If Stephen Foster had known about the Econlockhatchee, or Econ, the lyrics to his famous song may have been different.
The Econ doesn’t come up in discussions of great Florida fishing waters. Fishing the Econ is usually a lovely day on the water with a few beautiful fish thrown in. It can be better than that, but you really can’t expect it to be.
Right here in Florida, the fisheries lab at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), in Fort Lauderdale, has emerged as a fountain of useful research into blackfin tuna. Under the direction of Assistant Professor Dr. David Kerstetter, three research papers have contributed much to the scientific and common understanding of the species’ habitat, growth and reproduction.
When you hear the word bass, most think of sparkly boats, baitcasters and big tournament payouts. But for fisherman in South Florida, the peacock bass is the staple in the local freshwater systems. With their aggressive eats, strong runs and beautiful colors, these fish have become prized gamefish.
The first time I live chummed offshore I had my angler standing beside me with a fly in the water waiting for a fish to cast at, only to have a 15-pound bonito make an arrival that just about ripped the rod out of his hand. There was no need to set the hook, as all his concentration and strength went into retaining possession of the rod as the fish dumped the 8-weight well into the backing.
Find a dark, stagnant pool or stream tucked way back in a mangrove swamp and there’s a good chance you’ll spot little silver fish rolling at the surface. Odds are they are tarpon, very small ones, only 1 to 3 feet long, and they are gulping air—a survival tactic that enables these fish to survive in habitats that repel most others.
Florida anglers have access to a year-round fishery for these speedy predators. While there are many techniques for landing a big kingfish, one that you’ll want to have in your bag of tricks is kite fishing live baits. This method is especially productive along the edge of the reef while drifting or anchored over a wreck.
Sight fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish inshore, whether it is a school of redfish feeding on a grassflat, a snook roaming a shoreline, or a laid up tarpon in the back-country. To be successful at sight fishing, you must see the fish. Obvious, right? But to the untrained eye, this can be difficult and very frustrating.
Sketchy low tides and a minefield of oyster shell? No problem for these Northeast Florida kayakers. Edward Abbey once said if you want to see the desert, get down on your knees and start crawling. Kayaking is the boating equivalent, with fish and other wildlife only inches away.
As we exited the bustling Turnpike on a sunny March Friday afternoon after a six-hour drive south from Tallahassee, we noticed the weekend traffic picking up, boats being trailered to the water, tops down on convertibles and Jeeps—spring had arrived in the Sunshine State. Winding back on a county road to a series of dirt roads in western Martin County, my husband Tony and I made our way to a gate where cattle skulls welcomed us from each side of tall fence posts made of railroad ties.
Both waterways terminate at Lake Okeechobee, arguably the world’s most famous largemouth bass fishery. But if your idea of bass fishing is pitching soft plastics through hydrilla mats, drifting huge wild shiners and zooming home with 250 horses at your transom, you’re in for an awakening.