Snake Bight poll-and-troll zone up for review

A year after the expansive and experimental pole-and-troll fishing area at Snake Bight took effect, Everglades National Park managers want to hear from anglers and boaters on “how you think it’s working.”

Park staff holds two sessions — Monday in Homestead and March 8 in Key Largo — to provide updates and take suggestions on the 9,400-acre, no-motor zone in Florida Bay, east of the park’s Flamingo Visitor Center.

“If people want better access to Snake Bight, it’s critical that they show up,” Islamorada fisherman Jim Trice said.

Trice heads the Alternative E Working Group, which advocated for a pole-and-troll zone as a test area for what could be management concepts for Florida Bay waters within Everglades National Park.

“It’s flawed as it exists,” Trice said this week. “They closed a huge body of water by not allowing the ingress that we recommended.”

In the Snake Bight zone, boaters can use combustion engines to travel on plane in Tin Can Channel and Snake Bight Channel, and move at slow speed through Jimmie’s Lake.

Elsewhere, boats must travel by electric trolling motors or flats push poles to reduce prop scarring on the shallow flats and seagrasses.

“You can fish the edges but you can’t get in and out of Snake Bight anymore,” Trice said. “They didn’t take our advice on ingress and egress from Porpoise Point” on the east side of the water body.

Richard Grathwohl of the Marathon Guides Association said the pole-and-troll zone has reduced conflicts between speeding boaters and flats anglers, and helped the shallow ecosystem.

“Nobody’s getting blasted there like it used to be,” Grathwohl said. “It helps the environment, which is our economic engine.”

Trice and Grathwohl both lauded the park’s commitment to “adaptive management” — altering rules to deal with problems or unexpected consequences.

“It’s time to fine-tune the plan so we can build on what we’ve learned and make the area fishable again,” Trice said. “Everything needs to be fine-tuned,” Grathwohl said. “It’s good that we don’t have to wait five years to make a change to something that we can live with.”

Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball said in a statement, “When the Snake Bight [zone] was being designed, we committed to have ongoing discussions with public once the zone was in place to help determine if the project objectives were being met and how it might be improved over time.”

At the upcoming sessions, people can comment on the area’s boundaries, signs, needed changes and “how it’s working,” Kimball said. Open meetings are scheduled to run from 5:30 to 8 p.m.:

  • March 5 at the John Campbell Agricultural Center, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead.

  • March 8, Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center, mile marker 102 bayside, Key Largo.

    After an hour of informal meetings with park staff, a presentation on the zone and recent findings will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Comments will be taken at 7.

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