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Everglades/ Keys for Xmas

1829 Views 24 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Matt0311
Hey guys, our family trip fell through out west this year so we've decided to head down to the Glades and the Keys and I'll be trailering my skiff. Just wanted to hear anyone's recommendations on areas that are a must for fishing. No need to give up spots but just looking for general winter patterns down there. My daughter really wants to catch a peacock bass so we'll make a stop in Miami and hit the canals before heading into the Glades for a couple of days and then eventually make it all the way to Key West. I was considering staying in Islamorada for a couple of days but wasn't sure if it makes sense to base out of there for going back into the Everglades or if we should stay around Everglades City for that part and then start working our way down. Plan on looking for snook, baby tarpon, etc and possibly spending some time looking for resident tarpon. Also, don't know if fishing Biscayne Bay is a must for bonefish or just work those into the Keys outings. Thanks!
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personally,....I wouldn't ever run to the Keys just to turn around head north to get back in the Park (Cape Sabal and above). Stopping at Everglades City, Chokoloskee , Port of the Isles puts you right in the north end of the Park (top portion of the 10,000 Islands), plus it breaks up the drive south into the Keys, which is still a pretty good haul depending on where you're going.
What I will also say, which may not go over well with some,.......if youre serious about backwater fishing (sounds like you are), do not waste your money / time in Marco, thats NOT the Park, its not the Everglades, its not the 10,000 Islands,...there is absolutely no comparison.
 

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I lived in The Keys years ago. Haven't been back in a while. Christmas and the week after was an absolute mad-house with a flood of tourists every year back then. It's got to be worse now. I'd bet all the hotels have been booked full for months now. As nice as it sounds to be enjoying the warm Sun in The Keys for Christmas, I wouldn't go anywhere near there during that week or two. JMHO.
 

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Is your trip primarily fishing based? Are you looking for things to do incase the fan turns on (can be windy that time of year)..? What level of accommodations are you looking to get? Those particulars will probably help weed out where you will/wont want to go. Everglades City is a sleepy town year round, not much to do outside of getting on the water, minimal restaurants inside of a 20 mile drive. Excellent jumping off point to enjoy the park, check out the outer islands for a picnic/beach day if the fishing is slow, etc. The keys provide both the fishing and the accommodations but will be a busy place on and off the water. If you go that route I'd recommend the lower keys for more options if the wind blows and/or fishing isn't lining up and the kids get bored, plenty to do in KW on-land. Hope ya'll have fun!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yeah, unfortunately the trip can't be spent on the boat all the time so that's why I wanted to end up in Key West and stop at a few places to fish our way down there and just hang out. We'll do a day of peacock fishing in Miami and then head to the everglades for a couple of days. After that we will start working our way down to Key West probably stopping twice before getting there. Islamorada will probably be one of the stops and I've already found some condos. Looking to target something other than reds, don't mind catching them but I live in a great fishery so it'd be nice to see something else.
 

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personally,....I wouldn't ever run to the Keys just to turn around head north to get back in the Park (Cape Sabal and above). Stopping at Everglades City, Chokoloskee , Port of the Isles puts you right in the north end of the Park (top portion of the 10,000 Islands), plus it breaks up the drive south into the Keys, which is still a pretty good haul depending on where you're going.
What I will also say, which may not go over well with some,.......if youre serious about backwater fishing (sounds like you are), do not waste your money / time in Marco, thats NOT the Park, its not the Everglades, its not the 10,000 Islands,...there is absolutely no comparison.

Dang.... I've fished Marco for the last 20 years of my life and I'm pretty insulted. Now I do have to correct you and say that Marco Island is a part of the 10,000 Islands and extends all the way to Camp Lulu key where the park boundary begins. Marco has a splendid fishery, it is tide and condition dependent but I've had some of my best days fishing there without having to spend crazy hours riding around / trailering. You can hit a low tide window and have a stellar day. The difference between the 10K and the glades is the traffic due to fishing charters, jetskii tours, and craigcats that have now pretty much taken over (and which will probably be even worse due to the time of year but also depends on weather window). I'll agree that in those terms and of scenery the Park/Everglades is very different than the 10,000 Islands. The Park no matter what will always be to me, the greatest fishery but in terms of a win win for everybody, the 10K can make do.

In terms of fishing advice, if it stays as warm as it has been this November, you can't really go wrong with either. Fish are extremely happy and have had no problem finding them, even in the 10K (residential tarpon included). Now, if we start to get in the colder temps, the park is definitely the better option. In terms of winter patterns, gulp new penny shrimp is usually the candy of the season.I I mainly fly fish, but if i take some noobie friends and want to have them to have a good time, you usually can't keep the ladyfish, snook, trout, or reds off of it. Florida Bay is still a mystery to me to fish, but anything North of Rodgers Rivers is home. You can message me if you want any detailed tips...
 

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If I was your travel agent for a family's vacation with the boat and wanting to do all that...

Day 1-2: Everglades City for snook, red, tarpon.

Day 3: Drive down Tanami Trail or Alligator Alley depending on where you want to fish / stay for Peacocks. I would not spend more than 1 day on peacocks, personally. Actually, I would not stay overnight with the boat for peacocks. I'd hit a canal for 4-hours and get back on the road to the Keys.

Day 4-6: Key West for whatever you want and to give the family a break.

Day 7-8: Hit Marathon / Islamorada on the way back north. Either fish the Keys or run the boat north to the Flamingo and back depending on what you enjoyed most (and the wind).
 

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what is your boat launching situation? I'm a little concerned with your driving, launching spot, recon time versus fishing time. I'd stay in Islamorada and run to ENP and backcountry and then head down to the keys for a few days. If the peacock has to happen run down the tamiami on the path to Islamorada. I recommend the Islamorada Brewery, Loralei's and Midway Cafe. Another favorite is Lazy Days. I've done alot of time in KW so if you need info hit me up. KW will be bones, tarpon, permit and cuda pretty exclusively in florida bay. If you get weather lucky maybe Marquesa for a day
 

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Yeah they call that week Hell Week for a reason, and you can avoid the crowds by being somewhere where there is not only one road. That will dig into your time, if your condo doesn't have a ramp you will struggle with that and to go down the road a few miles takes a long time. Those days it will take you maybe 4-6 hours to get from Homestead to Keywest, then 4-6 hours to leave again its bumper to bumper crawling 10 mph all day. We hit Costco, then get on the boat out the back door or watch youtube. Like @TravisD mentioned as well, if you are going to fish 2 partial days from your skiff in the lower keys the likelihood of success is low unless you baitfish I guess.

I have spent about 60 days a year for the last 4 years down here in that time frame. Just got back and the first day I saw 2 snook, caught one and everything unfolded perfect, the next day it was like No Kids Nautical and I poled for 6 hours and didn't see a single fish or throw a single cast. It will probably take me a week to get back on track. I love it here, but if I had to bet on 2 days in the keys three weeks from now I would bet Cold Front, Windy. Im only on the here because today is day 3 and just too windy to get out. Probably should have skipped yesterday too.

If I was doing two days or something I would just stick to the glades or hit glades then 10k.
 

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Try to stay in Islamorada for the food, and you can trailer up to Flamingo and slash at their ramps. Plenty of fish in Coot Bay and if you splash on the Florida Bay ramp you can fish around Snake bite and do well. Good luck and tight lines, Peace!!
 

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Travel though Islamorada can be trying this time of year... Either travel early or late in the day to avoid it. If there are events at Founders park, traffic from Tavernier south to channel 2 will be stop and go. Weekend traffic can be intolerable.
 
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