The sun beginning to set over our camp site
South of Miami on U.S. 1, there is a large highway-sign almost every Florida saltwater angler knows: a four-way intersection that gives anglers an entryway to three of the best fishing locations in the world.
To the east, Biscayne Bay with its shallow crystal clear flats and big bonefish is a short drive away. South is the entryway to the Florida Keys and arguably the best tarpon fishing in Florida.
The Get Local crew (myself, Mike and our friend Stephen) opted to go west, deep into Everglades National Park, to do some backcountry fishing and camping at the Flamingo Campground.
The Get Local crew's truck - loaded down for backwater fishing
We left Orlando at 9 A.M. with the truck loaded up - 10 fishing poles, two standup paddleboards, a kayak and more gear than any one truck should hold. After a five-hour drive, a stop at Chik-Fil-A and some goggling over freshwater canals filled with peacock bass, we made it to Everglades National Park.
The ponds and lakes a couple miles away from Flamingo Campground are about as backwater as it gets. These mostly freshwater ponds connect to the saltwater through mazes of mangrove creeks where catches of anything from tarpon and snook to bass and peacock bass are possible.
Most of these ponds are on the main road before you reach Flamingo, so we decided to fish from shore and pond hop down the road until we reached the campground.
Our first stop was Nine Mile Pond, home of some of the biggest crocodiles and alligators in the Everglades. Fly fishing the shoreline, I was able to pluck a nice little bass from past the weed line and lost a peacock bass on the same fly. We hopped around to a couple other surrounding ponds with no luck before heading down to Flamingo to set up camp.
Trey Dyer with a nice bass caught on the fly in the Everglades
After setting up camp 10 yards from the Florida Bay shore, we decided to take advantage of the calm winds at sunset. We launched our paddleboards and the kayak on the flats directly next to our campsite.
For the 30 minutes prior to sunset, we chased 20-50 pound tarpon tailing in the shallow water of the flats. Unfortunately, these tarpon were too smart (or picky) to eat our lures that evening and we headed back to shore shortly after it got dark.
A nice shot of the sunset snapped from Mike's kayak in the Everglades
We celebrated our successful arrival to Flamingo over beers and cheddar stuffed burgers with sautéed vegetables over the campfire. Other than the ungodly amounts of bug spray we had to bathe in to keep the mosquitoes and noseeums off of us, it was the perfect start to our Everglades camping trip.
We spent the rest of the night wandering the marina docks with our spinning rods and watching the 18 foot crocodile that lives under the dock there float around on top of the water in the moon light before calling it a night.
Related: Click Here To Book a Flamingo Camping Fishing Trip With Trey and Mike
Mike throwing his castnet from the paddleboard
Day two saw a change in the weather that put a damper on our plans quite a bit. Overnight, 25 MPH winds moved in, making the outside unfishable from our paddle vessels. We woke up and scarfed down some ham and turkey sandwiches and gave it a go on the flats next to campground. After about an hour of no good fish (Mike managed a lady fish on a jerkbait) we headed back to the campsite for lunch before deciding to head out to fish the ponds.
Unfortunately, the high winds coming from the north made fishing from the paddleboards and kayak nearly impossible. After hitting the Noble Hammock Canoe Trail (really cool little trail through the mangrove backcountry, definitely worth 40 minutes of your time), we headed back to the campsite to drink some midday beers and wait for the wind to calm down around sunset.
About 2 hours before sunset, we launched the paddleboards and kayak to give it another go on the flats next to our campsite. Again, right before dark, the tarpon started to come onto the flats. While they refused all our offerings, it was still thrilling to throw at the hordes of fish.
Trey looking for fish from atop his standup paddleboard in the Everglades
After sunset, the temperature started to drop. The first cold front of the year was moving in, dropping our pleasant 80-degree weather down into the low 50’s. We warmed ourselves up with a not-so-camping-typical high quality meal of steak and vegetable stir-fry with noodles (if you’re going to cook while you’re camping, you might as well cook something delicious).
Trey's snook in the Everglades
After a long cold night in the tent, we awoke to 35 MPH winds, eliminating any chance of us fishing from the kayak or paddleboards. We decided to pack up camp and try fishing a couple ponds from shore before making the drive back to Orlando.
We stopped over at Paurotis Pond, an awesome backwater lake known for large populations of migratory birds that inhabit it during certain times of the year (at which times all vessels are prohibited from launching).
Fishing from shore, we decided to throw some Rapala Skitterwalk topwater lures. A couple casts in and bam! A nice snook inhaled my lure. After a quick photo, he was back on his way. On the very next cast, yet another nice snook hammered my lure. Slightly bigger than the first, this fish put up a great fight. We snapped one more picture and called it a day.
On the way out of the everglades, we decided to try and catch some peacock bass in the canals around Florida City. With no luck on peacock bass, we refueled at the Taco Bell/KFC and headed north on the turnpike and began discussing our next outing.