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The overlooked Miami

3/3/2009
Here, George Poveromo is all smiles over a snook caught by his daughter, Megan, underneath a North Bay bridge. Courtesy of "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing"

I grew up in North Miami, and will be the first to admit that the northern reaches of Biscayne Bay — my old "stomping" grounds — have long been overshadowed by the fabulous fishing for bonefish, permit and tarpon that exists at its southern end, just beneath the shadow line of downtown Miami.

But that has never bothered me, because the less attention and angling pressure North Biscayne Bay receives, the better it is for us who know just how good the fishing really is here.

Consider a trip Captain Gavet Tuttle and I did in late September, when we fished between just south of the Broad Causeway (125th Street) on up to the northern end of Dumfounding Bay, near Hallandale. Tuttle (954-448-1211, www.backformore.com), a light tackle guide who also cut his teeth in North Biscayne Bay, and I set forth from the Haulover Park Boat Ramp aboard my Shallow-Water MARC and headed up the Intracoastal Waterway to Dumfounding Bay. Here, we hoped to score with the tarpon that populate this deeply dredged section of the ICW during fall and winter.

The stage is set

Once the narrow ICW opened up into Dumfounding Bay, which is flanked by thousands of condos and town homes, we saw gulls and terns diving frantically and picking off baitfish being ambushed by schools of jacks and bluefish. We dropped the trolling motor and headed over to the action.

It didn't take but a cast or two to hook-up. Gavet and I pitched Yo-Zuri Banana Boat lures into the feeding frenzies and had non-stop action with scrappy, albeit small, fish.

After 30-minutes or so of pitching top water lures, we took two live finger mullet, impaled a 4/0 in-line circle hook through both lips, and free-spooled them behind the boat, as the trolling motor slowly eased us ahead. Once one mullet was 50 feet behind the boat, we engaged the reel's drag, and set its rod in the holder. We did the same for the other outfit, once its mullet was about 100 feet back.

Each reel, a Penn Torque 200, was spooled with 30-pound test braid and topped off with a ten-foot long, 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader. We used a Bristol Knot to join the leader to the short Bimini twist (double line) we put in the braided line. The rods were from the new Penn Torque Jigging series.

Tuttle and I slow-trolled the pair of live finger mullet, looking for rolling tarpon. At that point, we'd try to maneuver the boat so that our baits passed ahead of them, where they'd be noticed. Tuttle also had a spinning outfit rigged with a live finger mullet, to pitch at fish he'd see off the bow. Our first shot at fish came rapidly!

The headliners take the stage

Off the starboard bow, heading down to us, were at least three tarpon.

Tuttle pitched a live bait to a fish from the bow, and hooked up! I cleared a flat line to assist Tuttle and maneuver the Shallow-Water MARC in position for the camera team to shoot us (we were filming an episode for my ESPN2 show), only to have another tarpon eat the remaining bait.

We had a double! With two 50- to 60-pound class fish in the air and scrambling in different directions, it was every man for himself!

We were successful in not only bringing both tarpon to the boat, where we removed the hooks and set them free, none the worse for wear, but also in getting the baits right back out and immediately hooking another tarpon double header!

We fought the new pair of acrobatic fish — in the same size class as the others — alongside the boat. We removed the hooks and set them free.

The rabbit in the hat trick

After that, the fish shut down. It was now 8:30 a.m. (the Dumfounding tarpon bite is best very early). We had an awesome morning — catching and releasing two tarpon double headers.

Many anglers would have called it a day right then. However, we still had a live well full of baits, and the wind was barely blowing. It didn't take much encouragement to run the boat out Haulover Inlet and try a drift over the reefs.

We found a nice edge in around 200 feet of water, so we began freelining live pilchards.

I don't think Tuttle had freelined his bait more than 50 feet when it was eaten by a sailfish! He hooked the fish on a light spinning outfit, so I reeled in my bait and gave chase with the boat. Nearly 20-minutes later, I billed the sailfish, removed the hook and set it free. We made one more drift and scored a kingfish.

The encore

Our next move was back inside North Biscayne Bay and to a series of seawalls, where we live-chummed with pilchards and rallied the jack Crevalle.

We caught and released several jacks and mangrove snapper, to top off a sensational bay trip. But it wasn't quite over.

I wanted to make one drift under a certain bridge, where I've had luck catching snook during the day. It would be a one shot deal, if the fish were there. Fortunately, that "one shot" was there and I hooked a beauty of a snook under the middle of the bridge and in the main channel.

It took some fancy rod work and pressure to keep the snook from reaching the pilings, but I succeeded and soon boated a keeper snook. Fortunately for the snook, I was in a very good mood and opted to release it!

The beauty of North Biscayne Bay, as we proved, is that you can fish for tarpon, snook, jacks, mangrove snapper and seatrout inshore, and then test your luck offshore; the reefs are just a few miles out of the Inlet. Hit it right and you'll enjoy great action — inshore and offshore. And best of all, no one will be crowding you! Like I've said before, let 'em all go down to south Biscayne Bay to fish!

For more on "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing," visit www.georgepoveromo.com.