Lessons Learned Fishing in the Florida Everglades

by John Merwin

I spent the past few days at one of my favorite fishing areas, the 10,000 Islands/Everglades region of southwest Florida. For inshore, light-tackle saltwater anglers there is probably no better place–not even the Florida Keys. In fishing here with Capt. Terry Shaughnessy, I also learned a few things that others might find helpful regardless of where you fish. Shaughnessy is roughly my age, meaning he’s been around the block more than a time or two, so I was especially interested to see how he rigged and fished his gear.

There are countless small islets and cays in this wilderness, mostly within Everglades National Park, where on any particular day we were catching redfish, seatrout, snook (as in the photo), jacks, and potentially tarpon if we found them–we didn’t. Most of our fishing was with medium-weight spinning tackle using 3-inch soft-plastic grubs on various sizes of leadhead jigs. Pretty simple, and the grubs worked for everything.

Shaughnessy’s reels were spooled with 30-pound PowerPro braid with a 30-pound mono leader attached with back-to-back uniknots. The braid was fine enough to cast easily, yet strong enough to usually pull free when I sent an errant cast into the mangrove branches. It was also strong enough to pull free of the bottom when I snagged on one of the numerous oyster bars. So that line-strength combination meant we didn’t waste a lot of time having to retrieve snagged lures or re-rigging from breakoffs. Now I’m going to re-rig some (but not all) of my freshwater-bass gear in a similar fashion.

Another interesting thing was the lure shown in the snook’s mouth in the photo. It’s the newest hard-bodied, jointed swimbait from Cabela’s, called a RealImage HDS Swimbait. It swims well, it’s comparatively cheap ($7), and the snook loved it. It is also, unfortunately, not rigged for saltwater use. It may be that the hinge pins inside the joints will rust. Unlike the hooks, those would be almost impossible to replace. We’ll see, but meanwhile it’s on my spring list of things to try for freshwater bass.

Meanwhile, I’m back in the cool, rainy North Country thinking about how nice and warm it was down in Everglades City. And smiling as I remember how, as my companion and I got out of the car to meet our charter captain at the local diner, Shaughnessy blasted the theme song from “Rocky” out of a portable recorder.

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