Exploring the Everglades

Exploring the Everglades
Entering the backcountry of Everglades National Park

In late February 2016 a friend of mine, Brent Watts, and I headed to Everglades National Park to fish and camp for a few days in hopes of finding some early season tarpon.  It was our first time in the Park and we really didn’t know what to expect.  Having only seen pictures and some videos, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Day 1: 2/28/16

I drove down to Savannah, GA from Charleston, SC to meet up with Brent.  We did our normal camping routine of going to the grocery store, packing the car and loading Brent’s 13 ft. Boston Whaler that we have fished out of since we were 12 years old.  After a few beers at dinner we were ready to head south the next morning.  We arrived at the Flamingo Visitors Center at 4:45 PM, which was cutting it very close because you can’t camp in the backcountry without a reservation and the visitor center closes at 5 PM.  We loaded up the boat and headed to make camp at the Shark River Chickee (if my memory serves me correctly), which can be seen below:

Chickee camping.

It was a surprisingly chilly evening, and the mosquitoes were as advertised, but we made the most of it and had a great night camping.  The stars were incredibly bright that night and we could even see the Milky Way.  I have camped in some very remote locations and will have to say that the stars in the Everglades are just as vibrant as big sky country in Montana.

Chickee cooking.

Day 2: 2/29/16

After a good night’s sleep, we awoke early to fish, but didn’t have any luck.  We spooked a big snook out of the mangroves, but that was all the action we saw, before moving our camp to the Joe River Chickee around noon. We took a nap after lunch and then headed back out for some afternoon fishing, which was very productive.  We caught mostly mangrove snappers and ladyfish, but also a couple of barracuda and Jack’s.  Although we didn’t see any tarpon, it really didn’t matter because we were blown away by the Everglades’ serenity and beauty.  The backcountry of the Everglades is immense and its the kind of place that you not only could get lost in, but perhaps if you had the time and provisions, would like to get lost in so that you could see it all.  Complete solitude, natural splendor and all the anticipation and excitement that come with every cast on new water.

The Everglades are truly unique and something that anyone who appreciates the outdoors needs to experience.  The water ranges from gin clear and almost black in appearance to a hazelnut brown.  We were surrounded by endless mangroves and abundant bird life.  The sounds of all the different species of birds is like nothing I had ever heard before.  Some of the birds sounded prehistoric, which is fitting for being in such a wild place.  And I forgot to mention, the sunsets aren’t too bad either….

Sunset in the Everglades

Day 3: 3/1/16

We fished around our campsite the following day and found a little creek that led to a pond that we hoped would be holding some laid up tarpon, but still no luck.  That afternoon we packed up our campsite and headed to fish on the ocean side, which before this trip, I wasn’t aware that Everglades National Park included the ocean side to be completely honest.

The ocean side is a very different experience than the backcountry.  Moving from calm waters and little to no breeze to the windy and choppy waters one can expect from the ocean.  The water was a murky turquoise (at least while we were there) closer to the beaches and shoreline, but much clearer out on the grass flats just a few hundred feet from the beach.  This move paid off as Brent caught his first snook and a nice redfish.

Brent’s first snook!

We set up camp at the East Cape campground.  It’s a long strand of beach and the campfire and breeze provided a nice reprieve from the gnats and mosquitoes.  Another great night camping and enjoying the Everglades.

East Cape camping.

Day 4: 3/2/16

We woke up early and caught some speckled trout and spent the afternoon catching more trout and Jack’s.

Nice little speckled trout.

I love getting the opportunity to fish new water and also the thrill of trying to figure it out on your own.  Brent and I were coming down from the Lowcountry, where we grew up fishing our nutrient-rich muddy waters and know what to expect.  It’s such a rewarding experience to go on a trip like this.   Challenging?  You bet.  Frustrating?  Certainly.  But being able to see something you have never seen, hear the songs of exotic birds you’ve never heard before and then finally getting just dialed in enough to have some consistent fishing is all anyone can hope for.

Just as the Lowcountry has barrier islands and salt marshes that provide habitat for a variety of fishes and other species, the Everglades has mangroves and grass flats that do the same.  It is beautiful and unlike any place I have ever seen.  From zero light pollution in the backcountry, horrendous gnats and mosquitoes, amazing sunsets, robust mangroves and abundant wildlife, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it and want to do everything I can to protect them for future generations.

Take Action

The Everglades are a precious resource, and unfortunately they are in danger, which is why Emerger Strategies is proud to have joined Orvis and 28 other outdoor brands in running an advertisement in The Miami Herald recently telling Gov. Rick Scott that there is a solution to the collapse of the Everglades, but we must act now.  If you love the Everglades, want to protect it and have your voice heard, please take the following actions:

I can’t help but be reminded of the famous quote from John F. Kennedy when thinking about the decisions being made today that will have irreversible consequences and that will affect my generation indefinitely:

If not us, who?  If not now, when?

We are doing everything we can to prevent the collapse of such an environmental and economic asset and hope you will too, because it’s #NowOrNeverglades and it’s our generation’s turn to demand the future we want!

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