Section One – Florida Bay

Section One – Florida Bay

The Florida Bay side of Flamingo consists of square miles of shallow grass flats. These flats are teaming with life. From hundreds of different species of birds that hunt on these shallow grass flats, to the many different species of fish found in the waters of Florida Bay, this is the best sight fishing found in Flamingo.
This is some of the fishing to be expected on a trip out in Florida Bay. Redfish would have to top the list of sought after and sight fished. The best and far most exciting way to fish them would have to be when the Redfish are tailing. Redfish are far less spooky as a bonefish. When a redfish is tailing, it is looking for a crab or shrimp that had burrowed into the mud and the redfish is trying to root them out. Their heads will be buried deep into the grass and mud. So a good accurate cast is needed. You will need to place a fly right on his nose. I have had some anglers get as many as 30 casts to a redfish without spooking him. This would never happen with a bonefish. To get a redfish to take a fly or lure or shrimp, he just needs to see it. His vision is very restricted with all the grass and sometimes mud in front of his eyes. But as soon as a redfish sees or smells your fly or bait, he will eat right away.
We may also find redfish cruising the flats, there may be a single one or a pack of 4 to 6 fish. Sometime, we will find them in large schools of 100 to 200 that will encompass the boat. We may also find them mudding or following the stingrays. The redfish are letting the stingrays kick up a shrimp or crab off the bottom. And they will swim over and eat it. I’ve seen up to six redfish at a time following a single stingray. With their tails all popping up out of the water at the same time. Jack cravelles will also follow these stingrays. They will run about 2 to 6 pounds and will love to crash a surface fly or lure. They are very strong fish and good action.
Tarpon Most of the tarpon that we find on the Florida Bay area of Flamingo are babies, in the 10 to 25 pound class. You can find them around the deeper channels and basins throughout Florida Bay. We will find them rolling in the morning hours. This is when they come to the surface to gulp air. Rolling lets us know where they are at so, we can position the boat to get a shot at them. Florida Bay also has plenty of big tarpon as well. At times you may find a bay that’s full of big tarpon that will just lay up on the surface soaking up the sun’s rays.
The largest tarpon that we have ever landed on a fly rod came from Florida Bay. This fish weighed 170 pounds, caught by John Costello.
Snook I’ll find most of my snook come from Florida Bay along the channels running through the miles of grass flats. We will also find a fair share of them right up on the flats. I love to sight fish snook. You can find them just cruising along or just sitting on the bottom waiting to ambush the first thing that comes their way. We will also find lots of snook in the potholes. This is a slightly deeper portion of the flat that has no grass in it. While fishing these potholes, there’s absolutely no telling just what you may get: Snook, redfish, speckled seatrout, tarpon, jacks, snapper, ladyfish. Ther is nothing like casting a top water lure or fly and seeing it get blasted by one of these fish.
Sharks There are a great number of species of Sharks on the flats of Florida Bay. Some of these are Lemon, Black tip, Bull, Silky, Dusky, Shovelhead, Nurse and some Hammerheads and Tiger Sharks. Most all of these species of Shark can be caught easily and children just love to see and catch them. We can also get sharks to take a fly. This is a great way to introduce a novice fly fisherman to saltwater.

As a fly fisherman, you may get lots of opportunities to cast to them and learn the skills necessary to become a proficient saltwater fly fisherman. For a bait fisherman, it’s a good way to catch that over 100 lb fish. Lots of action from some sharks that jump to others that take a bait or lure right off the surface or right next to the boat. Florida Bay provides fishing for the complete novice to the most experienced anglers. This is the best place to take your kids fishing. You can find great action with Speckled Seatrout, Jacks, Ladyfish, Mackerel, Sharks, and many other species of fish found throughout Florida Bay.

Section Three – Biscayne Bay and the Keys

Section Three – Biscayne Bay and the Keys

Shadowed by the Miami skyline, this is where the Florida Keys begin. The gin clear water off Key Biscayne has miles of grass flats along with shallow hard bottom with both soft and hard coral growing on them. Biscayne Bay has some of the largest Bonefish in the world. Several world record bonefish have come from these waters. Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit. Barracuda and sharks are some of the main species of fish to be targeted off Key Biscayne and the Florida Keys.

Bonefish, also known as the gray ghost of the flats, with his silver sides, allows him to reflect any type of bottom that he might swim over just like a mirror. Some of the situations you may expect to see while fishing for bonefish. During lower stages of the tide or when viability is low, I’ll try to look for tailing bonefish. This is when a school or maybe single bonefish is rooting around the bottom looking for food. In very shallow water, his tail pops up and breaks the surface of the water. This is called tailing. A tailing bone fish is probably the most difficult situation to catch a bone fish but also the most exciting way to fish for them. Imagine a 6 or 7 inch tail popping up in front of you, just waving around almost taunting you as if to say ‘Catch me if you can!’. You may also see cruising bonefish. This is where they could be moving to another spot or looking for some food depending on their speed. You may also come across mudding bone fish. This is where bonefish may have found something (shrimp or crab) on the bottom and are rooting them out, sucking in some sand or mud off the bottom and blowing it out through their gills. This is the best situation for catching bonefish. One, they are feeding! Two, They’re not as spooky because their guard is down and their visibility is restricted due to them mudding the area. A shrimp, crab or fly placed right into their feeding zone usually will result in a hookup fight. Pound for pound A bonefish is the strongest fish that swims the flats.

Permit, some of the situations you may encounter while permit fishing. You may find permit tailing also. These fish average 15 to 25 lbs. They have a large sickle tail that when it comes out of the water is truly a sight to behold. I prefer to use small crabs for them on light line so that you may make a long accurate cast. And it will take the perfect cast to get a tailing permit. You will also find Permit cruising along looking for some sign of food. You will also see them mudding and this, of course, is the best way to get a hookup. Permit can also be found just floating on the surface doing something that is referred to as spiking. This is where their dorsal and tail fin just stick up above the water’s surface. Sometimes there’s just one or two, 20 or even 100 of them.

Tarpon – I’ll briefly describe some of the situations you may encounter while Tarpon fishing around the Keys and Key Biscayne. I’m mainly going to cover fly fishing for them. But there is some excellent bait and plug casting for Tarpon here. Fly fishing for Tarpon around Key Biscayne and the Florida Keys is as Billy Pate sums it up best “The ultimate in Fly Fishing”. Imagine fishing in gin clear water and seeing a school of 10 to 20 or even 100 Tarpon high and happy just gulping air every so often. That’s when you see just how huge the fish really are, maybe a 120 pounder rolls in front of you, his back 8 inches across and over 6 feet long. You have to wait for what may seem an eternity You get your chance, you place the fly just in front of the lead fish. That Tarpon comes up and sips it gently or may crash and rip that fly off the surface so fast that you barely have time to react.

You may also find yourself casting to what is called a daisy chain. This must be some type of mating ritual.. I’ve seen a school of 10 to 20 or up to 200 to 300 fish all swimming nose to tail, in a circle either clockwise or counter-clockwise. This is important to know because it will determine just where you will need to place your fly. This is just one of the many amazing acts of nature you may encounter.

Certain areas around the Florida Keys has what is called the Palalo worm hatch. This occurs near the full moons during May and June. When these little worms swarm, this can bring Tarpon by the thousands. You will see 60 to 150 lb Tarpon sipping these worms right off the water’s surface. It’s probably one of the strangest and most magnificent events in nature to take place in the Florida Keys. I’m always amazed at how many Tarpon will appear from the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden, it’s Tarpon as far as the eye can see.

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Barracuda This is one of the most underrated game fish that you can encounter in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. If you like top water lure fishing, you’ll love fishing for Barracuda. Using light weight spinning or plug tackle and you’re casting top water lures as far as you can, retrieving them with a fast retrieve. The Barracuda will just crash the lure with some spectacular strikes.

Section Four – Key Biscayne

Section Four – Key Biscayne

Night tarpon fishing off Miami. This is perfect for someone in or near Miami on business or for meetings. If they can’t get out during the day, or if they are fly fishermen who have never caught a tarpon on fly. This is without any doubt the best way to get your first tarpon. I’ve gotten countless anglers their first tarpon on a flyrod. Many anglers have been trying for years to catch one. These fish usually will run from 15 to 35 lbs. There are also times when 50 to 80 lb tarpon are very abundant.

On average, for the past year, my anglers had 6 hookup per night with a flyrod. Most of these tarpon can be fished with 8-wt to 10-wt rods. They can be landed in 10 to 20 minutes and that is usually after they have jumped 4 to 10 times.
There is lots of action to keep you awake at night.

What causes this abundance is the shrimp that live in the vast grass flats in Biscayne Bay. They run during the night to get out into the ocean. The tarpon, being mainly night feeders, will ambush the shrimp as they try to make their way out to sea.

Miami Beach After Dark

Miami Beach After Dark

by Farrow Allen

Capt. Doug Lillard cut the interior lights, shut down the engine, and let the boat coast under the bridge. A solitary heron began to pace nervously as we closed in on its perch. When we got too close, the bird gave a raucous shriek and flew into the night. Quietly Doug stepped to the bow deck and grabbed the now vacated, slimy concrete buttress to steady the boat. Above us, the whine of car tires on the bridge and the drone of a low- flying 747 marred the otherwise quiet night.
Cushioned in the darkness, surrounded by the shimmering lights of the Miami skyline, we felt isolated from the strident, mostly wide-awake city full of on-the-go tourists. I squinted at the faintly illuminated dial of my wristwatch and smiled at the notion of fly fishing in the shadow of downtown Miami after midnight.

Joining Doug on the wet deck, I crept to the edge of the gunwale and steadied myself. I began to strip line from the reel and search the water for the dark shapes of tarpon near the surface. Behind me, my exhausted companion, offered encouragement, zipped up the neck of his windbreaker, and slumped on a seat cushion behind the transom. Only minutes earlier, he’d lost a three-figure tarpon when his shock tippet wore through after more than an hour of struggle. We’d been on the water for about four hours and jumped six tarpon that were all above the 20 to 40 pound average these bridges generally product. We’d broken a 9 and a 10-weight rod and still hadn’t brought up a fish on boards. Except for the size of the fish we were hooking, it had been what Doug call ‘a fairly typical evening.’ With only an hour of good tide left, I was eager to take my turn on deck.

The outgoing tide pushed water at the bow fast enough to create a wake and a gurgling eddy around the engine. Small clusters of tarpon patrolled inside the bridge’s shadow line, ambushing shrimp drifting in the current. Before too long, Doug spotted three fish cruising near the surface, barely 25 feet from the bow. While holding us close to the bridge, he used his free hand to track their movement to the right while I tried to direct a cast ahead of them. Another fish lunged from the shadows, turned on its side, and sucked down a shrimp less than five feet from the end of my rod. I made a quick roll-cast pickup, aimed above the boil and began to retrieve my weighted rabbit-strip streamer the instant it touched the water. As the bulky line-to-leader connection bounced through the tip-top of my rod, the tarpon drifted lazily to the surface and inhaled my fly. I set the hook with two hard strips and waited for the water to erupt. For a heartbeat or two, the big fish just hung there. I glanced down to clear my line, and when I looked up the fish was coiled in the air, suspended in the lights of the bridge. It smacked the surface barely a boat-length away, throwing a bucket’s-worth of spray across the bow, and then raced to open water.

The tarpon’s first two runs against the light drag carried it safely away from any obstructions around the bridge. Doug pushed us into the open, hustled around Tony, and got the motor started. I shouted the general direction I thought the fish was taking and we followed it out to the bay. As I began to increase the pressure, Doug pointed out some shoals and warned me of several nearby navigation buoys. This was the smallest fish so far, only about 30 pounds, and I was able to quickly get my fly line back on the reel and fight it from a mostly-drifting boat. Within 15 minutes, I brought it to the side for a quick picture and safe release.

It seemed like a good time to end the evening on a high note and head for the dock. Tony and I would have the next two days, Friday and Saturday, to relax on the beach and soak up some of South Beach’s eclectic night life. Monday we’d be back on the water with Doug for two more nights of fishing.

Working the Night Shift

Fishing at night in upper Biscayne Bay, between Miami and Miami Beach, is not entirely uncommon, though flats boats and fly fishermen are pretty rare. A small cadre of bait fishermen gather after dark to drop their heavy lines and sinkers directly from the bridges, but they’re easy to avoid. One night, we saw three or four shrimp boats working several sections of a bridge we’d planned to fish, so we went elsewhere; when we came back the shrimpers were gone. Many bridges and causeways span the bay, and so far, it appears that there’s enough water to go around.

January through April is the heart of the commercial shrimp season, and because these bay-dwelling tarpon feed exclusively on shrimp, this is often the most productive time to fly fish. When the fishing is good, some boats ill stay out until daylight, each boat filling its hold with as much as a thousand pounds of shrimp. During my visit last winter, most boats pulled their nets and got off the water shortly after midnight. Except for one or two other boats, we had the bay pretty much to ourselves.
There are lots of adult tarpon around in March and April, so it’s a good idea to keep an 11- or 12-weight rod set up. In May and June, most of the large fish head south, and from July to the end of September you can fish these bridges at night with an 8- or 9-weight outfit and have fun playing with 10 to 15 pound babies. Near the end of autumn, usually beginning in November, schools of 25 to 50 pound fish begin to show up. The northward migration of larger fish progresses through February, and by March it’s time to bring out the heavy gear again.

All of which means that there’s pretty reliable tarpon fishing in upper Biscayne Bay throughout the year. But if you don’t know your way around, you’ll need a guide like Captain Lillard (954-894-9865) who’s familiar with the bridges and shoals, and who’s willing through the productive tides no matter how late at night they occur. On our last night, Tony and I fished until 5 a.m., and the action never let up.
Thanks to a public boat ramp just around the corner from the hotel where we stayed, we were on the bay and fishing less than half an hour after leaving our rooms. At the end of the night, worn out and arm-weary, we were back at the door of hour hotel five minutes after getting off the boat. Sometimes, after a busy night of fishing, it was hard to go straight to bed. Once I was tempted to bid Tony goodnight and wander out to look for somewhere interesting to eat. But a two in the morning, you may find the South Beach streets a bit intimidating. Although I honestly never felt threatened, night or day, it was much simpler to buy a sandwich at Wolfie’s Delicatessen on 20th Street and Collins Avenue, store it in the fridge, and eat in the room. After a fat deli sandwich and a bottle or two of beer, falling asleep was not a problem.

Nocturnal Necessities

For leaders, I’d suggest 15 to 20 pound-test class tippets and 40-pound shock tippets. I had a bunch of snook leaders tied with 40-pound Ande shock tippets. They worked fine most of the time, though I kept an 11-weight rod rigged with a conventional double-Bi mini class tippet and an 80-pound shock tippet for when we ran into large fish. Pack your reels with weight-forward floating lines–old ones if you’ve got them. Leave your slow sinking, monocore tarpon tapers at home: they sink too fast when casting upcurrent, and I’m sure they spook fish at night. Plan to overline your rods. Most of the tarpon you see will be les than 25 feet from the boat, and you’ll need the extra line weight to adequately load your rod on a short cast.
Bring lots of extra gear, too. On the first night out, I lost a line when a freshly hooked tarpon made a U-turn around some barnacle-encrusted pilings; then shattered three sections of my four-piece 0-weight when I tried to turn over a fish that looked to be about 90 pounds. Fortunately, the multi talented Captain Lillard spends one day a week at the Fort Lauderdale Fly Shop (954-894-9865). He brought my rod in for repair, rigged a new line on my reel, and brought the outfit back for our next night. How’s that for service? I had all my success at night with a simple rabbit-strip fly given to me by Captain Lillard. Considering how quickly you can go through flies at night, it doesn’t make sense to devote a lot of time to tying fancy patterns.
Remember that South Beach is a hotbed of fun-in-the-sun topless swim wear, great dining, and nonstop nightlife. Besides all the action on the water, there’s plenty in town as well. Doug had recommended a modestly priced hotel on Collins Avenue in the characteristically high-dollar South Beach art-deco district. Although a bit worn around the edges, at 75 bucks a night, which included a refrigerator, morning coffee, maid service every day but Sunday, and Bingo–so we heard–on Wednesday, the Claremont Hotel (305-538-9631) was just fine. Since the Claremont is on a corner, Doug could pull the boat close to the side-street curb and load the gear without holding up traffic.
While sitting on the hotel’s porch waiting for our ride to pull around the corner, we had front-row seats at one of the best shows in town. All by itself, the nightly spectacle in South Beach almost makes the trip worthwhile. As a prelude to each night’s fishing, Tony and I would hurry downstairs to lounge on the Claremont’s expansive front porch, gossip with other guests, and brace ourselves with strong Cuban coffee while we gawked at the flow of scantily dressed, weird, and beautiful people along Collins Avenue. Then Doug would arrive and take us out to the real action.I specialize in protected water light tackle fishing in the waters of Flamingo (Everglades National Park), Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys.


Fishing for Tarpon in the Palolo Worm Hatch

The evenings are long in the Keys and the sun had at last set behind the Marquesas when en we turned that last tarpon loose. Doug nearly cried at the thought that the battle had weakened the fish and that he might not survive. I was partially to blame for this as I had broken my longstanding rule of not bringing a fish on board if not intending to keep it, least of all for a photograph, and the tarpon had slipped out of our hands as we eased him back into the water.The sight of the fish lying motionless in the quiet clear waters of Bocca Grande stays clear and clean in my memory; more than six feet of fish, as long as a man, his silver sides burnished tawny-red by the last light of that wonderful sunset, lying, slightly head-up, as we scrambled to start the motor and edge closer to where we could grab and revive him.

The tarpon watched us with that great eye which is so distinctive of its species, a fathomless black, black pupil with gold surround, an eye that holds you whilst looking deep into your being. He lay there, watching, seemingly committing us to memory, and as we neared, he slid effortlessly beneath the surface. With a strong thrust of the tail, he disappeared into the darkening depths. All that remained was a wisp of vortex that spun and drifted slowly into the sunset, testimony to the fish’s passage and his well being. I have come to love tarpon with a passion, not only for the wonderful pleasure which the grant in fishing for them, but as a magnificent species. They are an ancient fish, hardly changed with the passage of the centuries, and which, even today–remain an enigma.

The first time you hear the quiet sighs of their breathing as they roll on the surface on their passage across the flats, will have you thinking that they are a school of dolphin. Your first sight of a pod of tarpon swimming straight at you in three feet of water, with individual fish weighing easily as much as a grown man, can have you trembling or leave you gasping in disbelief that creatures of such a size can spook at the shadow of a bird. Have them sip a fly into that awesome maw with the delicacy of an old brown trout and then explode with an instant mindless fury at the prick of a hook, and you will know them for what they are: fish of a terrible splendor and beauty.

Tarpon are migratory. They don’t live on the flats where we fish for them, but cross these, bound for some destination not all that well defined to us. Their migration starts throughout the Florida Keys around April. This is when thousands of tarpon begin the journey that takes them from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, eastwards across the flats and northwards up the coast, with this great passage going on for months. And in the midst of this occurs one of the least known and yet most spectacular types of hatch that any fly angler in his wildest dreams could ever desire. Visualize waters alive with the biggest trout your imagination can conjure up, their backs breaking the surface as they cruise, feeding on nymphs hanging suspending in the surface film. All of us who flyfish have either experienced this or have read enough about it to be able to see it without much difficulty in our minds’ eye. The difficult part now is to transmute this image of trout into one of great fish, fish weighing into triple digit figures, fish so large and in such numbers that despite having been there and experienced it, I still have difficulties in comprehending and describing it, fish behaving for all the world like nymphing trout as the feed with quiet deliberation on hatching palolo worms.

What fascinates me about the palolo worm hatch and tarpon is just how little is known about it, even in America where tarpon fishing is a major fishing attraction, the subject of numerous magazine articles, and popular to the extent of having television programs, such as the Walker’s Keys Chronicles documenting it. I watched a video on tarpon fishing some years ago and one of the things it showed was fly anglers fishing what they called the “palolo worm hatch”. I had no idea at that time that I would actually become addicted to fishing for tarpon, so I put the Whole thing into mental storage. Capt. Doug Lillard, the Miami-based guide whom I was fortunate to meet on my initial trip to the ‘States, is a great guy, highly professional in his chosen field and willing to experiment and give of more than his best to ensure that his clients get the fish they are looking for. When you spend hours together out on a boat, the talk starts flowing and one of the many subjects that cropped up during those days of fishing and talking was the palolo worm and fishing during the hatch. Doug had seen the same video and had also wanted to find out more about it, and to fish it, so we decided to do just that. Now flats guides are canny people, not really given to sharing hard-earned trade secrets amongst each other, and there are not that many articles written on the palolo worm hatch. I know this for a fact as I spent time at the International Gamefish Association headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, researching information on this phenomenon, and was only able to turn up one article on these worms. This was one that Glenda Kelly, their marine biologist, located and faxed to me.

Nevertheless, Doug persisted, and faxed me this message: “Gottim! Found out where it’s happening and when. See you at the Worm Burner on June 2nd, 1996”. Doug’s a good enough guide and a good enough guy for me not to begin to question his judgement, so after almost nine months of getting it together, we were parked in his Hewe’s Bonefisher in the Worm Burner, right where the back country water flows out from under the bridges of Bahia Honda. Now I’m a good South African boy and I’m used to these good South African waters where, if any fish are on the run, they will met by about six million fishermen plus all their mates, just hanging around waiting to take full advantage of Nature’s largess. So when I took a look around and only saw two other boats in all that expanse of water, I started to wonder… The water was a bit discolored and fast running where it flowed from under the bridge, so we would be fishing blind while waiting for the action to start. Doug handed me a fly which the old writings told him would do the trick, and I got to work.

I love using big fly-rods and one of the outfits that Doug had on board was a real beaut, a one piece 9′ Kennedy Fisher in 13-weight. The rod matches up well with my Billy Pate Tarpon reel, and I then lost myself in the sheer pleasure of casing this rig. It allowed me to fire off linger casts with less energy than anything else I have ever used in the rod department. The hours went by with no fish–and then, all of a sudden, they were there. Wave upon wave of fish, all big, all single minded in purpose, this purpose being quite simply to eat as many of the palolo worms that had also suddenly appeared. The outgoing tide had been sweeping bits of eelgrass out from the backwaters and this had been going on for a while. What appeared to be different colored strands of grass started swimming, moving against the tide. One moment there was nothing and the next the worms were there. They were not in the thousands that I had been expecting, more like 20-30 per square meter of water surface, but the tarpon arrived and the party began. Well for them at least. There were thousands of fish, all big and all moving with a solid intentness of purpose, and they never looked at a single one of my flies. Put yourself in my position. What would you do? Right, I did it. I cast to fish and tried every retrieve I could. I changed flies, then changed them again and again, and cast I don’t know how many thousands of times. And Doug did the same. Not a single fish moved out of its path to look at our offerings. My log book, written when we got back to camp after fishing until late, with only a small light on the bridge providing us with illumination, recounts my frustration.
First day’s fishing at Bahia Honda, where backcountry water empties under bridge. Worm hatch started late in pm. With hundreds of big fish running and nothing working in the fly department. Stayed out late and then jumped five fish. Doug two and me three.
I lost a big fish when it scissored the shock tippet (bugger it!) and then had one cut the line as we tried to horse it away from the bridge pier. Exciting stuff, this, with big fish, big water, big bridge and heavy weather. Fish show no interest in palolo type flies, but took will on the Black Death.

The fact that we had such a positive response to the Black Death fly convinced us that we were going to get out there and really slaughter the tarpon the next day. Well, not quite slaughter, but catch and release dozens of fish and make a name for ourselves in the tarpon fishing world. We spent the morning hunting bonefish and Bahia Honda lived up to its reputation of not being a bonefish ground. That afternoon, filled with confidence, we took up position, the only boat there–and not a worm or fish appeared. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a strange situation, but not much seems to be known about the palolo worm/tarpon relationship and–in fact–in all of the material that is stored in the IGFA archives, there is only one article about flyfishing during one of these hatches, and that was written by Stu Apte in 1982. A few of the anglers we spoke to know about the palolo worm and could recount detail about its taxonomy and when the hatch should take place, but very few people–and that includes most of the tackle stores–could give us had and fast information as to where the hatch was taking place, or how best to fish it. Doug is like me, but even more so. His livelihood depends on how well he knows the species he fishes for, so the two of us set out to find out as much as we could about these elusive creatures. One of the persons we made contact with was Capt. Nat Ragland, a long- time guide in the Keys, who gave unstintingly of his time and knowledge of the Keys and how to fish them. A giant of a man, originally trained in the chemical industry. Nat has spent the past 25 years fishing and guiding in the Keys. He is the guide that you can see effortlessly gaffing large tarpon in Billy Pate’s video of fly rodding for tarpon, and was the originator of internationally known files such as the Dirty Nell, the Orange Quindillon and the Puff.

Nat has fished with and guided most of the major tarpon anglers in his time on the flats, and he gave us a wealth of information which was very close to that which Glenda Kelly, the biologist at IGFA headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, unearthed on our behalf. The palolo worm belongs to the class Polychaeta in the family Annelida, or segmented worms. The worm can grow to about 15 inches long, living in parchment tubes in the crevices among corals in the reef. The adult worms are predators, feeding on the small organisms that are found in the coral rock. The hatch in the Bahia Honda area occurs during the period of the full moon or new moon of late May or early June. The worms remain in their burrows during the day, and at night the anterior end protrudes into the water. During the night of the spawning, the worm backs out of its burrow and the caudal (rear) sexual portion, or epitoke, is torn from the anterior portion which crawls back into the burrow. The epitoke is usually half the length of the worm. Each of the epitoke segments, except the anterior two or three and the posterior thirty or forty, has a pair of much enlarged gonads. The posterior segments form which the gonads are absent, are smaller and different in color. The epitoke swims with this non-sexual portion foremost and in a spiraling movement. Major swarms always occur within five days of the quarter moon, with the first swarming of the year starting at the beginning of June at Bahia Honda. Swarming begins in the early morning, with the number of swimming individuals increasing until dawn. With the rising of the sun, the epitokes rupture, yielding up their reproductive products. The empty epitokes may swim for a short while, but they soon sink to the bottom and die. We figured, rightly so, that the bad weather had disturbed the hatch, so we packed our bags and the boat and set off for Key West where we took up residence in a waterfront suite at Pelican Landing. This is fishing at its finest: you walk out of your room, step onto the boat and off you go. I don’t mind, point fingers and say the man has gone soft–and I’ll agree with you. I’ve had my years of big seas and heavy surf and crashing through them on wildly bucking boats, or miles of walking down beaches in search of fish. Like they say, “Bin there, done that, bought the T-shirt.” Now that I’ve discovered the soft life, I confess to finding it highly addictive! Let me continue with extracts from my diary:

Tuesday, 4th, June: Morning spent at Sea Plane Basin, only three other boats out there with us. Water flat with a lot of sudsy-type foam floating about, and lots and lots of fish moving, but no takes. Went to Bocca Grande, again lots of fish–big ones– but all with lockjaw. Eventually hooked one on a Dirty Nell fly, a fish of about 90 lobs which took off on of run of at least 150 yards. We were using 40 lbs fluorocarbon tippets as the fish here were smaller and skittish, and then this behemoth appeared. A half-hour’s fight and a good hard run until shock tippet parted. Fished for rest of day, but no more takers.

Wednesday, 5th June: Run the 27 odd miles to the Marquesas. Only five other boats out on the water– unbelievable. Spotted some permit but not able to cast to them as moving fast. Only see four tarpon, so by lunchtime we are back at Bocca Grande Water strange, a glazed appearance with visibility not that good–red- colored clouds on the horizon. Clouds build up and it pours with rain in early afternoon, small waterspout starts right alongside us, a short sharp burst which quickly dies. The rain is a solid weight that goes on for at least half an hour…
After the rain came the palolo–and with them the fish. We had seen and cast to a lot of laid-up fish during the morning but nothing like this: thousands of huge tarpon like the trout at a hatch, they won’t look at any of our files=not even the special ones tied by the specialists at the Key West shops. Rain started between 3pm and 4pm with the hatch immediately afterward. Returned to Key West to fish Fleming Channel. Lots of big fish but no takers.

Thursday, 6th June: We did it! We’ve cracked the code and found the fly, code name Mongrel. Hatch started late and the fish want the Mongrel. They move out of their way to track this fly. Hooked my last fish at 7:15pm and landed it at 8:30pm after it opened a stainless lip gaff and almost smashed Doug’s ribs on the gunnel. Unbelievable how strong these fish are. Used the 13-wight and maximum drag and the fish towed the 19 foot Hewes Bonefisher with its load of two adults, a 140hp outboard motor, about 200 liters of fuel and all our gear. I only started to get the upper hand when I started fighting down and dirty, landing it as the sun set behind the Marquesas… What a day!

Friday, 7th June: The Mongrel works… Spent the morning rubbernecking around Key West and saw tarpon of over 200 lbs hanging around the docks and bait stations; my mind boggles. Out to Bocca Grande. Doug’s day to fish with me on the platform and I learn the hard way what he puts in for his clients. Hot day, water flat and only the occasional fish; palolo start moving as sun goes down–and with them come the tarpon. Doug jumped three, of which the first smashed at fly, the second jumped near the boat whilst under pressure from the hookup (as line released on the jump, so the line whipped around Doug’s arm and hand, swinging him right around before the line bust off), and the last fish just shook the hook… They eat the Mongrel. Run home to the teeth of a full gale with me lying flat and Doug, being the skipper, having to do the driving. Sure cheers me up hen he tells me that last year 94 people were killed on the flats by lightening strikes. Ask him to hold the rods but he won’t, but we’re happy… The Mongrel works.

I suppose I should now describe in loving detail what the Mongrel looks like and how to tie it, but no such luck. This is one of the most hard-earned trade secrets in the tarpon fishing game and nothing is going to pries it out of us.

Tell you what, thought. I’m going back to the Keys this year, right over the period of the palolo worm hatch, and Doug and I are going to have some serious discussions with tarpon. Then maybe, just maybe, if I don’t come back with my tail between my legs and the story of how we developed another fly and a different strategy, I will tell you more about the Mongrel… and landing fish as the sun sets behind the Marquesas.

Fishing Reports

December 2007 in Miami Biscayne Bay and Flamingo Fishing Report

December 2007 was quiet different than the past years during December. We usually would have a cold front move through on a 7 to 10 day cycle, but the jet stream has been blocking the fronts from coming through this year. Instead, this December there have been lots of clear sky days with highs in the mid 80’s.

I took a day off and went fishing with a friend, Brian Esposito, from Glades Craft. We decided to head out to Flamigo’s back country for some Tarpon fishing. We started out on the still of the dark of the morning, planning to hit around 10 possible spots that may be holding some Tarpon. We found those Tarpon at the second spot and it did not take long for Brian to jump one on a plug rod. After several jumps, the Tarpon threw the lure.

I think that I was the next one to hook a Tarpon on my fly rod. This Tarpon was a monster. I got the hook of the fly set good in his boney mouth. After several jumps, the big Tarpon was still on and was set very deep into the backing. There were still Tarpon all around us. While I was fighting the Tarpon, Brian managed to jump two more Tarpon and somehow snagged a Shark in the tail and landed it. The whole time, I was still doing battle with this same big Tarpon.

I never had my ass kicked by a Tarpon as much as this Tarpon did to me. It took me at least 45 minutes to bring her near the boat and another 15 minutes to land her, get the fly out and set her free. When Brian grabbed the monster Tarpon by her lower jaw, he said “this is the biggest Tarpon I’ve ever grabbed. Her jaw is as big around as my leg”. We ended up jumping 10 Tarpon that morning and landing 3 of them on flies and plugs. We also had the boat put back on the trailer before noon that day.

I had some very good days of fishing from Miami and Biscayne Bay. I fished a few days with Warren Werbitt and his 9 year old son Jonathan. I think we got 4 Bonefish and jumped 4 Tarpon off of Miami. We also caught some big Lemon Sharks, loads of Lady Fish, Bluefish, Jacks and Blue Runners. Jonathan, at 9 years of age, caught his first Bonefish that was around 7 pounds.

November 2007 Fishing Report

This past November we found that there was some very good fishing in Biscayne Bay as well as inshore fishing in Miami.The bone fishing in Biscayne Bay was good with large schools of 6 to 10lb bone fish swimming along the ocean side flats from Key Biscayne to Elliot Key. Permits have been around the deeper flats and along the channels.There have also been a lot of sharks around this month. We found a lot of Lemon Sharks from 4 to 7 feet long. A few Bull Sharks, most of them were on the small side from what I usually come across in the way of Bull Sharks in Biscayne Bay. Most of them were 5 to 6 feet, but the Bull Sharks will run around 10 feet long and weigh somewhere around 300+ lbs.

The inshore fishing in Miami has been good. A lot of small Tarpon running 15 to 25lbs. with a few giant Tarpon that we found mixed with them. We hooked one giant Tarpon on 20lb spinning gear, fought for over 1 and 1Ž2 hours. I estimated this Tarpon would weigh around 150lbs or more. The Snook fishing was also good at this time on the inshore dock lights around Miami. They would range in size between 28 to 30 inches.

Claude David and his wife, Gillian came down from Canada to fish a couple days and a night. Gillian caught several Bonefish during the day and Claude got a lot of Sharks from 4 to 6 feet.

During the night, both hooked some very nice Snook and 6 Tarpon that all got away, but 2 of the Tarpon we got along side the boat before coming loose.

Edwin came over from Argentina to try for some Tarpon on fly. He got his first one hooked and landed for a very quick photo before the release.Two Japanese anglers came over, I could not tell you their names, but we were able to bridge the communication with some bent rods. They got one very nice Lemon Shark and several 6 to 12 lb Barracuda’s on some high tech lure that they brought.

Some video of their Lemon Shark and the Barracuda:

To see the video on you tubes site, click here.

October Fishing Report

I took Steve Clark over to Flamingo (Everglades National Park) for some Snook, Tarpon and Redfish. We launched the boat early that morning only to get chased around by thunderstorms. It was not until about noon that the sky’s cleared up and we were able to do some sight fishing with the fly rod.

Steve hooked and landed one very large Snook to come off the flats of Flamingo. This Snook measured 35″ and was a great catch. Later that day, we found some laid up Tarpon that Steve made a perfect cast to. He was hooked up to a 60 lb. Tarpon on the fly rod. After about a 30 minute battle, Steve brought the Tarpon along side the boat for a release.I was able to fish a good family outing.

I had the mother and daughter – in – law who hooked several large lemon sharks, but lost most of them except one about six foot. They also landed a small Bonefish, for Biscayne Bay standards, around 4 | to 5 lbs.

The next day there was a very heavy overcast and very high winds. We found some sheltered water and caught a baby Tarpon. The mother got on nice Biscayne Bonefish also.

On another day, Matt Green’s father – in – law wanted to get a shark. We hooked a
few that day, but landed just one good 6 | foot lemon shark.

We ended up coming in early due to the weather being so hot.Larry Crouch came down
to fish Biscayne Bay for a couple days and one night. We were able to get a Bonefish each day. One Bonefish, Larry had to use a spin rod due to the wind blowing so hard.

The next day it calmed down and we got one on fly. The next night the Tarpon bite was red hot in Miami. Larry hooked 6 Tarpon on fly and landed 2 of them.

July Biscayne Bay Fishing Report

Summer time is here. You can expect calm mornings and sweltering hot afternoons with thunderstorms, if it’s not stormy all day. Despite those thunderstorms and hot weather, there will be some great fishing during this month. This is a great time to try for what is called the grand slam. That would be catching a Tarpon, a Bonefish and a Permit all in the same day.

First light in the morning you should be able to find a good amount of rolling Tarpon all through out Biscayne Bay. At this time of year a lot of baby Tarpon show up, mostly in the 15 to 25 pound range. These Tarpons are very eager to take a well-placed fly or shrimp. Some of the larger Tarpons will be returning from their annual migration as well. The school of Tarpon is not as big as they are during May and June, but well worth putting in the time for them.

The night Tarpon bite will be good through July for the big Tarpons out on the ocean. There are plenty of baby Tarpons inside Miami and Biscayne Bay.

Bonefish will be found tailing during the early morning hours. A well placed light fly cast just in front of a school of tailing Bonefish should get bit. A shrimp should be cast well ahead of the path of tailing Bonefish. Cast it up current so the Bonefish can pick up the scent of the shrimp to find it. Later in the day, try looking for mudding Bonefish in 3 to 5 feet of water.

As for the Permit, they don’t seem to be effected by higher water temperatures. You can find them near the deeper edges of some of the harder flats. Using a small crab hard to beat. I like using a circle hook that has a think wire. Cast it up tide of the Permit and I slide the crab back to the Permit as soon as you see the Permit take the crab and reel tight.

Steven Clark and I were out Tarpon fishing one night out of Miami. We showed up to an area with a lot of other boats all bait fishing for Tarpon. It must have been his fourth or fifth cast on a 12 weight fly rod when he hooks up to a monster 150 lb. Tarpon that runs through all the boats that night. Everyone was watching him as he fights this big fish and I don’t think anyone else hooked up on bait. After fighting the Tarpon for around 30 minutes, the hook pulled.

The Photos are of Steven Clark with a smaller Tarpon he caught that same night, Heidi Nute with another one of her Tarpons caught on fly, but the first photo she posed with for us, and of Ed Stein with a 32″ Bonefish.

Captain Doug Lillard

March Fishing Report

First off, I would like to congratulate Joe and Sarah on catching a 32.5 inch bone fish weighing over 12 pounds that we caught last week in Miami’s Key Biscayne. All they wanted to do was to go out and have fun, not really caring to catch any fish at all. We also caught 12 different species of fish that trip including 2 large Spinner sharks, and a big Bull shark with our 32 inch bone fish.

Tarpon season is really getting started right now. We have been finding lots of big fish during the day eating crabs and shrimp with several smaller fish on the inside of Miami during the evenings. We’ve been fishing most of the Tarpon with fly tackle and averaging 23 to 35 pounds with some reaching up to 50 pounds.

I have been looking for a reel that is capable of long hard fights for big Tarpon and Sharks in the 100 to 300 pound range that also has a small enough diameter that I can fit under the gunnels of my boat easily and has a level wind. Penn has a new product out that I recently purchased 2 of the reels. These are the Penn International 975LD bait casting reels for which I have used for my Tarpon and Shark fishing.

With these reels, we have landed several large Tarpon and some big Sharks. I can see that the drag is very smooth through the duration of the battle and its lever drag system allows us the ability to adjust the drag from the hookup to the end of the fight with great precision. This is the best reel in its class I have ever used. Every other reel that I have used has had an insufficient drag and just can’t hold up to the punishment.

I like to set up a rod that can be stowed in a flats boat and is capable of landing large Tarpon and very large sharks. I like to use the Penn975LD on a 7 foot Crowder Rod with 30lb. Spiderwire Stealth. This line has worked very well for me. We have had some anglers who have had fish get stuck in the engine around the trim tabs or have gotten wrapped around lobster traps, which got out so that we could land the fish.

I like to use a 80 lb. Berkley Big Game Leader with a 4/0 to a 6/0 Owners circle hook, snelled, while using the largest shrimp or crab I can get.

Doug –

Just wanted to drop a line to thank you for the great 2 days of fishing. I had an amazing time altogether, and appreciate your expertise as well as your easygoing nature. I am still trying to calm the fluorescent sunburn, and getting ready for tomorrow’s surgery – but I cannot stop thinking about that single BONEFISH. It was the capoff to a great day of fishing. Honestly unforgettable.

Thank you, Capt. Doug. You are a good man.

All the best.

Jeff “Clownface” Clark

Captain Doug Lillard

February Biscayne Bay Fishing Report

This unseasonably warm weather has kept Bone fishing in Biscayne Bay very good this winter. Water temperatures have been in the upper 60’s to mid 70’s which the Bone fish are on tops of the flats all winter.

Guy Warren, from Anchorage, Alaska; had fished with me a couple days after Christmas. He is always happy just to come here to see the sun, but he had managed to get a couple of nice Bone fish on fly this trip. He had caught both an 8 lb. and a 10 lbs. Bone fish while his mother got one around 9 lbs.

On another trip, I fished with Roger from Switzerland who needed to get a Red fish on fly. So we headed to Flamingo for him. It was a very windy day of 15 to 20+ mph out of the South East. He got a nice shot at a Sheepshead that took the fly. But, just as soon as Roger came tight, his rod broke, right before the first stripping guide. All I could do was watch him try to reel it in right from the reel. As he got the fish close to the boat, the rest of the fly rod slid down the line right to the fish, so now it has broken into numerous pieces. The Sheepshead came off and all Roger had was a very broken, very expensive fly rod from Italy, with no warranty.

Later that same day, he hooked one Red fish on one of my fly rods. As we were taking a photo, it flopped out of his hands and it landed mouth first on my 8 wt. Temple Fork fly rod that was sitting under the gunnels and snapped it. We hooked another Red fish that day and while the fish took off, Roger had a huge knot in the fly line. He pointed the rod right at the fish and the top half of my G-Loomis GLX 8 wt. came off and slid down the line to the water. I was able to retrieve it before the fish would have broken it. Now, Roger is fighting this fish from the top half of the fly rod while I’m standing behind him reeling the line in from the bottom half. He was stripping line in trying to land the fish and I was pulling line off when the Red fish would take off again. Just before we could land it, the Red fish swam under the boat. Roger tried to follow it with the top part of the rod still when it hit the trim tab and snapped it again. We did land the 28 inch Red fish, but we did break 3 fly rods that day too.

It’s very rare for me to break a fly rod, but eventually you will, so I would recommend buying one with a lifetime warranty. G-Loomis has the best, the Expeditor program is great, and Temple Fork has a good warranty program as well.

Temple Fork Outfitters G-Loomis

1-800-638-9052 1-800-456-6647

Recently I had the opportunity to fish for the day on the new Glades Craft flats skiff. This skiff excels in all areas of performance. It is quiet while poling, has a very dry ride, goes extremely shallow, and is remarkably stable; more so than other skiffs in its class. All Glades Craft skiffs are made using epoxy resin instead of vinalester or polyester resin. The epoxy is a far superior product and really adds strength to a lightweight skiff lay-up. Speaking of skiff lay-up, all their skiffs are made with Kevlar, core cell foam, and epoxy all vacuum bagged to ensure light weight and eliminate air voids. The skiff unrigged weighs in at just under 400 pounds, drafts 4-6 inches, and is rated for 40 – 60 horse power. They are priced affordably at around $25,000. I feel you’re getting a lot of boat for the money. If you wish to see or test ride the boat they are located in Deerfield Beach Florida. Their web site is

Glades Craft

Fishing Reports

June 2008 Fishing Report for Miami Biscayne Bay

This is the best month of the year to fish the Miami’s inshore waters and the flats of Biscayne Bay. All three of the big species that are sought after in Flats fishing are available during this month. These would consist of Tarpon, Permit, and Bone Fish. This year we had some of the best Tarpon fishing ever. We had some days that we hooked as many as 15 Tarpon all over the 100 lb. class while bait fishing. Some nights we had hooked as many as 10 Tarpon while Fly Fishing.

Claude David and his buddy Jack came down from Montreal Canada to do some Tarpon fishing. They both hooked and caught several Tarpon both during the day trips and the night trips.

They had some great fishing just off Miami Beach with hundreds of Tarpon rolling around and hooked them on shrimp and Jig head and did some shrimp casting to lay up Tarpon. This is quite the show with so many Tarpon all around you whith Miami’s finest women catching some of Miami’s best sun rays.

Captain Doug

May 2008 Fishing Report for Key Biscayne Bay and Miami

Tarpon have been all over the Miami Beach and Biscayne Bay area through the month of May. We did have some bad weather days, but that is to be expected for this time of year. Even with the bad weather, we found lots of Bone Fish and a very good amount of large Permit in the 15 to 25 pound range. Some were even in the 30 plus pound range.

Shark fishing was also very good at this time of year with some very big Bull Sharks, Hammer Head Sharks, lots of Lemon Sharks and Spinner Sharks (also known as Black Tip Sharks) that are all just minutes from Miami and South Beach.

Michael and his two sons help Dad battle a 100lb Tarpon that we hooked while fishing inshore of Miami.

Peter Fuller split 2 half day trips of fishing with his two sons. They had some great fishing just off Miami Beach, hooking three big Tarpon. He ended up pulling the hook on one Tarpon and the other two Tarpon threw the hooks while jumping.

Then Peter caught one giant Permit off the flats of Biscayne Bay.

While his son was Shark fishing, he got a big Barracuda and a small Hammer Head Shark.

Captain Doug Lillard

April 2008 Fishing Report for Miami and Biscayne Bay

My good friend Ozzy (Oswaldo Saiki) had an open afternoon to go fishing with me. We decided to try to catch this giant Hammer Head Shark that was 12 to 13 feet long! The shark was in the Miami area eating Tarpon.

We first set out to catch bait. Ozzy caught some ladyfish and blue fish, both are very oily and sharks love to eat them. We also caught some nice sized Pompano that Ozzy brought home and had for dinner. After getting the bait, we headed back to Miami and set up for some shark fishing. I filleted the lady fish and blue fish and hung them off the back of the boat for chum. It did not take long for a bull shark to show up, but we both wanted to get the giant hammerhead shark so we did not put our bait in the water yet. After about 30 minutes of chumming, we had 3 big bull sharks and some big black tip sharks come and go very fast.

We decided to try for one of the Bull sharks and dropped the bait back into the chum line. They first came up and gave the bait a good look, circled around for a while until one could not stand it any longer, and ate the bait. We were hooked up using a Penn 975 International reel, spooled up with 30lb. spider wire braided line. This was going to be a long fight. After an hour, never seeing the shark for the whole time, she came along side the boat. It was HUGE! She was 10 feet long and around 400lbs. We were able to slip a gaff inside her mouth and secure a rope off her tail. We took the shark to some shallow water. Ozzy is a professional photographer and I wanted to get a shot of myself in the water with a giant Hammerhead, but this bull shark will do!

We pulled the shark into some shallow water near by to get set up to take the pictures. The shark was so fat that I could barely get my legs around her belly. Her head was so heavy I could hardly lift it out of the water. The whole time, I made sure the water was going through her gills and the shark was okay. After taking some very cool shots, it was time to set he shark free. I grabbed her dorsal fin and tail, pushed her into the deeper water when the shark started to swim on her own, but swam straight into the boat which she got stuck between the push pole and the boat. While she was confused and thrashing around, the shark could not find her way back to the deep waters. I went to get the shark by her tail and shoved her out between the boat and push pole, directing the shark in the right direction. This was by far the coolest and craziest short release I’ve ever had.

About 2 minutes later, Ozzy and I were back in the boat congratulating each other on a great job. We noticed that same shark heading straight back to the boat. This shark is on a mission I had my feet dangling in the water and quickly got them out and stood up. It swam right into the boat, banged into it HARD and then took off right straight where it came from.

Captain Doug

March 2008 Fishing Report for Biscayne Bay and Miami

We had some typical weather for March with strong winds and high overcast cloud cover , making sight fishing for Bonefish and Permit very difficult. We did have some good days this month for Bonefish, but when the conditions are tough for sight fishing I like to go for something better. Tarpons were around in okay numbers, not as solid as in years past, but enough Tarpons to get hooked up.

The Shark fishing was also very good this month. I think that on the windy, over cast days, it makes a great Shark fishing day, and the Biscayne Bay Miami area has lots of sharks to fish for. Most of the sharks were some very large Spinner Sharks. Some giant Bull Sharks up to 10 foot in length and over 400 lbs. This is pretty cool to see them in the inshore and Flats of Biscayne Bay. We also hooked into a couple big Hammerhead Sharks in the 8 to 10 foot class that just broke our gear.

Mark Schwan of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and his 15 year old son Sam, had some good fishing for both Tarpon and Sharks. Sam got his first Tarpon that weighed over 100 lbs. They also caught a bunch of Lemon and Nurse Sharks. They also hooked a couple of big Bull Sharks and some Black Tip Spinner Sharks.

January and February Miami Biscayne Bay Fishing Report 2008

Well we had another unseasonably warm and nice January with most of the day in the 70’s to 80’s and sunny. I t usually is one of the worst months of the year weather wise, but the past 2 years has been one of the best. The Tarpon bit was very good during the day and the night. With lots of Tarpon getting hooked and landed well over 100 pounds. Most all of the Tarpon caught during the day were on crabs. We got a lot of Tarpon during these past 2 months on Fly while fishing Miami at night. Most of the night Tarpon have been running around 30 to 70 pounds, but the big Tarpon in the 100 plus pound range have been coming while bait fishing. I took Brian Logan and his friend Kent out for night Tarpon fishing in Miami. Both guys hooked several Tarpon that night on fly and both got to land their first Tarpon on fly.

Bone fishing in the Biscayne Bay area has been very good these past couple of months. I’ve been finding schools of Bone fish running from 7 to 10 lbs. with a few 12 pounds mixed in. This is not uncommon to find such large Bone fish in this part of Biscayne Bay. I had a trip with an English Man named Steve Ogden, who wanted to fish his 10 foot spinning rods. This was very interesting to me to watch how well he could cast these rods. We hooked up on our first and second chances of Bonefish. He got one 8 lb. Bone fish and another around 31 inches which should be about 10 to 11 lbs. That’s pretty good fishing. After those two Bone fish, he went to the fly rod and had some shots, but could not get hooked up. Later we found plenty of Bluefish and big Ladyfish to play with on the fly rod. We also fished a night trip where Steve hooked and landed around a 50 lb. Tarpon on his 10 foot spinning rod. I thought that he would get his ass kicked by a Tarpon on such a long rod, but he landed it pretty quick with his tackle.

There have also been lots of sharks around these past couple months. I noticed some very large Spinner sharks and Black tip Sharks. Some very big Bull sharks, ranging from 6 to 10 feet long were around too. There have not been many Lemon sharks around, but the next couple months should be very good for them.

South Florida Fishing Guide

Fly fishing rods.
If you are after big tarpon or sharks on a flyrod. I’ve got you covered with some. Sage and G-Loomis 1- through 12 weight rods. And one Kennedy Fisher one piece 13-weight On these rods, I’ll have Billy Pate tarpon reel or an Abel No.4 rapid retrieve or Tibor Gulfstream reels all top of the line. Rigged and ready to go. I also use 3m scientific anglers intermediate lines or Cortland’s ghost tip floating with a clear intermediate sink tip.
Fly fishing rods. If you are after bonefish, permit, baby tarpon, snook, redfish and many of the other species of fish found throughout South Florida’s flats. I have 5 through 9-weight outfits with Sage and G-Loomis rods with Tibor Everglades Billy Pate bonefish, Abel 3n, Old Florida No.4, Lamson 3.5 reels, along with top quality line from sinking to floating from Cortland Rio and Scientific angler.
Fly fishing rods. When you’re sight fishing the flats of Biscayne Bay and the Keys, you will need a rod and reel specially designed for that job. Cape Fear advanced technology rods with hexagon technology is the best rod on the market today. You can cast a plain shrimp further with more accuracy than any other rod. These rods are also designed to cast a lure or jig up against a mangrove shore with great ease. I also use some rods from G-Loomis. You will need a reel with enough line capacity for the long run of a bonefish and be able to cast all day without any problems. For this I use Diawa 3500 II, 3500 emblem, 1600 reels. These are the best reel I’ve found for sight fishing.
Fly fishing rods. If you prefer to plug cast the mangroves, I have aShimano Calcutta 200 perfect for snook and redfish. For the Big tarpon some BG-20 spinning reels. Shimano 400 and 700 Calcutta plug casting reels. With a Shimano TLD 15 for bait fishing Big tarpon and sharks.
Fly fishing rods. For bait fishing, I have some Diawa BG-10 on a 6 foot graphite rod. Perfect for a shrimp and popping cork rig. And for the women and children, I have some outfits with a Diawa 1300 on a light weight rod that is very comfortable to fish with. But also top quality with a great drag system capable of landing any fish.
I trailer my boat. This allows me to move to the best areas during the course of a year. The fishing is constantly changing and I can move to the best fishing throughout the year.
My goal is to give you the trip of a lifetime and hook you up to the fish of your dreams.

  • US Coast Guard licensed and insured captain
  • Everglades National Park permitted guide
  • All fishing licenses provided
  • All bait and tackle provided
  • Top quality rods, reels, flies and lures.
  • Fish finder, depth-recorder and GPS unit
  • Iced cooler and fish cleaned
  • Iced cooler and fish cleaned
  • Boats trailered for your convenience and
  • to get to where the fish are biting

South Florida Fishing Guide

Florida Bay From Flamingo

by Farrow Allen

Before the sun was up, I was on deck casing into a channel filling with rolling tarpon. Most looked between 15 and 25 pounds, but occasionally a monster approaching 100 pounds broke the dark surface as it came up to gulp for air.

After checking into my motel in Florida City, I cranked up the air conditioner and phone Richard Wong of Wong’s House of Flies in Hialeah. He told me he and Capt. Doug Lillard would pick me up at 6:00 a.m. the next morning and reminded me to bring sun screen and plenty of bug repellant. “The mosquitos can be pretty ferocious this time of year, especially around Flamingo Lodge where we’re staying.” said Richard.
Before settling down, I decided to venture into the sun and see what Florida City had to offer. It didn’t take long to learn that besides a lot of gas stations, motels, fast-food restaurants, and an outlet mall… not much. Only half an hour south of Miami, however, Florida City is strategically located at the crossroads to Biscayne Bay, the Everglades, Florida Bay and the Keys.
The next morning, as promised, the guys were in front of my motel at 6 sharp. After a short drive down Route 9336, past a succession of cultivated fields and orchards, we arrived at the Everglades National Park Visitors Center and paid a ten-dollar entry fee. By 7:30, we were fully loaded and heading out into Florida Bay. Although we were a little late getting started, Lillard said there might still be some tarpon holding in the navigation channel just outside the marina, and thought it was probably worth a quick look. After about half an hour we’d seen only a few small tarpon roll and Lillard declared we were wasting time. He told me to reel up and said it was time to head out and look for redfish.
As we skimmed across the flat surface of the deserted bay, the water depth never seemed to vary, and I asked Capt. Lillard how deep he thought the water was. He looked over the side and estimated the depth between six and ten inches–and in some spots, much less. He went on to explain how the tunnel shaped hull of his custom jon boat allowed the prop to sit up inside the hull and permit us to run in very skinny water without damaging the prop.

After a short while, we pulled into the middle of a huge flat and cut the engine. Lillard suggested I rig up with a floating 8 or 9-weight line and start looking for tailing redfish. As I stepped onto the customized front casting deck, Richard passed me a homemade stripping basket and offered me one of his weedless Shrimp Sensations. I secured his fly to my leader with a look knot, pulled out about 60 feet of line and settled down to look for the first fish of the day. It wasn’t too long before we spotted some tailing fish off to our right and began to pole toward them. About the time we got within casting range, the wind kicked-up and started gusting across the previously calm surface. I looked up to see we were directly beneath a small dark cloud that had chosen this precise moment to act up. Although I made a dozen casts, I couldn’t get a fly to drop in front of a fish.
We were also having trouble controlling the boat in the wind, so when the cloud finally burst and it started to rain, we decided it was time to take a break.
In less than ten minutes, the rain stopped, the wind died and I jumped back on deck. Within minutes I laid a perfect cast on the nose of a tailing fish and was rewarded with my first hookup of the day. After landing a thick bodied, 28 inch redfish and releasing it, I thanked everybody all around. Richard for his fly and Capt. Lillard for his skillful boat handling. While the tide continued to creep over the flat, Richard and I took turns casing to tailing redfish which were popping up everywhere. But as the sun climbed higher into the sky and the water level gradually increased, we began seeing fewer and fewer tailing fish. Instead, Capt. Lillard began pointing out long milky trails left by cruising rays and puffs of fresh mud made by feeding redfish. Sometimes I could see the outline of the fish through the clouded water, but most often, I’d just cast into the middle of the freshest-looking mud and hope for the best. We continued like this for the rest of the afternoon, picking up a few more reds and a surprising number of medium-size jacks that were literally riding the backs of the rays. Around 4:00 p.m. Capt. Lillard put down his pole and said it was time to head back and rest up for an early start in the morning.

The next day, before the sun was up, I was back on deck casting into a 40 food wide channel filled with rolling tarpon. Most looked between 15 and 25 pounds, but occasionally a monster approaching 100 pounds broke the dark surface as it came up to gulp for air. I was fishing one of Richard’s black and purple rabbit-strip streamers and it wasn’t long before I was hooked into the first tarpon of the day. with a 10-weight rod, it didn’t take long to subdue the 20 pound tarpon and release it. Just as Richard picked up his 9-weight rod –similarly rigged with a clear saltwater intermediate line and an identical1/0 black and purple rabbit-strip fly–Lillard spotted the dark shape of an alligator several hundred yards away heading in our direction.
“will he put the fish down?” I asked
“No, he’ll probably keep his distance. We’ll keep an eye on him, though.” said Lillard.

Richard, who was paying more attention to the fishing, jumped a nice tarpon but didn’t get the hook set. Shortly after that, the tarpon virtually vanished and Capt. Lillard suggested we move on.
Like the day before, we spent the next six hours chasing redfish under a cloudless sky and landing quite a few. By three o’clock, we were seeing fewer fish and the ones we caught were mostly small.

Richard suggested that this might be a good time to look around for some sharks before heading back to the marina, but we had been on the water all day and the prospect of a cold beer seemed far more inviting. After a brief discussion, we agreed that beer was the better choice–the sharks could wait until tomorrow.

If you want to explore around Flamingo on your own, you can stay at the Flamingo Lodge (941-695-3101) and rent a boat or canoe at the Marina. Richard Wong of Wong’s House of Flies (800-970-6187), can set you up with the right flies, and if you’re looking for a really good guide, Capt. Doug Lillard(954-894-9865) is absolutely first rate.