Fishing adventures in South Florida
I haven’t always been primarily focused on fly fishing for trout. For six years I lived in Miami and have fond memories of fishing exploits during that period. Occasionally I would fly fish from my kayak in the Everglades, but mostly my fishing would be from a charter boat for large game fish, such as sailfish, swordfish and Mahi (aka, dolphin fish).
I did my kayak fishing near Everglades City, which is a 2 hour drive due west of Miami. It was quite the adventure and there were a ton of different fish species that you could target, including snook, sea trout, tarpon, lady fish and redfish. I also hooked into a jack crevalle that felt like it could drag me and my kayak clear across the Gulf of Mexico. But competing with the ubiquitous (and noisy) airboats became dicey and I found other ways to satisfy my fishing itch.
More often than not this was aboard a boat chartered with Miss Britt Charters out of Coral Gables. I vividly remember the first trip because it was an all-night excursion for swordfish. Captain Ray and I sat around a lot and caught nothing that night, but I persevered and rebooked a subsequent trip during which I was rewarded with seven, large swordfish. Night fishing for 'swords' is pretty compelling when the bite is on, as there are probably 4-5 lines in the water with large balloons as indicators. It’s an eerie sensation floating in pitch black with what appear to be backlit Chihuly sculptures surrounding the boat, listening for the tick, tick, tick of the reel as a sword takes the bait. Then it's game-on as you spend the next 20-30 minutes fighting a 50–100-pound fish until you are spent. Imagine having to do that 7 times in one night!
A more memorable day trip with Captain Ray was in September of 2004. I was traveling on business in the Caribbean when a major storm blew through and stranded me for two days longer than I expected to be there. I had a fishing trip planned with visitors on a Miss Britt Charter, but arrived back to Miami two hours later than the departure. Captain Ray was gracious enough to launch with my party for some in-shore fishing and returned to pick me up in the Gables marina. On that day, I landed my first sailfish after a 45-minute battle. Captain Ray was certain it was close to a record size (around 110 pounds at the time), but I opted to release the beauty. We also put a ton of tuna in the freezer as a result of that trip.
Over the years fishing for sailfish, I saw it evolve from basic trolling to outrigger fishing to kite fishing. The experience of kite fishing is amazing! The kites are launched from outriggers with the baits drifting on the surface mimicking wounded fish. Spotting a frigate bird circling above will telegraph an impending strike by a sailfish, and it can be quite the spectacle when that fish races to the bait – water is parted, a commotion ensues, the kite detaches from the outrigger and the fish is on! Then it is up to the angler to pump and reel!
A favorite prey on these trips was Mahi, or dolphin fish. When these fish are schooling and feeding, it can be mayhem. I recall one excursion when we were trolling several lines off the back of the boat, hooking up a fish and as we were reeling in that fish, several other curious fish would approach and get hooked up on the other lines. On that day, I think we hooked up on 50+ fish and sent most back into the sea out of sympathy.
Note: I am not being compensated for my mention of the Miss Britt charter. I am simply a happy past client.