They say that time and tide wait for no one, and in the world of marine shallows or flats fishing, nothing could be truer. This is the saltwater angling specialty where the draft of skiffs are measured in mere inches. And the most "shoal" of these vessels like Captain David Accursio's (305-431-1686) Hell's Bay Professional can float in water as shallow as six inches and less, depending on the number of people onboard. This enables both captains and their customers, as well as other recreational anglers, to pole into the skinniest waters hunting for cruising and tailing redfish — as well as the snook, seatrout and small tarpon that frequent the flats edges and potholes.
Snake Bight is a huge swath of water in Florida Bay easily reached within minutes from the launch ramp at Flamingo in the Everglades National Park. Because of its size and shape, which cuts into the Florida mainland in its northernmost reaches, anglers can easily access the major gamefish of the area depending on the tidal and weather conditions. The warming waters of spring can make Snake Bight come alive, and even during ebb tide times when skiffs must leave to avoid grounding, the method is to head east where tidal height and stage features are still in the earlier stages that permit floating and poling. And that's exactly what Captain David proposed as part of a half-day battle plan to sample Snake Bight.
My friend Don Eichin and I met David in Florida City and we all drove to Flamingo in David's truck, which pulled his glistening new Professional. In an hour we were launching his skiff, and in 15 more minutes we were poling onto our first flats portion of Snake Bight. Don and I both picked up one of David's 10-pound braided spinning outfits that were rigged with soft plastics. For the sake of different presentations and a personal inclination, I had David change his lure to my Money Minnow paddle tail, a choice that would amply reward me.
We immediately encountered superb conditions: a brisk falling tide created choppy-surfaced "cuts" over potholes that would be sure to hold fish in them. Better yet were the leaping mullet schools that were traversing the flats terrain. We quickly spotted some small tarpon that were rolling and I had a bump from one of them. Moments later a big tarpon hit a mullet barely 50 feet from the skiff. I fired my Money Minnow into the strike foam and had a huge "take". I struck back hard and a tarpon of about 80 pounds started greyhounding across the flat. I had the silver king on for about six jumps before his tail cut me off on the ultra-thin 10-pound running line. But it was a great way to start the day!
I re-rigged as Don casted to the potholes and mullet clusters. He had a good strike and struck back hard. In five minutes, Don had a nice sized redfish alongside the skiff for pictures and then a release. In the next hour we caught a few good-sized trout, but then we needed to leave the flat as the water was dropping fast.
David took us on a 20-minute run to a flat where the falling tide was "earlier" and the flat depth was deeper. As soon as we got to similar conditions of current over potholes, we started getting strikes again. I lost a couple of snook during a two-hour streak of fairly continuous action on fat seatrout.
When the action slowed, David was ready to run much further east to get us more snook and redfish action, but I was time-pressed to drive north to Miami. Both Don and I had a wonderful time and hope to sample Florida Bay's other bights in the future.