was the key to what happened next.
The current was swift in this pinched down part of the creek, anchoring was impractical … too much scope needed. I took the bowline and looped it over a mangrove branch. The other end, I made a loop and slipped my left foot through the loop. I was anchored … anchored on a very short lease; very important with big snook in tight places.
I usually keep a bunch of DOA shrimp on hand for my kayak anglers. Personally, I could not fish them (in the past) … it was simply fished too slowly for me… I need something that I can yank on … (This is not comment on the bait; it is a personality issue with me!)
However, I made it a point to solely fish the DOA shrimp the day before…with good success. So by the time I got myself pinned in this little creek, I was comfortable (and confident) with the bait.
The place was so tight, that most casts were about only 12-15 feet … up current. A short cast, a second or two let the bait begin to fall and a very gentle yo-yo retrieve with just tension to feel the bait and keep it out of the creek deadfall and I was in the money.
I would hook a big fish, dig in with my leashed leg and fight the fish with the full strength of the rod without the kayak moving … that made all the difference in the would. Most any other time, anglers, including me can get spanked by the big fish in the creeks.
I fished that spot for maybe 90 minutes before I had to come out … 23 snook were fish released … 16 in the slot (27 -34") … three were over the slot sized. Those were the ones I caught! I had nine DOA shrimp in my tackle box (my top pocket in my case). I pulled out of the creek because I was broken off by fish so many snook that I ran out of baits. I left them biting…
That little piece of rope made all the difference. You can bet that we will be back there just as soon as conditions are right … rope in tow!!
Just a reminder, February 24th is our 3rd Annual Everglades Kayak Fishing Paddle-In. This is a fun, social event that last year had 70+ kayakers of all ages participating. The paddle-in is free, but we do ask for a donation for the Smallwood's Store Museum. Come join us ... you will have a blast and meet some new friends
Launching from Chokoloskee, we drift with the tides to a sand beach at the mouth of Chokoloskee Pass. Vickie will be serving her famous couch chowder, bratwursts and pastries. When the tide begins to rise, we will leave the beach and drift/paddle and fish back towards Chokoloskee with the tide.
If things work out, there will even be a kayak fishing school offered in conjunction with the event. Also, for those that wish to stick around, we will be having a fish fry at a local waterside restaurant. Rental kayaks will be available …stay tuned...
Capt. Charles Wright