To The Keys! (Part II - The Everglades)

To the Keys!

Date:  Sunday, March 25, 2012

Location:  South Florida


We woke up bright and early and ate the best continental breakfast, ever.  Chunks of butter carefully arranged on a plastic tray and a coffee maker filled with warm orange juice. 


Florida Everglades Cypress Trees in Low Water


Water was very low in South Florida.  We had to skip the first five or six spots because they were dry.  But as we ventured farther east, we began to find open water.  And we began to catch fish!


Mayan Cichlids in the Everglades (Atomic Sunfish)


Mayan Cichlids were one of the most common catches. These are also called "Atomic Sunfish" by the locals, because of their bright coloration and beligerent behavior. The bigger ones were tough fighters.  We also caught some Largemouth Bass, Florida Bluegill, Warmouth, and Spotted Sunfish.


Spotted Tilapia in the Everglades


Spotted Tilapia were also common - Josh and Becky must've caught a dozen each.  I missed out on this species completely, only catching a small one which I decided not to photograph since catching another one seemed so certain!  I definitely will need a rematch with this species.


Alligator in the Everglades


Gators were everywhere, and would try to steal your catches before you could land them.


Flyfishing in the Florida Everglades


I started chucking a streamer fly at some big Florida Gar.  While the gar grabbed the fly aggressively, I couldn't keep them on the line.  Finally, i made a long cast into some deeper water and something engulfed it! 


Flyfishing for Oscar in the Florida Everglades


This beefy Oscar finally came to hand.  What a magnificent specimen, and a great lifelister.  This is a species I'd caught many years ago but never photographed.  It sure put a big bend in the flyrod!


Oscar on the Fly in the Florida Everglades


Beautiful colors on this fish.


African Jewel Cichlid in the Everglades


I switched to a small hook and caught this African Jewel Cichlid.


Ouch - Hook in Finger


The small hook gave Josh a little bit of trouble.  Luckily, he was able to extract it without too much mangling.  Those tiny hooks are sharp!


Jewel Cichlid EvergladesBecky Jewel Cichlid


Josh and Becky both jumped at the chance to add the Jewel Cichlid to their lifelists!


Blue Tilapia from the Florida Everglades


This big Blue Tilapia was a real challenge.  These fish are difficult, to say the least, and confusing.  In some spots they would ignore everything - then at other spots, they would chase down and attack streamer flies.  This one fell for a worm under a float.  It got tangled up in some vegetation, so I had to go into the water to free it.  I just managed to hop back onto shore with my prize before the gators tore me to pieces.  Josh was somewhat concerned for my safety when he ran up to find me thrashing around in a gator hole trying to land the tilapia.  Big, tough fish, these guys.


Then, we tried briefly for Peacock Bass.  Unfortunately, they didn't cooperate, and with the wind picking up and the day winding down we had to push on to our destination.



Finally, we had arrived at Big Pine Key.  We set up camp just as night was falling, and Josh and I were able to sneak in an hour of fishing under a nearby bridge before hitting the sack.  I even managed a lifer - Sailor's Choice, a tasty species of grunt.



Josh caught a few small sailors choice, a few short schoolmaster and mangrove snapper and small white and bluestriped grunt. Unfortunately the overall size and numbers of our catches were not enough for a quick meal.


We packed up and headed over to No Name Pub for some pizza and a grouper sandwich.  After dinner we strolled over the the Bridge and spotted our first small tarpon on feeding in the shallows. Tired and unprepared for fishing we decided it was best to be off to bed. We fell asleep to the sound of wind in the palm trees and waves lapping on the beach.  The next day was going to be the start of something EPIC!  I found it hard to sleep, with visions of saltwater species dancing in my head.


Lifelist Entries


  • Cichlid, Oscar
  • Cichlid, Mayan
  • Cichlid, African Jewel
  • Grunt, Sailor's Choice


  • African Jewel Cichlid
  • Driving finger


  • African jewel Cichlid


Species List:


MNbowfinangler's picture

We woke up bright and early and ate the best continental breakfast, ever.  Chunks of butter carefully arranged on a plastic tray and a coffee maker filled with warm orange juice.

Where did you stay? That's pretty bad. If you're ever in Naples again we loved the Inn of Naples. The room was about $80 bucks for a night but it felt a lot nicer than that. Nice report and love seeing all the photos!

Cast_and_Blast's picture

Beautiful fish and nice pics.  This makes me want to go on a road trip really bad.

JK's picture

I tip my Roughfish cap to Trailboss Corey for his determination in the face of man-eating reptiles trying to steal his fish and limbs.

I'd be so damned jittery that when I was finally convinced I had secured the area from 'gators, a terrible case of M1 Thumb would play hell with my casting.




Deftik's picture

Yeah, this is pure torture my july trip to florida can't come soon enough! What a wide array of species 0.o

Mike B's picture

I... Can't.. Wait. Great report Corey.

mike b