Ft. Lauderdale Area - June 8-12

Fishing Report: Palm Beach County, June 8-12, 2005

Short report: Best fish was a 15# (est) tarpon from a canal caught at dusk, lost after 2nd jump. Overall, more fishing than catching – lots of short trips in urban settings.

Long report:

I got to go to Florida for work, but never make these trips without a rod or two, and in this case, was very deliberate about making time to fish.

As soon as my plane landed and I had my bags, rods and rental car, I was off to Bass Pro by the Ft Lauderdale airport to grab my license and some local info. It was after dark when I arrived, and I was glad to learn that they were open until 10. The guy in the White River Fly Shop advised that I try the Griffin Street Canal (Griffin is the exit for Bass Pro as well) with a popper for some night time bass. I fished from roughly 9:30 – 11:00 with nary a bite, but spotted some different fish on beds in the weeds along canal’s edge.

Thursday morning, I was up at dawn and at Deerfield beach. Surfers were out, if that gives an idea of the wave action. I cast perpendicular to the beach with clousers and some local chartreuse and white baitfish for snook and whatever-else in the “trough” between the breaking waves and shore. I neither saw fish nor had any luck there, but tons of weeds made productive fishing impossible anyway. I later learned that these rough seas aren’t an everyday thing, and that fishing in them can be real tough. I fished to the south at Pompano Beach, similar results. There was no obvious tidal action because of the dominant wave action. I was told that by 8 a.m. the fishing’s pretty much done, so I wrapped it up on the beaches. There’s water EVERYWHERE in south Florida, and I decided to try “Quiet Waters” park, where there are a few ponds and some canals. One pond was dedicated to water skiing, but I fished the adjacent canal which provided a few follows from small fish, but no catching. In a canal that ran along the main (city) road, I caught one small bluegill and one 10” bass on a brown and white marabou clouser. Large (14" - 18") plekostemos were spawning, but wouldn’t bite.

Later that day I visited the Ole Florida fly shop, where Darren (owner) gave me excellent information and sold me a few local flies. He also taught me the no-slip mono loop, loop knots are critical given the heavy bite tippet required for snook fishing, due to their sharp gill plates.

Between meetings that day, I fished a canal near Florida Atlantic University. There, a lowhead dam created a good ambush point for saltwater fish like snook and tarpon who move upstream. I caught one small (10”) snook, which was gratifying. I got follows and one short take from some mayan cyclids or something similar, maybe oscars. There, I saw some teens fishing bluegills under a bobber in the fast water right below the spillway. They caught two nice bass, one 18” and one probably 15”, and saw one of them lose a big snook.

That night, I fished a canal with a spillway right off US-1. Lots of rain meant they were letting out water there, too. A guy fishing the south side of the canal caught a dozen snook in the 2-4 pound range while I was there, he was fishing gear and a 2” curly tail grub with a heavy weight, fishing slow in the heavy water directly under the spillway. I didn’t have such great luck, probably because I couldn’t get deep enough even with my 8 wt sink tip. Right at dusk as my fly swung out from the heaviest water, my line went tight, and a fish took off on a powerful run. It flew from the water – and it was big! I thought, “is that a tarpon!?” just as the guy across the canal yelled “TARPON!” The fish made a short run and leapt clear free of the water again. A head shake in the air sent my fly back to me. It was a purple and black polar hair pattern from Ole Florida. That was my only fish of the night, but pretty exhilarating, even if I didn’t get it to hand. I did see one gar snap my fly, but never felt him.

I stopped back by the FAU canal on my way home, and only fished for half an hour or so, 10:30 – 11:00 PM, caught nothing.

Friday morning I fished the FAU canal once again, hoping that dawn would be better to me than night had been. I did hook one other small snook that I lost before I brought him to hand. As I stood on the bank at dawn, a young raccoon ran out of the bushes beside me, and into the apartment complex nearby. I decided to try my freshwater options. I returned to my previously successful Quiet Waters canal, where I got a thorough skunking, fishing a different part of the canal. It was a grey morning with some on-and-off rain.

I decided to fish close to my hotel on Friday night, and fished the canal around the Home Depot parking lot a few blocks away. This probably wasn’t a real productive spot, it just looked less fishy. I did have one fish snap at a deer hair minnow popper (tied with a rattle in it, too!) that I think was a gar. I got a gar to take a brown and white marabou clouser as well, but didn’t get a hook into him. I think their mouths are super bony. I spotted some cyclids and some cruising gar, but this was, overall, a pretty lame spot.

Saturday morning the side-effects of Tropical Storm Arlene were being felt. Water was high from lots of persistent rain anyway, and I decided to catch up on some sleep. Events kept me busy all day, and I entertained staff Saturday night, so no fishing for me on Saturday.

Sunday morning I got up later than I should have – it was a beautiful day with no wind, and I probably would have had a shot at a snook from one of the beaches. Instead, with limited time and the likely good beach fishing over, I headed to the canal spillway again for 45 minutes of fishing. I swung a very heavy perch pattern on the sinktip in the boiley water, but had no luck at all.

After I got work done but before I had to go to the airport, I got in 45 minutes back on the Griffin road canal. With just a short time left and a burning desire to catch a peacock, I thought this would be my chance. I’d been told that they liked high sun the best, and we had it for the first time of my mostly-rainy trip. Lots of spooky peacocks were on spawning beds, clearly obvious in the weeds along this canal. I couldn’t seem to get a decent presentation without spooking them though, usually they’d spook as soon as they saw me. I was hesitant to do the crawl-along-the-ground routine on account of some scary fire ant stories, but eventually resorted to it. Wind, trees, and weeds frustrated all my attempts, and my prayers for just one fish looked grim as I closed in on 3:30 – my self appointed time that I would “have” to leave to make my plane. At 3:25 I found a couple of cyclids on beds that were dumb enough to hang around despite my clumsy, noisy casts. At 3:29 I got a fish blessing, and caught a cyclid about the size of my hand! Right on time. Not a peacock, but something I couldn’t catch at home, and at least in the same fish family. Walking (swiftly) back to the car I spotted a 2 pound peacock that didn’t spook when I walked by. Always a glutton for punishment, I made a few casts. I seemed to get a little interest, but didn’t ever get a legit take from him, so I beat feet back to my car satisfied nevertheless.

Other trip highlights: being able to wear shorts all the time: at night, in the rain, whenever. Warm weather was a treat.

I saw over 30 iguanas. The first time I saw them, I walked down onto the rip-rap below the canal, and was shocked to see a half-dozen of them, the biggest almost 3 feet long! On my last morning at the canal, there was a half dozen of them. Their gait is really unusual, and I wanted a closer look. I wondered how they would respond to a fly. I cast near one, and a gecko came screaming across the ground to attack my fly. The iguana responded by angrily attacking the gecko! I cast again, and he trotted over and I stripped my perch pattern across the grass to make him come closer. Naturally, he dashed forward and grabbed my fly. This is when I was reminded that I am an idiot. What was I going to do now that I had a 10 pound lizard on 25 pound tippet? I knew that if I hooked him, he was going to be very unhappy, and I’ve heard stories about their claws. I held still. So did he. I thought eventually he’d spit the fly, but he didn’t seem to want to do that. I didn’t want him to swallow it, so I applied gentle pressure, and it popped out of his mouth. Whew! The heavy mono weed guard probably saved me there.

It was wild seeing all the different fish in the water. I spotted tons of stuff that probably started out in people’s aquariums – even some big ol’ goldfish in that Griffin Road canal on my last day.

Darren at Ole Florida Fly Shop in Boca Raton was rad. He came off as genuine, helpful, interested, and just a good natured guy. I didn’t feel like a lame hassle tourist in his shop. I also thought it was pretty cool that he gave me tips on local spots, and that he was specific, since my time was so short, and the options ridiculously vast.

Speaking of that, the multitude of waters and opportunities is also a highlight. You are never more than a few blocks from fishable water, no matter where you are. I find that amazing.

This was an awesome trip. It’s a blessing to have a job that allows me to fish in different locales.. I have no doubt that I would have caught fish if I’d been able to hire a guide, but it’s not cheap, and I’m glad for every fish that I caught by just striking out on my own. Apparently fly rodding for the snook under dock lights at night can be pretty amazing, I’d love to try that, and I really want to try for some of those giant Florida largemouth and peacocks again. So, next time…