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Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report

Wishing a most blessed Christmas to everyone.

This Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report is going to read like a full length magazine article so you might want to save it for when you’re at work.

Launched the kayak at the Everglades City Ranger Station about 11 am Sunday morning. The weather was amazing.
This is the beauty you see while paddling.

My plan was to camp two or three nights at Rabbit Key and two or three nights at Jewell Key, fish, watch stars, play harmonica, and be alone with my thoughts for a few days. It was a great plan.
Someone was watching over me.

While paddling I dragged a plastic shad behind the boat. Something hit it. A few minutes later I was surprised by a large Spanish mackerel, a beautiful fish.

Hit a young snook off a root wad, another that was banging bait. Reached Rabbit Key without further incident. The old campsite wasn’t there, a hurricane victim. I found a lovely alternate.
Home, Rabbit Key.

One of the best things about kayak camping is I can afford the finest of unspoiled waterfront properties, if only for a few days.
My front yard at sunset.

I watched the sun set and darkness fall. Watching darkness fall is the best thing you can do while it happens, every single day. It’s magical. None of us do it enough. I spotted two satellites while admiring the Milky Way. Tired from a long day of travel, I turned in.

It took me a while to get going in the morning. I headed to Rabbit Key Grasses, wondering if there was still grass (none I found). The path I intended to take had no water- low tide. A small tidal stream drained a huge, dry flat with lots of birds on it. I thought the stream should be a fish bowl but, no bites. I saw a few black drum. Some big sharks swam in water that didn’t cover them, the sunlight glinting off their back and dorsal fins.
The fish is ON!

Once the water started rising I found myself standing, poling in skinny water. Surprising me, a redfish cruised. I tossed the shad in front of it. A very satisfying eat happened. Wished I had the fly rod ready but was certainly happy the way things turned out.
This red nailed a plastic shad.

Saw a few other reds but no shots. Hit a few small trout on the way back.

Watched and savored darkness falling again. I was able to stay up for a while this evening. Saw three more satellites. Distant lightning dotted the horizon. Incoming clouds finally broke up the sky show.
Dawn view.

I woke up at 5 AM and started packing, not without enjoying a different sky. Orion was on the western horizon. A meteor fell out of Gemini and looked like it might hit me. The third-quarter moon was in Leo. It was so nice. Getting to see things like this is one of the main draws of making these trips. The fish are a bonus, man!
This trout hit a trolled shad just as the sun rose.

By 630, everything packed and breakfast eaten, I was off to Jewell Key, dragging the shad again. As the sun breached the horizon a trout nailed the shad. The fish was only about 18 inches long but was the best one I would get.
Said sunrise.

A short while later a serious tarpon rolled, only 30 feet away. Fortunately, he did not eat the shad.
Soon after this a bluefish whacked the shad. I had another specie.

The wind came up to about 12 mph. It was not an impediment to my progress.
I stopped on a long bar. The current flowed by strongly, out towards the Gulf. I thought there should be some hungry fish there. There were, but only hockey-puck-sized jacks and blue runners. Got some of each on an olive Clouser minnow. A shark threatened a couple as I played them, but it failed to commit.
Same bar, different view.

No one was there when I got to Jewell Key.

A canoe with three young guys paddled up. Three guys with camping gear in a 17 foot canoe was quite a feat of packing, methinks. Now I had neighbors. Hardly saw them, they were awesome.
Morning glories in my yard on Jewell Key.

I set up camp and went fishing, Gulf-side. Between the wind, current, and waves I could only fish by wading. It was too rough and windy to fly cast so I flung a shad, on a light jig head, over and over again, out into the Gulf.

Generally it was pretty slow but there were two flurries that produced fast action for about 15 minutes each. Redfish, trout, jacks, and ladyfish fell for my deception. A mangrove snapper was fooled too. He got in the rocks and damaged my leader before I could work him out. I stupidly did not retie the leader. Yes, I absolutely should know better.

Shortly afterwards a large snook took the bait in plain view. I hardly felt the leader break, it happened so fast. Completely deserved it.
Typical mangrove forest.

Late in the afternoon the water got too deep for comfort. Back at camp there was a new neighbor, a solo paddler around my age. Quite a nice guy. We chatted a bit, then I made my dinner and enjoyed it.

I spotted a fleet in the distance. After a few minutes it was clear they were headed our way. The sun was close to horizon- would they make it to land before it set?

Nine or ten tired, hungry paddlers from the University of Tennessee joined us that evening. Setting up camp, cooking, eating, and cleaning up were higher on their agenda than watching night fall. Woe is me- their flashlights disturbed my views. I managed to survive. Lightning flashed on the horizon. I even saw a satellite and a meteor before Orion rose, at which time I turned in.

Pounding rain and winds woke me later. It was like a fire hose blasting at my tent! I pulled my fly shut, astonished how heavy and loud the rain was. The wind pulled out the stake that was holding down the fly. Water began joining me in the tent. Somehow my bedding stayed dry. After at least an hour the rain subsided to a gentle mist. I slept until daylight.

I got up, ate breakfast, and went fishing. A ladyfish school ran into me. That was entertaining.

Got a nice red, even more entertaining. Several trout and another red followed.

By now it was time to go back to camp and clean up the mess. The sun was even poking out a bit.

The canoeists and solo paddler were gone. The Volunteers were just launching. If no one else came I’d have the place to myself. I had already decided to go home the next morning.

Getting everything dry and tidy took a couple hours. For my afternoon fishing shift the winds were light. It would be fly casting only.

I started with a pink Clouser minnow, flinging it as far as I could into the Gulf. No sight-fishing here!
This red took 30 minutes of casting.

It took 30 minutes, but finally a bite. A solid redfish, about four pounds. Smile on John’s face!
Minutes later, a bite. Little feller snook!

If I catch a trout I’ll have some kind of slam. Trout, where are you?

Another bite. Hockey-puck jack.
This snapper was an aggressive little fish.

So was this!

I switched flies, putting on the only Hootchie fly I still had. It fooled a variety of fish species- redfish, ladyfish, snapper, baby jewfish, and some solid jacks. On my last cast, as I was reeling up the line, a fish crushed the fly and ran into my backing for the first time on the trip. It was a jack of five pounds or so.
On the way back to camp I realized the wind had increased in intensity. I’d been fishing on the protected side of the island.

That evening solid overcast prevented stargazing, so I made a small fire, and of course watched darkness fall. My tent rattled and shook all night long. I was glad I had weighted the stakes down with chunks of wormrock. I did not sleep well, and got up when it got light.

I planned on leaving. Doing so would have been foolhardy. I don’t need NOAA to recognize a small craft advisory. Until the wind died back some I was stuck. I packed what I could and went on standby.
The back yard on Jewell Key,

Around noon I realized the tent wasn’t shaking as bad. My intended route did not look like a wedding cake any more. Paddling into the wind that was left would be hard, but it was no longer dangerous. I packed up.

I thought the tide was about dead low when I left. It wasn’t. I kept hoping the nose of the incoming would catch up to me. It didn’t. It was fight wind and tide the entire way. Even when it started raining I still loved every stroke.

Trips like this make me realize what an insignificant mote I am in the grand design. It’s one of the reasons I need to keep making them.

Spent most of Friday catching up, cleaning up, and getting my gear ready for the next trip. I wonder where it will be? It will have a tough act to follow after this one, which was deeply fulfilling, one of my best.

Thanks for making it through the Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report!
 

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Joined
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46 Posts
Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report

Wishing a most blessed Christmas to everyone.

This Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report is going to read like a full length magazine article so you might want to save it for when you’re at work.

Launched the kayak at the Everglades City Ranger Station about 11 am Sunday morning. The weather was amazing.
This is the beauty you see while paddling.

My plan was to camp two or three nights at Rabbit Key and two or three nights at Jewell Key, fish, watch stars, play harmonica, and be alone with my thoughts for a few days. It was a great plan.
Someone was watching over me.

While paddling I dragged a plastic shad behind the boat. Something hit it. A few minutes later I was surprised by a large Spanish mackerel, a beautiful fish.

Hit a young snook off a root wad, another that was banging bait. Reached Rabbit Key without further incident. The old campsite wasn’t there, a hurricane victim. I found a lovely alternate.
Home, Rabbit Key.

One of the best things about kayak camping is I can afford the finest of unspoiled waterfront properties, if only for a few days.
My front yard at sunset.

I watched the sun set and darkness fall. Watching darkness fall is the best thing you can do while it happens, every single day. It’s magical. None of us do it enough. I spotted two satellites while admiring the Milky Way. Tired from a long day of travel, I turned in.

It took me a while to get going in the morning. I headed to Rabbit Key Grasses, wondering if there was still grass (none I found). The path I intended to take had no water- low tide. A small tidal stream drained a huge, dry flat with lots of birds on it. I thought the stream should be a fish bowl but, no bites. I saw a few black drum. Some big sharks swam in water that didn’t cover them, the sunlight glinting off their back and dorsal fins.
The fish is ON!

Once the water started rising I found myself standing, poling in skinny water. Surprising me, a redfish cruised. I tossed the shad in front of it. A very satisfying eat happened. Wished I had the fly rod ready but was certainly happy the way things turned out.
This red nailed a plastic shad.

Saw a few other reds but no shots. Hit a few small trout on the way back.

Watched and savored darkness falling again. I was able to stay up for a while this evening. Saw three more satellites. Distant lightning dotted the horizon. Incoming clouds finally broke up the sky show.
Dawn view.

I woke up at 5 AM and started packing, not without enjoying a different sky. Orion was on the western horizon. A meteor fell out of Gemini and looked like it might hit me. The third-quarter moon was in Leo. It was so nice. Getting to see things like this is one of the main draws of making these trips. The fish are a bonus, man!
This trout hit a trolled shad just as the sun rose.

By 630, everything packed and breakfast eaten, I was off to Jewell Key, dragging the shad again. As the sun breached the horizon a trout nailed the shad. The fish was only about 18 inches long but was the best one I would get.
Said sunrise.

A short while later a serious tarpon rolled, only 30 feet away. Fortunately, he did not eat the shad.
Soon after this a bluefish whacked the shad. I had another specie.

The wind came up to about 12 mph. It was not an impediment to my progress.
I stopped on a long bar. The current flowed by strongly, out towards the Gulf. I thought there should be some hungry fish there. There were, but only hockey-puck-sized jacks and blue runners. Got some of each on an olive Clouser minnow. A shark threatened a couple as I played them, but it failed to commit.
Same bar, different view.

No one was there when I got to Jewell Key.

A canoe with three young guys paddled up. Three guys with camping gear in a 17 foot canoe was quite a feat of packing, methinks. Now I had neighbors. Hardly saw them, they were awesome.
Morning glories in my yard on Jewell Key.

I set up camp and went fishing, Gulf-side. Between the wind, current, and waves I could only fish by wading. It was too rough and windy to fly cast so I flung a shad, on a light jig head, over and over again, out into the Gulf.

Generally it was pretty slow but there were two flurries that produced fast action for about 15 minutes each. Redfish, trout, jacks, and ladyfish fell for my deception. A mangrove snapper was fooled too. He got in the rocks and damaged my leader before I could work him out. I stupidly did not retie the leader. Yes, I absolutely should know better.

Shortly afterwards a large snook took the bait in plain view. I hardly felt the leader break, it happened so fast. Completely deserved it.
Typical mangrove forest.

Late in the afternoon the water got too deep for comfort. Back at camp there was a new neighbor, a solo paddler around my age. Quite a nice guy. We chatted a bit, then I made my dinner and enjoyed it.

I spotted a fleet in the distance. After a few minutes it was clear they were headed our way. The sun was close to horizon- would they make it to land before it set?

Nine or ten tired, hungry paddlers from the University of Tennessee joined us that evening. Setting up camp, cooking, eating, and cleaning up were higher on their agenda than watching night fall. Woe is me- their flashlights disturbed my views. I managed to survive. Lightning flashed on the horizon. I even saw a satellite and a meteor before Orion rose, at which time I turned in.

Pounding rain and winds woke me later. It was like a fire hose blasting at my tent! I pulled my fly shut, astonished how heavy and loud the rain was. The wind pulled out the stake that was holding down the fly. Water began joining me in the tent. Somehow my bedding stayed dry. After at least an hour the rain subsided to a gentle mist. I slept until daylight.

I got up, ate breakfast, and went fishing. A ladyfish school ran into me. That was entertaining.

Got a nice red, even more entertaining. Several trout and another red followed.

By now it was time to go back to camp and clean up the mess. The sun was even poking out a bit.

The canoeists and solo paddler were gone. The Volunteers were just launching. If no one else came I’d have the place to myself. I had already decided to go home the next morning.

Getting everything dry and tidy took a couple hours. For my afternoon fishing shift the winds were light. It would be fly casting only.

I started with a pink Clouser minnow, flinging it as far as I could into the Gulf. No sight-fishing here!
This red took 30 minutes of casting.

It took 30 minutes, but finally a bite. A solid redfish, about four pounds. Smile on John’s face!
Minutes later, a bite. Little feller snook!

If I catch a trout I’ll have some kind of slam. Trout, where are you?

Another bite. Hockey-puck jack.
This snapper was an aggressive little fish.

So was this!

I switched flies, putting on the only Hootchie fly I still had. It fooled a variety of fish species- redfish, ladyfish, snapper, baby jewfish, and some solid jacks. On my last cast, as I was reeling up the line, a fish crushed the fly and ran into my backing for the first time on the trip. It was a jack of five pounds or so.
On the way back to camp I realized the wind had increased in intensity. I’d been fishing on the protected side of the island.

That evening solid overcast prevented stargazing, so I made a small fire, and of course watched darkness fall. My tent rattled and shook all night long. I was glad I had weighted the stakes down with chunks of wormrock. I did not sleep well, and got up when it got light.

I planned on leaving. Doing so would have been foolhardy. I don’t need NOAA to recognize a small craft advisory. Until the wind died back some I was stuck. I packed what I could and went on standby.
The back yard on Jewell Key,

Around noon I realized the tent wasn’t shaking as bad. My intended route did not look like a wedding cake any more. Paddling into the wind that was left would be hard, but it was no longer dangerous. I packed up.

I thought the tide was about dead low when I left. It wasn’t. I kept hoping the nose of the incoming would catch up to me. It didn’t. It was fight wind and tide the entire way. Even when it started raining I still loved every stroke.

Trips like this make me realize what an insignificant mote I am in the grand design. It’s one of the reasons I need to keep making them.

Spent most of Friday catching up, cleaning up, and getting my gear ready for the next trip. I wonder where it will be? It will have a tough act to follow after this one, which was deeply fulfilling, one of my best.

Thanks for making it through the Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report!
Awesome story. Nothing like the Glades!
 

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2005 East Cape Gladesman. 2005 Panga Marine 22.
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I remember reading his columns in Florida Sportsman whenever he fished with his (at that time pre teen boys)in a johnboat he's always been a good writer,fisherman. Good report Captain. I'll be heading that way at the beginning of the new year.
 

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Hey - I woke up one morning and realized it’s 48 years since I got out of the service (after coming back from a very bad place...).

for John... give me a call and I'll walk you through how to make sure your pics end up in your reports... I struggled with this a bit myself before sorting it out...
(954) 435-5666
 

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Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report

Wishing a most blessed Christmas to everyone.

This Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report is going to read like a full length magazine article so you might want to save it for when you’re at work.

Launched the kayak at the Everglades City Ranger Station about 11 am Sunday morning. The weather was amazing.
This is the beauty you see while paddling.

My plan was to camp two or three nights at Rabbit Key and two or three nights at Jewell Key, fish, watch stars, play harmonica, and be alone with my thoughts for a few days. It was a great plan.
Someone was watching over me.

While paddling I dragged a plastic shad behind the boat. Something hit it. A few minutes later I was surprised by a large Spanish mackerel, a beautiful fish.

Hit a young snook off a root wad, another that was banging bait. Reached Rabbit Key without further incident. The old campsite wasn’t there, a hurricane victim. I found a lovely alternate.
Home, Rabbit Key.

One of the best things about kayak camping is I can afford the finest of unspoiled waterfront properties, if only for a few days.
My front yard at sunset.

I watched the sun set and darkness fall. Watching darkness fall is the best thing you can do while it happens, every single day. It’s magical. None of us do it enough. I spotted two satellites while admiring the Milky Way. Tired from a long day of travel, I turned in.

It took me a while to get going in the morning. I headed to Rabbit Key Grasses, wondering if there was still grass (none I found). The path I intended to take had no water- low tide. A small tidal stream drained a huge, dry flat with lots of birds on it. I thought the stream should be a fish bowl but, no bites. I saw a few black drum. Some big sharks swam in water that didn’t cover them, the sunlight glinting off their back and dorsal fins.
The fish is ON!

Once the water started rising I found myself standing, poling in skinny water. Surprising me, a redfish cruised. I tossed the shad in front of it. A very satisfying eat happened. Wished I had the fly rod ready but was certainly happy the way things turned out.
This red nailed a plastic shad.

Saw a few other reds but no shots. Hit a few small trout on the way back.

Watched and savored darkness falling again. I was able to stay up for a while this evening. Saw three more satellites. Distant lightning dotted the horizon. Incoming clouds finally broke up the sky show.
Dawn view.

I woke up at 5 AM and started packing, not without enjoying a different sky. Orion was on the western horizon. A meteor fell out of Gemini and looked like it might hit me. The third-quarter moon was in Leo. It was so nice. Getting to see things like this is one of the main draws of making these trips. The fish are a bonus, man!
This trout hit a trolled shad just as the sun rose.

By 630, everything packed and breakfast eaten, I was off to Jewell Key, dragging the shad again. As the sun breached the horizon a trout nailed the shad. The fish was only about 18 inches long but was the best one I would get.
Said sunrise.

A short while later a serious tarpon rolled, only 30 feet away. Fortunately, he did not eat the shad.
Soon after this a bluefish whacked the shad. I had another specie.

The wind came up to about 12 mph. It was not an impediment to my progress.
I stopped on a long bar. The current flowed by strongly, out towards the Gulf. I thought there should be some hungry fish there. There were, but only hockey-puck-sized jacks and blue runners. Got some of each on an olive Clouser minnow. A shark threatened a couple as I played them, but it failed to commit.
Same bar, different view.

No one was there when I got to Jewell Key.

A canoe with three young guys paddled up. Three guys with camping gear in a 17 foot canoe was quite a feat of packing, methinks. Now I had neighbors. Hardly saw them, they were awesome.
Morning glories in my yard on Jewell Key.

I set up camp and went fishing, Gulf-side. Between the wind, current, and waves I could only fish by wading. It was too rough and windy to fly cast so I flung a shad, on a light jig head, over and over again, out into the Gulf.

Generally it was pretty slow but there were two flurries that produced fast action for about 15 minutes each. Redfish, trout, jacks, and ladyfish fell for my deception. A mangrove snapper was fooled too. He got in the rocks and damaged my leader before I could work him out. I stupidly did not retie the leader. Yes, I absolutely should know better.

Shortly afterwards a large snook took the bait in plain view. I hardly felt the leader break, it happened so fast. Completely deserved it.
Typical mangrove forest.

Late in the afternoon the water got too deep for comfort. Back at camp there was a new neighbor, a solo paddler around my age. Quite a nice guy. We chatted a bit, then I made my dinner and enjoyed it.

I spotted a fleet in the distance. After a few minutes it was clear they were headed our way. The sun was close to horizon- would they make it to land before it set?

Nine or ten tired, hungry paddlers from the University of Tennessee joined us that evening. Setting up camp, cooking, eating, and cleaning up were higher on their agenda than watching night fall. Woe is me- their flashlights disturbed my views. I managed to survive. Lightning flashed on the horizon. I even saw a satellite and a meteor before Orion rose, at which time I turned in.

Pounding rain and winds woke me later. It was like a fire hose blasting at my tent! I pulled my fly shut, astonished how heavy and loud the rain was. The wind pulled out the stake that was holding down the fly. Water began joining me in the tent. Somehow my bedding stayed dry. After at least an hour the rain subsided to a gentle mist. I slept until daylight.

I got up, ate breakfast, and went fishing. A ladyfish school ran into me. That was entertaining.

Got a nice red, even more entertaining. Several trout and another red followed.

By now it was time to go back to camp and clean up the mess. The sun was even poking out a bit.

The canoeists and solo paddler were gone. The Volunteers were just launching. If no one else came I’d have the place to myself. I had already decided to go home the next morning.

Getting everything dry and tidy took a couple hours. For my afternoon fishing shift the winds were light. It would be fly casting only.

I started with a pink Clouser minnow, flinging it as far as I could into the Gulf. No sight-fishing here!
This red took 30 minutes of casting.

It took 30 minutes, but finally a bite. A solid redfish, about four pounds. Smile on John’s face!
Minutes later, a bite. Little feller snook!

If I catch a trout I’ll have some kind of slam. Trout, where are you?

Another bite. Hockey-puck jack.
This snapper was an aggressive little fish.

So was this!

I switched flies, putting on the only Hootchie fly I still had. It fooled a variety of fish species- redfish, ladyfish, snapper, baby jewfish, and some solid jacks. On my last cast, as I was reeling up the line, a fish crushed the fly and ran into my backing for the first time on the trip. It was a jack of five pounds or so.
On the way back to camp I realized the wind had increased in intensity. I’d been fishing on the protected side of the island.

That evening solid overcast prevented stargazing, so I made a small fire, and of course watched darkness fall. My tent rattled and shook all night long. I was glad I had weighted the stakes down with chunks of wormrock. I did not sleep well, and got up when it got light.

I planned on leaving. Doing so would have been foolhardy. I don’t need NOAA to recognize a small craft advisory. Until the wind died back some I was stuck. I packed what I could and went on standby.
The back yard on Jewell Key,

Around noon I realized the tent wasn’t shaking as bad. My intended route did not look like a wedding cake any more. Paddling into the wind that was left would be hard, but it was no longer dangerous. I packed up.

I thought the tide was about dead low when I left. It wasn’t. I kept hoping the nose of the incoming would catch up to me. It didn’t. It was fight wind and tide the entire way. Even when it started raining I still loved every stroke.

Trips like this make me realize what an insignificant mote I am in the grand design. It’s one of the reasons I need to keep making them.

Spent most of Friday catching up, cleaning up, and getting my gear ready for the next trip. I wonder where it will be? It will have a tough act to follow after this one, which was deeply fulfilling, one of my best.

Thanks for making it through the Everglades Solo Paddle Fishing Report!
how were the bugs on your trip? I would like to do some camping as well in the glades
 
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