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Everglades City, Chokoloskee and Everglades National Park

Capt. Charles Wright
February 16, 2007
Everglades City - Saltwater Fishing Report

Kayaks, Camping, and Crocodiles

Life is good. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to live in many large cities. I have worked for multi-billion dollar corporations and I have experienced the pleasures and pains of working for smaller firms. None of these choices were really satisfying and it seemed I was wasting my life looking for something more. So, Vickie and I made a “lifestyle” choice years back. We both love people, the outdoors and South Florida. We decided to try to make a living doing the things that we love.

There were many things that we had to give up when we decided to open a guide business in Everglades National Park. We now subscribe to philosophy that you can not measure wealth by counting money. We have to, we have no choice. I am a fishing guide!

We really have not looked back. It was one of the things that we “should have done ago”. The lifestyle, people and place is wonderful.

My last “real job” was as an environmental consultant. In concept, I loved the business. In practice, I could not stand it. We could save a person or company a million dollars. But the money they spent was money they did not have budgeted or money that they were forced to spend under threat of penalty. We also were the ones to say “No”. “No” to our clients. “No” to the regulators. “No” to everyone it seemed. No matter how good of job we did, rarely did our clients have smiles on there faces.

Things are different now. When someone steps on the boat, they are here because the want to be here. They are excited, looking forward to exploring a new area, an adventure in a new place. If someone can not have a good time here, they are not going to have a good time anywhere. It has really been refreshing to deal with smiles. For us, it is all about the mix of people and personalities.

Nothing typifies that more than a recent experience on one of our kayak fishing/camping excursions into Everglades National Park.

Regularly we take guests on the Yak Attack to unique, remote destinations into the Park. She is a kayak transport boat with six outfitted fishing kayak nestled in her bow. We transport, guests gear and kayaks at 35 mph to locations where the yaks are deployed for a guided kayak fishing trip for snook, tarpon redfish, etc. On most of these trips, we deliver the kayaks to places that yak anglers rarely if ever can get to.

These are normally a series of day trips where guests are back at the dock in time for dinner at a local restaurant and a good night’s sleep at a local hotel. However, about once a month or so (actually, whenever anglers want to) we do multi-day overnight camping trips into the Park.

Our most recent trip was to Jurassic Park and the NMZ north of Lake Inghram. When we turn south out of Chokoloskee into the Park, it is 77 miles to next piece of modern concrete. Our camping destination on this trip was the Sable Beaches, 50 miles southeast of Chokoloskee … a spectacularly beautiful part of our planet.

This trip was posted on the website and scheduled for early February. We had quite a mix of folks on this trip … A power company executive, a fishing guide from Wyoming, and a family of three from Jacksonville and a carpenter from DC. Unfortunately, the carpenter had a bad experience with a saw and could not make it.

Capt. Bruce Hitchcock and I left Chokoloskee on a Thursday about noon, loaded to the gunnels with gear. You see this is not a typical kayak camping trip where weight and space is a premium. No sir. Not with Yak Attack. We carry five coolers filled to the rim, a full camp kitchen, canopies, camp chairs, etc … you get the idea.

We arrived mid-afternoon on Middle Cape and quickly set up camp so we could kick back and enjoy a few adult beverages before the sun went down. We were to pick up our guests in the morning at Flamingo, but we had one last task. We had to get some fresh fish for the ceviche. About five casts from the beach and a few strokes with the knife and our appetizer was ready … a meal in itself.

The fishing is supposed to be the main attraction on these trips, however, the meals around the campfire on a very remote beach with good folks is a big part of the experience for all.

Breakfasts consisted of Vickie’s special breakfast burritos, whole wheat bagels with crème cheeses and guava jelly, OJ and coffee. Lunches were pretty basic as we were on the kayaks. PB& J sandwiches, energy bars, peanut butter crackers and trail mixes.

Dinner the first night was smoked fish on crackers with sliced onion and hot sauce for appetizers (compliments of Bruce’s smoker). Hot homemade chili, cold fried chicken with potato and macaroni salads made up the main course. Chocolate éclairs were our desert.

The second night … fresh triple-tail cevechi with blue corn chips, crackers and hot sauce (superb!) and lots of Vickie’s homemade beef stew and a chocolate mystery desert. Yum! We do eat well on these trips!

Oh yeah, the fishing. Bruce and I picked up our guests early Friday morning in Flamingo and brought them back to the camp. As soon as they were ready, we loaded back into the Yak Attack for the 20 minute run to Lake Ingrham.

Deploying the kayaks, Bruce took Jim (the guide) and Doug (the exec) into one area and I took Chad, Patti and Hayden into another. This was Patti’s first time ever to paddle a kayak and Hayden and Chad’s first time ever to use one to fish.

We took our time as everyone got use to the equipment and the environment. The place that we were fishing is a huge NMZ that is rarely accessed being a 10 mile paddle from the nearest launch. It 10 miles from nearest entrance point, but there is an entire world beyond loaded with snook, redfish and tarpon and exotic sub-tropical birds.

It took a while for the guys to settle down and get into their groove. I believe that they were a bit overwhelmed with the place and really were satisfied to simple “take things in”. We spent a long time observing a few of the smaller crocodiles. These are some pretty pre-historic looking lizards they few ever get to see. The larger lizards are 16-17’ but are very skittish and hard to get near.

Once everyone calmed down a bit, we all caught bunch of fish … snook, black drum, redfish, trout … no tarpon this day, however.

We met back at the Yak Attack about an hour before sundown. Bruce, Jim and Doug had better success with the fish than we did, but they could not have had a better time. However, we were all in shorts (yes, February) and it was time for a warm fire and a cold adult beverage.

The next two days we did even better catching more fish each day. The also fish got bigger as folks got better. Saturday, I personally released 27 snook 6 redfish and one tarpon. I released two more tarpon, but pretty far from the yak!

Sunday, we fished a half-day, returned to break camp and had our guests back at Flamingo at 4 pm and bid farewell all still of talking about the next camping/fishing trip.

Bruce and I headed home in the Yak Attack just before dusk running in the dark for most of the trip. It was slick calm and a wonderful ride.

We all had a great time on this trip and you can rest assured that we will do it again next year. I love that part of the Park, but there are many areas that are just as special, but closer to home … Highland Beach, Darwin’s Place, New Turkey Key, Mormon Key, Hog Key, Camp LuLu, etc. These destinations are less than one hour’s boat ride so we leave out of Everglades City/Chokoloskee Island.

There are no crocodiles at these campsites, but that is not all bad. You can count on good people, good times and good fishing.

Tight lines.

Capt. Charles Wright

www.EvergladesKayakFishing.com 239-695-9107

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Chokoloskee Charters.com and Everglades Kayak Fishing.com is your complete outfitter for fishing Everglades National Park. Fish the Everglades backcountry, the beaches, 10,000 islands, river and wrecks with the most experienced guides in the area. With flats boats, bays boats, offshore boats and even kayak transport boats for our fleet of outfitted fishing kayaks, we can offer a complete, multi-day, fishing experience. Capt. Charles Wright - Fishing the Park Since 1972 Catch the Experience

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Chokoloskee Charters
PO Box 670
Everglades City, FL 34139
Phone: 239-695-9107
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