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I'd like to take my dad and my 10-year-old son camping in the park this winter/spring, and I was hoping for a little advice. The tentative plan would be to drive down from Orlando on a Thursday night, launch Friday morning, camp two nights, and head home Sunday afternoon.

A few specific questions:

  • Which sites within say a two hour trip of Choko would you recommend? I'd lean strongly toward a beach site so we can have a fire. Proximity to fishing, prettiness, and exposure to a breeze would also be great.
  • I'm leaning toward staying two nights at the same site, just to spend more time fishing and exploring and less time setting up and breaking camp. Does that make sense? Or would be better to move for the second night and see more of the area?
  • How late in the year is too late, in terms of bugs and heat? My kid's spring break is the middle of March, but I could probably make it happen in February if that's too late.
  • We'll be exploring and photographing as much as fishing (although the kid is pretty fired up about snook). What are some places and things we should see?

I appreciate any help you all can offer.
 

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Pavilion
New turkey
Mormon (big tide swing).

Not too difficult a run from choko up the Lopez river to these sites. February is still good as the nights will be mostly cool. Regardless, bring a thermacel. Make sure your tent has no-see-um mesh. Time your launching at choko and arrival at the island with somewhat of a high tide, as that entire area can be really shallow at low tide.

Feel free to PM me with anymore questions!
 

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You'll love the trip. We've camped twice on Pavillion key...great sunset views to open ocean, and awesome quiet sunrises on the backside. Camsites are nice and flat, and miles apart, we stayed on the north end each time. Just don't be surprised to wake up and see your boat sitting in a field of mud at low tide!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, all. So mid-March is pushing it in terms of bugs and heat?
 

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I would say yes, it's starting to push it; however, it still depends on the weather that particular weekend because we still can have cold fronts in March that'll knock the bugs back. Or it can be warmish and rainy which will bring them out in force.
 

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Agree - March is one of those swing months...if a good front moves through it's fine, but could also be warm and buggy. My preference is always getting to one site and then making it mine for a couple days, by boat you can see quite a bit from Pavillion. Here's a video of our trip from 10 years ago. Admittedly its pretty corny, but we were just youngsters at 37 years old, what would you expect!?
 

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Your first time camping in the park, especially multi generational, should be more fun and less stress than a hardcore fishing trip. I'd re commend Tiger Key at the North end of the park. 30 minute run down Indian Key Pass from Rod and Gun,ramp is good deep launch on any tide, Beach front of Tiger is West Pass where some tarpon and bigger sharks hang out, hookable from shore. Backside of the spit is a cove which is well protected but dead shallow on a lower tide. No outhouse there, bring a shovel. Easy run up inside to the back bays from there when you get bored with catching dink snook and slot trout on the outside.
Where ever you end up, expect bugs. especially sand gnats on the outside beaches.Noseeum tent mesh is vital, bring Avon skin so soft to spray the tent mesh(the oil drowns the bastids before they can get thru the mesh) keep a can of Camp Fogger in the tent to kill whatever has gotten in before you zip in but don't use it outside the tent. Against ENP rules with good reason.
Bring you own firewood, don't waste time trying to collect the little blowdown left towards the end of the camping season.
I've camped the park October thru June in good comfort, it's really about how much of the Disney World effect you expect. July thu September is strictly for the hardcore, been there,done that, but too old for that anymore.
 

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Your first time camping in the park, especially multi generational, should be more fun and less stress than a hardcore fishing trip. I'd re commend Tiger Key at the North end of the park. 30 minute run down Indian Key Pass from Rod and Gun,ramp is good deep launch on any tide, Beach front of Tiger is West Pass where some tarpon and bigger sharks hang out, hookable from shore. Backside of the spit is a cove which is well protected but dead shallow on a lower tide. No outhouse there, bring a shovel. Easy run up inside to the back bays from there when you get bored with catching dink snook and slot trout on the outside.
Where ever you end up, expect bugs. especially sand gnats on the outside beaches.Noseeum tent mesh is vital, bring Avon skin so soft to spray the tent mesh(the oil drowns the bastids before they can get thru the mesh) keep a can of Camp Fogger in the tent to kill whatever has gotten in before you zip in but don't use it outside the tent. Against ENP rules with good reason.
Bring you own firewood, don't waste time trying to collect the little blowdown left towards the end of the camping season.
I've camped the park October thru June in good comfort, it's really about how much of the Disney World effect you expect. July thu September is strictly for the hardcore, been there,done that, but too old for that anymore.
Pretty much spot on there. And March is pushing it ZThomas I had skeeters and no seeums on my camping trip last weekend in the 10 k islands.
 

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Thanks, all. Going to shoot for the weekend of 2/23 at Pavilion Key.
 
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Thanks, all. Going to shoot for the weekend of 2/23 at Pavilion Key.
I personally like Mormon better, but pavilion isn’t too far away.

Both have easy access to Storter Bay

PM me if you would like some spots that aren’t secrets but I’d rather not post them for the world to see
 

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I personally like Mormon better, but pavilion isn’t too far away.

Both have easy access to Storter Bay

PM me if you would like some spots that aren’t secrets but I’d rather not post them for the world to see
Curious as to where you make landfall at Mormon? I was out there a few weekends ago and the sand bar on mouth of the Chatham was massive and very skinny getting out there. Trickier than I remember post Irma. I had a low tide line on my GPS From years past that didn’t work.

Mormon is one of the few spots I’ve never stayed at.
 
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Curious as to where you make landfall at Mormon? I was out there a few weekends ago and the sand bar on mouth of the Chatham was massive and very skinny getting out there. Trickier than I remember post Irma. I had a low tide line on my GPS From years past that didn’t work.

Mormon is one of the few spots I’ve never stayed at.
Haven’t been since the storm, but I’ve always anchored and waded to shore

I like Mormon because big snook and tarpon are catchable at night from shore

and it’s not as desireable as pavilion do usually not as many people
 

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Thanks again for the help. We're headed down this Thursday evening after school, then getting permit and launching Friday morning. Forecast is calling for mid-80s, partly cloudy, south and southwest breezes < 10 knots. Will try for Mormon, New Turkey, or Pavilion -- whatever is available. Is there a chance we might not get a spot?

Also, any basic fishing advice? Neither my dad nor my kid are exactly hardcore, but it would be great to get a couple trout for dinner and/or see some different species than trout and reds. The kid is excited about snook too. Figured I'd bring the usual inshore stuff — 10 lb. braid and spinning rods, soft plastics, topwaters, and spoons, plus a cast net and a couple of heavier 20-lb. setups. Does that seem about right? We never really target snook at home — will they generally eat approximately the same baits and presentations as reds and trout? Would it be worth going out looking for tripletail if the weather allows?

Last question: just to see the area, I was kind of thinking about making a loop on Saturday down the outside to Lostman's River, then up the Wilderness Waterway route and back out Chatham River to camp. Looks like roughly 30 to 35 miles. Anything particularly foolhardy about that? My understanding is that a poling skiff will make it through the WW okay — is that correct?
 

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@Tarpon Nole, tried sending you a PM, but it wouldn't go through for some reason. My email is overslotweb[at]gmail.
 

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Thanks again for the help. We're headed down this Thursday evening after school, then getting permit and launching Friday morning. Forecast is calling for mid-80s, partly cloudy, south and southwest breezes < 10 knots. Will try for Mormon, New Turkey, or Pavilion -- whatever is available. Is there a chance we might not get a spot?

Also, any basic fishing advice? Neither my dad nor my kid are exactly hardcore, but it would be great to get a couple trout for dinner and/or see some different species than trout and reds. The kid is excited about snook too. Figured I'd bring the usual inshore stuff — 10 lb. braid and spinning rods, soft plastics, topwaters, and spoons, plus a cast net and a couple of heavier 20-lb. setups. Does that seem about right? We never really target snook at home — will they generally eat approximately the same baits and presentations as reds and trout? Would it be worth going out looking for tripletail if the weather allows?

Last question: just to see the area, I was kind of thinking about making a loop on Saturday down the outside to Lostman's River, then up the Wilderness Waterway route and back out Chatham River to camp. Looks like roughly 30 to 35 miles. Anything particularly foolhardy about that? My understanding is that a poling skiff will make it through the WW okay — is that correct?
I frequently fish the Everglades but tend to stay outside the park because your camping possibilities are unlimited in the 10,000 islands that's also a possibility for you there are numerous camping spots hog key,panther key,whitehorse also just to name a few there are 2 launches for that area Port of the Isles which also has fuel which is an issue down there unless you haul in extra fuel and the other is Goodland a little further north just an option if you can't get a permit inside the park and the fishing is just as good panther key is minutes from the northern end of the park.

Seatrrout will be a possibility anywhere along the barrier islands and inlets to any river for snook you'll want current and structure, anything that a trout would eat a snook will also. I particularly like a good mirrodine something about the anticipation after the twich.

Your tunnel will run basically anywhere down there just gotta look out for a few shouls and oyster bars that extend a few hundred yards past most barrier islands. Very nice seeing 3 generations camping together and good luck pm me if you got any questions that area will make you tight lipped as it all looks fishy.
 
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