If you haven't made the trip to fish Alligator Alley, you need to do so! And we ain't talking about the I-75 Alligator Alley. We are talking about the OG alligator alley aka the Tamiami Trail. The original Alligator Alley runs across the state from Naples area into Miami. It's a two lane road carved out of the mud and swamp, the Everglades, which is what most of Florida used to look like a long time ago. It's a step back into time with some interesting places to stop along the way.
There are many fishing opportunities along the way, with some being safer than others. Safe meaning primarily two things:
1. There is a lot of alligators as one would expect on Alligator Alley. Many of the gators from our experience were not afraid of us, and many were looking to be fed and approaching us. This limited fear results in tight quarters and many of our catches were chased by these toothy dinosaurs. You must be mindful of where you are and whats around you!
2. Many of the shoulders are extremely tight, especially on the various bridges and Tamiami Trail isn't a slow two-lane dirt road. Its a two-lane highway and many drivers are haulin at 70mph, which could be within 2-3 feet of your fishing location. Watch your back cast! So, we tried to mitigate this risk by finding areas to fish where we were a bit further off the road or at a minimum put a guard rail between us and the traffic rushing by while we try to enjoy the scenery. As much as we love fishing, one person texting and driving would ruin you... This was situation was not the whole trail, just the western portion of the trail.
Let's get into the fishing, which is why we were there in the first place. On the West side of the Tamiami trail, the water is brackish resulting in numerous spots to pull over and fish for snook and small tarpon. These fish come in at different times of the year and the tide will also dictate whether you will be successful in finding them. Unfortunately, we were not successful in the brackish waters during the month of March. We had a few weak attempts on the clouser minnow, but not the opportunities we expected.
Moving East towards Miami is where the bite started to really heat up! The water changes from brackish water to pretty clear fresh water, which also brought a ton of different freshwater species of fish available at each spot. Over the two days, we saw more peacock bass than we could count all just from the shoreline! In addition, we caught numerous species of cichlids, bowfins, largemouth bass, and plenty of opportunities at gar. Almost every cast resulted in some sort of bite! The majority of the fish were on the smaller side, but an amazing fishery nonetheless. We had much luck on a large pond on the side of the road with ample area to fish, and also the canals closed to the spillways from Lake O. The canals sending the over fertilized water east/west vs. south through the Everglades. During our fishing travels, we were even able to spot Capt. Benny Blanco and others filming the Lake O. run-off for a future, conservation film. We are lucky to have people like Capt. Benny and Captains for Clean Water fighting for us.
We also had the pleasure of fishing with Capt. Jeff Legutki, who is a wealth of knowledge and an icon in the fly fishing World. Capt. Jeff was also the last person to fish with Jose Wejebe. I remember watching The Spanish Fly as a kid and dreaming of fishing all those amazing places. Capt. Jeff has a tribute to Capt. Jose on his poling platform and it felt powerful. We met Capt. Jeff in Everglades City, and he took us through a maze of oyster bars and mangroves throughout Chokoloskee Bay. No GPS, just decades of local knowledge. It was amazing. Of course it had to be windy, which is never ideal for fly fisherman but we made the best of it! An amazing experience with an expert fly fishing guide! We had an unusual negative tide that day which changed the game plans some, but he presented us numerous opportunities at big fish including the 50lb tarpon that broke off in about one second of hooking up! Man I love tarpon! Super fishy guy, great teacher, and just fun to be fishing with. My next trip is already booked in March 2023! If you want to know more about Capt. Jeff, please check out his website and also episode 50 of the Mill House Podcast. I can neither confirm nor deny whether some of his phrases were used on me during our time together!
There are a few areas to stay in the Everglades including a few hotels in Everglades City, which oddly the city shuts down around 6pm. We tried to find out why, but no one seemed to know! It's just what they do! Another place to consider staying is Port of the Islands, which is on the water and a decent place to get some rest.
The Tamiami Trail, Alligator Alley, is an amazing fishing experience and I encourage everyone to check it out! Just be aware of the gators and the cars!