Everglades National Park, Florida
Chokoloskee Island is smack-dab in the middle of a kayak fisherman’s nirvana-the western edge of Everglades National Park. Look on a map and you will see literally 10,000 islands surrounded by mangroves, mudflats, oyster bars, sandy beaches, and a rich marine nursery that is home to an amazingly diverse fishery-trout, redfish, snook, tarpon, and cobia abound.
With its many varieties of fish, vast array of fishable habitat throughout the year, and protected waters in almost any weather, this is one of the best kayak-fishing spots in the world.
The Chokoloskee put-in is a great place to start from. There is excellent trout, redfish, and snook fishing close by, or you can paddle a short distance to the nearest group of islands or even to the outer islands, an easy six miles away. Many kayak anglers make a day of it by fishing on the outgoing tide to the outer islands, lunching on one of the white sandy beaches looking out to the open Gulf of Mexico, then floating back with the tide. Ample current allows you to concentrate on fishing and still make it back; just be sure to note the channel markers on the way out. Those mangrove islands all look alike, and it’s easy to get turned around.
If the weather changes and the wind comes up, there are many protected spots around the islands to get out of the wind and continue fishing.
Look for tailing redfish in the shallows near the mangroves or jig for trout on the grass flats. If you’re lucky, you’ll paddle by manatees swimming or see porpoises fishing in the shallow waters.
When to Go: Snook year-round (but biggest in summer), reds year-round (but best in the fall), trout year-round, tarpon and cobia spring and fall
Fish to Fish: Speckled trout, snook, redfish, tarpon, cobia
Where They Hide: Trout-grassy flats; redfish-mangrove edges and oyster bars; snook-mangrove roots and passes
Terminal Tackle: Shrimp, pinfish, and small crabs for live bait; gold spoons, MirrOlures, Rapalas, DOA Shrimp, and soft jigs
Recommended Outfitter: Chokoloskee Charters' mother-ship trips can get you and your kayak to the faraway fishing holes seldom visited by paddlers.
Bites and Beers: Everglades City Rod and Gun Club (200 Riverside Drive; 239-695-2101). This is a gorgeous mansion with dark-stained cypress wood on the interior. You expect to find Papa Hemingway at the bar talking up his latest fishing adventures. The screened-in porch dining area overlooking the water is pure Florida style.