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Capt. Charles Wright
Everglades Kayak Fishing
"Catch the Experience"
PO Box 670
Everglades City, Florida 34139

everglades kayak fishing articles

Ten Thousand Islands Everglades National Park

Planning a fishing get-away is exciting no matter how far you go; taking off to a brand new place as wild and scenic as the Ten Thousand Islands corner of Everglades National Park just drives the excitement level that much higher. Throw in poled skiff and kayak runs for the Park’s legendary snook and tarpon opportunities and it gets pretty tough to sit still ‘til blast off.

The plan to fish the ‘Glades grew out of several conversations I had with Capt. Charles Wright last spring. Charlie lives in Everglades City right at the edge of the park and runs Chokoloskee Charters. Charlie’s business slogan reads, “Not just another boat ride,” in reference to his dedication to putting his clients on lots of exciting fish. Well, to be honest, we found it held a good deal more meaning than that. . . the whole experience, not just the fishing, is top shelf all the way.

Getting our trip off the ground required more than a little tenacity and it had nothing to do with publishing deadlines or guide service bookings; we had Mother Nature working against us.

I’m sure you will remember what happened in Florida last summer; they experienced the most wicked hurricane season in something like 100 years. Our travel plan suffered three revisions before we finally got in the airplane at Houston Hobby. Somehow with three hurricanes and innumerable tornados ripping across Florida, Everglades City suffered little more than thunderstorms and moderate tidal surges. Many communities between there and Ft. Lauderdale were not as fortunate.

The ride across I-75, or “Alligator Alley” as it’s also known, takes less than two hours until you’re headed south on Florida State Road 29. We rented a car at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and the total drive time to Everglades City is less than three hours.

Everglades City, and nearby sister town, Chokoloskee (about 3.0 miles further south,) are true end of the road villages. If you end up there you were either aiming right at it or lost as hell. The ever-narrowing pavement and roadside rightof- ways hint that you’re getting close. The country you cover on 29 is wilderness believe it or not. . . complete with “Panther Crossing” signs. I do not recall seeing any filling stations or eating places.

Crossing the bridge over Barron River puts you in Everglades City - without a doubt the cleanest and prettiest fishing village I’ve ever visited. We came in late, and like Charlie said we’d find, everything was closed except the all-night Circle-K. We found our cabin unlocked and the lights on at Glades Haven (gotta love these kind of places,) unpacked and hit the sack.

Up early, we rigged our rods, gulped morning caffeine, threw two Poorboys and some bottled waters in the soft cooler and hurried to the dock across the parking lot to meet Charlie. The early November sunrise over the Everglades was awesome. The air was brisk; multiplied by the speed of Charlie’s skiff you can bet we snuggled into our jackets. Our run to the snook waters Charlie had chosen for us took us across Huston, Chevelier and Cannon Bays, twisting and turning through a veritable labyrinth of creeks, channels and rivers.

Charlie steered us into a creek about twice as wide as the boat, cut the motor and climbed atop the poling platform. This was our first trip to the Everglades and the only snook we’d seen up ‘til this day were in pictures. Man, were we eager.

Arriving on a low and still falling tide is critical. Snook live in the mangrove roots, way up under a maze of overhanging limbs. It’s hard to believe you’re still in tide influenced country, but a two foot swing over three or four hours is all the window you get some days. . . we hit this one perfect.

Pam was up first, poised on the casting deck, she took aim at the beast in the brush that was making an awful commotion. . . schmucking and popping sounds, and about ten gallons of water flew out of the tangle of roots every time the fish took a bite out of whatever it was eating.

Flipping under brush and between prop roots is not impossible, but that damned snook was making things even tougher. Somehow she threaded the jig through the jungle and the second it splashed the surface the drag was squealing. How’s that for storybook? Trouble was; the fish was going in, and way too strong and way too fast to turn in close quarters.

Our cabin was neat as a pin and very comfortable. It is outfitted to accomodate two couples or four singles. Charlie ran us through an amazing tangle of creeks, bayous and channels. How he remembered his way baffled me.

How’d you like to try a few sight shots in here? We left a few lures dangling in this spot. March 2005 Gulf Coast Connections 38 While Pam was busy retying, I took a shot. . . danged mangrove limbs. Pam hooked up a frisky 3-pounder on her next cast and I caught another tree. Man, was I ever making an impression on my guide! Finally, it was my turn to plop the jig in the sweet spot. . . wooo-weee, snook can pull! They require the application of at least two or three times as much “act right” as trout and redfish of similar size.

Charlie moved us three or four times, squeezing everything we could out of the bite. We caught roughly 20 fish apiece up to six pounds and learned a lot of things that day. . . snook like shade, snook like roots, snook can shred 30-pound leaders like tissue paper, snook can blow a Spook eight feet straight up into the limbs, snook have bad attitudes, we love snook!

Eventually the tide quit us and no matter how hard we tried, the best we could do was an occasional blow up or a weak bite on a jig that was very tricky to drive a hook into. Charlie took us sight-seeing and gave us a gorgeous ride home into a perfect sunset.

Kayak fishing was the game for day two. Charlie runs a 28-foot Carolina Skiff that he rigged to be the perfect mother ship. Now I transport kayaks on my 21-ft Majek RFL, but let me tell you, this boat is the ultimate transport barge. There is room for six kayaks stacked on edge, captain’s chair seating for six, and Heaven only knows how many cubic yards of ice chests and dry lockers. Our group met on Charlie’s dock at daybreak; Pam and I, Rick Roberts of Extreme Edge Fishing Tournament fame, Sue Cocking of the Miami Herald, and Darren Bienvenue of Miami. Charlie cranked the near silent Yamaha 150 4-stroke and we were off down the Barron River through Chokoloskee Bay to the south eastern shoreline of the Everglades National Park.

The five miles of Highland Beach we drove past was bedecked in white sand, turquoise water and more colorful birdlife than you could count. I think we saw everything from flamingos to ospreys and eagles. Our destination for the day was the mouth of the Rodgers River with its myriad tidal creeks and lagoons.

Before the boat was taut on the anchor, it was obvious that the tide was rushing out and getting in front of a creek as soon as possible was a priority. We departed quickly, each going there own way, following the popping noises under the mangroves.

Darren hooked a tarpon almost immediately that appeared 50-poundish but it shook loose on the second jump. Rick and Pam got into 4 to 5 pound snook within a short while, and I took off into the jungle. The scenery was almost surreal; the silence broken only by the squawk of birds chased from their fishing and of course, the snook.

I stuck several that made it to the roots and landed several more that absolutely inhaled my bone-colored baby Spook. Charlie told me to keep a fresh leader. . . shoulda paid better heed, my best snook escaped with my plug!

Right then is when I heard it for the first time. It was female shrill and it gave me chills. Susan or Pam had to be in some kind of terrible wreck. I paddled back around the mangrove corner frantically, just in time to see Susan in a life and death bent rod fight. Whatever she had hooked had enough power to raise a wake behind her kayak.

Charlie was paddling madly, eventually getting alongside at enough angle to drive her boat toward open water. The snook, you see, wasn’t finished. It had its sights set on dragging Susan into the mangroves. . . boat and all!

Pam was into an adventure all her own. . . several coves back she found herself in the middle of what appeared to be a family reunion, alligator family that is. At one point she could count eighteen and at least twelve of them were displaying interest in the Baby 1-minus she was throwing.

Apart from Susan’s big snook we never really landed any heavyweights; but we hooked several and saw dozens basking at the edge of the shadows as we glided by, barely paddling. The scenery was magnificent, being closer to it in a kayak made it even more powerful. This place ripped into my heart the same as the Upper Kenai did the first day I drifted it.

My final rating is Five Stars; I can’t wait to go back. Capt. Charlie’s operation is first-class all the way - from the cabin he rented us to the fishing adventures he took us on. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who enjoys snook, poled skiff fishing, and of course kayaking.

The Ten Thousand Islands area offers many types of fishing year ‘round and the scenery that goes with it is breath-taking. To learn more, visit Capt. Charles Wright on the web at www.ChokoloskeeCharters.com or telephone him at 239-682-9920.

Tell him you’re from Texas!

By Everett Johnson - Gulf Coast Connections - March 2005