Florida is home to amazing saltwater and brackish water opportunities for fly fisherman. Just like fly fishing for bass in the lakes of Central Florida, the backwater creeks, bays, rivers and ponds of Florida offer great opportunities for the shore-bound fly fisherman. While your best chance to catch saltwater sport fish is on a boat, shore fishing for species like snook, juvenile tarpon, redfish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and trout can be very productive.
Related: Prefer a boat and a professional guide? Book a Fly Fishing Charter
What are the “backwaters”?
In order to understand the type of fishing I am referring to in this post, you must first understand what the term “backwater” means. On Florida’s coasts, brackish water rivers and lagoons are connected to the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico by inlets. These inlets create a highway between the river and the ocean, allowing tides and saltwater to mix and influence the freshwater river, creating an inshore brackish water ecosystem that serves as a playground to boaters and water lovers and is home to hundreds of gamefish species.
With inlets and passes serving as the main source of saltwater in the intracoastal waterways, mainland rivers and creeks serve as the freshwater sources for these same waters. Brackish sections of these freshwater sources are often unaffected or minimally affected by tides and current, creating calm and quiet sanctuaries for saltwater fish to grow and live. Often these areas are up small creeks or canals that open into larger bays or ponds and are “hard to get to” spots. This is what we refer to as the “backwaters.”
Where are the backwaters and what do they hold?
Backwaters is a general term, and can refer to anything from marshlands directly next to the saltwater to freshwater rivers connecting to the intracoastal to landlocked ponds and ditches that connect to the brackish water sources through underground pipes and culverts. Spots like these hold the two most sought out game fish in Florida, tarpon and snook.
Backwater spots offer protection to young and juvenile snook and tarpon until they reach sizes large enough to venture out into the saltwater. In the winter, backwaters offer fish protection from the cold waters in the main channels and refuge from bigger predators in the warmer months. Do note, although the backwaters may hold mostly juvenile fish, big fish can almost always be found in these spots as well and often times some of your biggest catches will come out of the same water as the smallest.