We woke up to the sound of a million buzzes. The mesh on our tent was completely covered in no-see-ums and mosquitoes. We were so happy to have a durable tent. Cooney checked the grill from last night.
Unfortunately this meant driving into Homestead for internet access in the morning. It delayed our start time with Capt. Benny Blanco (FishingFlamingo.com) at the marina in Flamingo. We met at 9:15 and hit the flats. On the way out of the marina, we encountered four small manatees, which was on my list of must-sees for this trip. Not long after we witnessed a pod of dolphin corralling mullet. I’ve never seen this in all of the time I’ve spent around dolphins.
There is nothing like flying across the water in less than one foot of water. This boat is incredibly setup for this kind of fishing. The water is so clear here, we have already seen so much and we haven’t even been on the water for an hour.
We have never done this kind of sight fishing before; we learned to love it instantly. There is such sport in having to perfectly execute the cast and retrieval. Cooney caught another nice trout and I lost a big red. It spit the hook; I was pretty disappointed to lose him.
Sight fishing for the reds was off the chart. We caught more reds than we could count. And most of them we saw before we caught. We were all throwing weedless jerkbaits without much weight. We’d spot the fish, cast in front of it, a little beyond it, and reel it right in front of the fish, keeping it moving very slowly. With a single fish we’d work it pretty slowly, a little faster when we were casting to a school of them.
We moved on to the flat known as Snake Bite. The water was a little murkier here but we could still spot fish when they were tailing. Benny would say, “floater at 10 o’clock, floater at 3 o’clock.” It really helped us out. We were both lower in the boat and spotting the fish would’ve been nearly impossible for our inexperienced eyes.
Each time we saw a tarpon, we’d try our hardest to get it to bite our lure.We knew that we most likely couldn’t land the fish even if we could hook one. The light tackle we were using was meant for seatrout and reds. It was still a fun challenge. We scared them pretty good, and as a result, they scared us with their violent thrashing.
Then another tarpon started taunting us on this flat. He was probably about 70 pounds. We decided to pursue him to see if he would bite. HE DID! He had gotten within 10 feet of the boat and Jeremy cast an orange-tailed jerkbait in front of his face and HE STRUCK! We saw his gills flare up and Benny yelled, “SET THE HOOK!” It was such a sight to see! The fish went crazy with his acrobatic display and almost jumped in the boat. (I’m so glad he didn’t!) Then the chase was on! He jumped and thrashed 3 times and Benny was a machine at the poling position, calling it “down and dirty” chasing.
Cooney had the fish just about whooped but the tarpon had one more burst of energy which sadly broke the already frayed 30 pound fluorocarbon leader. This was such an amazing experience! We are hooked!
Cooney was already smoking me pretty hardcore in our fishing competition of the day and Capt. Benny wanted to help him complete his slam. He went in heavy pursuit of snook. The only problem was the wind had picked up which had started chopping up the water. This made spot fishing for snook much more difficult.
Double hookups of redfish were common throughout the day. Cooney got burnt because he was being stubborn and didn’t want to miss a second of fishing to apply sunscreen. You definitely need a hat and a good pair of polarized glasses and sunscreen to survive a day in the Everglades.
Back at the marina, we saw our manatees again. We also saw a 7-foot gator following a small boat. We were happy to have seen a gator; we wouldn’t have felt complete without seeing a gator in the Everglades. Benny told us that this is one of the only places where alligators and crocodiles co-exist. I may have freaked out if I had run into a croc. He also told us a story of this time when he was on the boat with a couple of clients and a gator actually tried to climb in the boat with them! Crazy! Anyway, after stalking the gator and the manatees around the marina for a while, we decided it was time to shower up and hit the road for the night.
We still needed to make a stop in Hollywood to return a borrowed pole to Eric and Leah and to make a little goodbye visit. We ended up staying a little longer than expected. I ate more sushi from my tuna catch yesterday and also seared some on the grill for the rest of the group. We are going to be staying in the honeymoon suite at the Driftwood Motel in Jensen Beach. We are extremely excited about sleeping in an air-conditioned room and on a mattress. Plus, we got to get ready for our day in Stuart!