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Everglades trip in February

Old 01-01-2020, 02:53 PM
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Default Everglades trip in February

Hey Guys,

Trying to plan a good trip for my 7 year old son and I. We live on the coast of NC, but, I'm interested in towing an 18 center console down to the everglades in late February and doing a few days of fishing and camping on the chickees in the everglades. My biggest concern is that i want my son to have fun and catch lots of fish...snapper, snook, drum trout, etc. Anyone on here done this before...any specific thoughts for time of year...must have baits/lures... safe places to keep the truck/trailer while we are out...etc. Just looking for a good adventure. Thanks in advance for any info...
Old 01-01-2020, 03:04 PM
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If you haven't fished this area before you'd be a lot better off hiring a guide. Local knowledge of oyster bars, tides and overall good areas to fish takes years to accumulate. Contact Capt. Brown on Chokoloskee Island, his family goes back several generations there.
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Old 01-01-2020, 03:06 PM
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If you’re out of Flamingo just leave your truck at the ramp. Would highly recommend searching and reading Bob Lemay’s posts on here and other forums. If you haven’t camped down there before, particularly way out in the backcountry, it is not something to be taken too lightly from a gear and preparation standpoint. There is no communication and very few people. I do it many times a year and started taking my son when he was about 7. Just be forewarned that the bugs can be pretty rough at times, even during the winter.
Old 01-01-2020, 03:37 PM
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I appreciate the thoughts guys.

I agree, I probably would do better if I hired a guide and I appreciate the information on one. We may go this route, but i also really enjoy figuring things out on my own. I have been taking my larger center console down to the keys for years and have really enjoyed figuring out the area a bit.

I also really appreciate the thoughts on remote camping. I used to work as a remote area instructor for 30 day back country wilderness courses, so being remote isn't new territory to me. That being said, every area has its challenges and I appreciate the information! I was planning on leaving from Flamingo. Sounds like the ramp is a safe bet. Thank you.
Old 01-01-2020, 04:52 PM
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Do it. I did this with my dad around the same age as your son. We went camping several years and had a great time. You don't need a guide as long as you keep your expectations reasonable and are good at planning. The area definitely takes some time to learn locations, tides, bait, etc but it is a beautiful area. Several posts on microskiff forum that can help too.
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Old 01-01-2020, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by bschomp View Post
I appreciate the thoughts guys.

I agree, I probably would do better if I hired a guide and I appreciate the information on one. We may go this route, but i also really enjoy figuring things out on my own. I have been taking my larger center console down to the keys for years and have really enjoyed figuring out the area a bit.

I also really appreciate the thoughts on remote camping. I used to work as a remote area instructor for 30 day back country wilderness courses, so being remote isn't new territory to me. That being said, every area has its challenges and I appreciate the information! I was planning on leaving from Flamingo. Sounds like the ramp is a safe bet. Thank you.
Ny son is going tomorrow with his girlfriend to camp a couple nights at Flamimgo campgrpumd. I would recommend a night or two there and you can then find out more about the park and other camping options in the park, including chickees and beach camping (but you cannot reserve those in advance...day of only). Its primitive enough with minimal, if any, cellular coverage. I would NOT recommend a “find out on my own” approach. You cannot tell by color of water where there is an oyster bar or not. You can be off by 10 feet or less and be up on tje oysters, damaging your boat and ruining your trip, and you cannot rely on GPS or charts alone by any means. When I go with my buddy who has been there, we have to follow old tracks on the chart plotter as the chart means little. You can go back into Whitewater Bay pretty easily out of Flamingo, but once you start reaching some of the areas further out from the entrance into the bay, if you don’t know the area, it can become dicey to grt back out...it all looks the same. February would definitely be one of the best months of the year to do it though. I would recommend hiring a guide for day 1 and getting a level of comfort so you dont ruin a long trip from NC. Its definitely a very unique place though!
Old 01-01-2020, 05:22 PM
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Going into the backcountry with a normal 18 foot center console boat around Flamingo can be very dicey if you don't know the area. I used to have a 24 Robalo Cayman bay boat which drew 1 1/2 feet max and we bottomed out several times in the main channel south of Flamingo -- and it wasn't even low tide. In Lake Ingraham and in parts of Whitewater Bay, you can easily wind up on a nasty oyster bar and mess up your boat and prop. There's no cell coverage in most of the backcountry. The chickees are mostly in quite remote areas and are usually used by canoeists. This is really small flats boat country if you want to camp out on the chickees. There are plenty of areas out front that you can use your 18 foot center console safely and also in Whitewater Bay if you know where you are going. The Ten Thousand Islands area in my experience is a bit deeper, though it's very easy to get lost. You really need your GPS, at least a PLB, and a SAT phone is a nice backup. This is real wilderness. Don't forget the bug spray all year long, though winter is usually very tolerable.
Old 01-01-2020, 05:26 PM
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I did this trip out of flamingo quite a few times in my 18 biddison before GPS and just followed the charts and used a lot of caution on plane. Never had a problem. We would first go East from Flamingo fishing sand bars then run west along the beaches and river channels. We would work towards shark river and then come back to flamingo by river on the fresh water side. There is a boat ramp on either side of locks so you could put in and pull out from other side coming back.

we did almost exclusively jigs tipped with shrimp for snook and sea trout.

definitely recommend camping at flamingo for comfort. We used to stay at the lodge back in the 90s but no longer an option since the 2005 hurricanes.

good luck and you will be fine in your own boat, just be careful and prepared. Common sense prevails, VHF radio, plenty of fuel, food, bug spray, etc. etc.
Old 01-01-2020, 05:50 PM
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If you do go you need to take a boating course, see my thread on this.

New boating course for boating in the ENP

You do it online, takes but a few minutes and free. My understanding is they are checking hard.
Old 01-02-2020, 06:12 AM
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Awesome, I appreciate all the information! Sounds like there is a lot of experience in the area. I had also considered leaving from Chokoloskee, and it sounds as though the area may be a bit deeper in general. Any information on that area? The boat I have draws 14 inches. Like I said, just want it to be a fun trip for my son and I. Again, I really appreciate all the thoughts and information.
Old 01-02-2020, 12:50 PM
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Did a solo trip out there in the middle of winter a few years ago. Stayed in a little trailer in Everglades City and rented myself a kayak for the day. It’s really neat place. In the kayak, I was getting waked by every single boat even though it was a no wake zone. Asked at the place I rented it from when I got back and he said there’s no way they can idle through the channel because it was so shallow. And these were skinny water boats. Seemed like boating and navigating the place would have a pretty steep learning curve.

Last edited by 787337; 01-02-2020 at 06:00 PM.
Old 01-02-2020, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by bschomp View Post
Awesome, I appreciate all the information! Sounds like there is a lot of experience in the area. I had also considered leaving from Chokoloskee, and it sounds as though the area may be a bit deeper in general. Any information on that area? The boat I have draws 14 inches. Like I said, just want it to be a fun trip for my son and I. Again, I really appreciate all the thoughts and information.
Do you have a troller? A pushpole? Powerpole(s)?
Do not even consider departure from Choko in the winter with your boat, a strong NE wind wind (common at this time of year) will blow all of the water out of Chokoloskee bay making it damn difficult even for Microskiffs like mine (5" draft on plane) to get out or back in even tho I've been running out of there for 30 years and know most of the tricks.
If you must start from the north, launch at Rod&Gun in Everglades City, plenty water and well marked to the gulf down the Barron River. But, it'll be a 20 mile South to the nearest chickee you can get to, Plate Creek, and that will mean running up Lostmans to get inside which is tricky on any tide of you've never been there.
Instead, launch inside at Flamingo, plenty of water on any tides to get up to Whitewater Bay and multiple fishing options/spots regardless of the weather. Since you can only reserve a chickee for 1 nite at this time of year,and because you want a fun experience for your child (no stressed out dad), allow me to recommend getting a ground site at Flamingo itself - you can build a fire, have your rig on the trailer right at your site and get to know the area better this trip before heading out into the great unknown next year. That's how I introduced my then 7-10's and it was hard to beat the fresh trout and snapper cooked over the open fire.
Feel free to pm me for good spots to load up on dinner sized fish,etc, regardless of what you do. Take a kid fishing makes you a hero.
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:42 AM
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Thanks guys, again, I really appreciate all the information. Sounds like there are some good options for us. I'm going to do a bit more research...Any thoughts on "must see/must do" things in the area with my son. We definitely want to get out and explore a bit. Thank you!
Old 01-03-2020, 11:10 AM
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If you look at Florida Sportsman forum Ten Thousand Islands section there are a LOT of posts on this.

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Old 01-03-2020, 02:10 PM
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Buy FMT for south florida and have fun!

Just spent new years 'primitive' camping on the spoils off pinellas county.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:01 AM
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One more quick question...is there anywhere to buy live shrimp in Flamingo? Does the marina have a decent selection of bait/tackle, or should I just plan on bringing everything I need? Thank again guys...
Old 01-05-2020, 11:53 AM
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My son runs a true polling skiff that floats in high humidity and has smashed up two props this year already. Go slow, pay attention and have fun. Your a great dad.
Old 01-06-2020, 07:22 AM
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You will really enjoy the Chickee camping experience, but as people state above the whole trip is not to be taken lightly as it is very remote. VHF is the only feasible communications unless you have a Sat Phone. Regular chart plotter charts only get you so far. From a distance everything looks the same mangroves after mangroves so I would actually count the channels on the charts to make certain where we were and keep careful track of the navigation with your track plot being a reliable method to back track. I would start at Flamingo where you can register for your back country permit necessary to camp on a Chickee. The mosquitoes can be voracious even during the day if it is warm enough, but February is generally a good time to go if a front is not coming through. All of your weather will generally be driven by fronts so do keep track of that so you are not caught off guard. The Chickee we stayed at was the Oyster Bay one - secluded and well protected on all sides by mangroves. There is wildlife everywhere - we had dolphins playing nearby. You will not have any problems catching lots of fish using basic shrimp tipped jigs. You will see fisherman around the bay areas during the day, but by early afternoon everyone is headed back so after 2-3 PM you will be nearly alone. The only person we saw late afternoon after we had setup camp was a ranger who came by and asked if we had our permit and also if the outhouse on the Chickee had toilet paper. You need a self standing tent, you can string it up a bit, but you can't nail any anchors into the dock decking. We used citronella candles and lots of bug spray, but it is only partially effective - you have to use fully covered clothing and even then the mosquitoes will swarm your lights often by the hundreds. Just to get into the tent we had to flood it with mosquito spray, kill the lights, and then quickly move into the tent to avoid getting dozens of them inside with us.

Enjoy the trip, but do be very well prepared and take your time navigating to avoid mishaps.
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Old 01-13-2020, 12:25 AM
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Everglades is one of the best fishing trips you can take w/ your son. As far as bait, I usually stop at Dons bait shop in homestead on my way into the park. They have everything you need bait/tackle wise. My only recommendation is to do research... research.. and more research before you go. Navionics chart viewer has the most updated charts in my opinion. We have had some recent hurricanes that have moved sunken logs and debris around. Example.. There is a sunken log right outside the mouth of buttonwood canal into Coot bay. Navionics has it plotted. You can use Top Shot maps portion on ENP. Mostly to get an idea of the fishing hot spots. As in any fishing area just look for current, structure and some bait. I have never camped on a chickee but have seen a lot of them. Joe River Chickee looks awesome. Hells bay Chickee would be the one I choose. You track the tide right you can wake up get on your boat and be catching chicken snook and rat reds in seconds. I have found a lot of white bait at the mouth of little shark river in the creeks on a low tide. As many people have already stated cell reception is not so good. My opinion AT&T gets the best service in some places. But once you get into whitewater from tarpon creek its little to none. I run an 18 sterling flats and have never has a problem with water depth... Again do your research and check everything on engine/boat before you go.. If you leave your truck at flamingo ramp area, you might want to consider bringing a truck cover. The birds like to pick at your rubber around the windshield. The shop at flamingo when I went last march had a working gas pump, ice, beer, and some snacks. I don't remember seeing any bait. Mosquitoes aren't really noticeable during that time of year until the sun starts setting again that's my opinion. But the horse fly's can get irritating if you get close to shore while fishing. Have fun, tight lines, and post pics!
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Old 01-13-2020, 08:15 AM
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Thank you for all the great information. We are really excited! The trip is planned at this point. I have taken a lot of the advice people have offered and modified it a bit. We are planning on spending a couple days camping at Flamingo and fishing around that area on our own. Then we head to Chokoloskee for a few days to explore and fish with a guide. I figured that since this was our first trip to the area, it would be the best way to go. I appreciate all the thoughts and information and am looking forward to some great time with my son.

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