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Everglades snookin'

12/16/2009

I got back home to Key West a few days ago, and am just about to turn around and head to New Orleans again. I have a few more trips before the New Year and then it's back home for Christmas.

I've been in the 'Glades out of Chokoloskee shooting video with the World Angling guys and a few buddies. I actually got to be on the bow of the boat for the first time in a long time. The weather could've been better, but we managed to get on some fish every day.

The Everglades is a special place. You never know what you're going to see there. We saw American crocodiles, alligators, spoonbills — all kinds of cool stuff. The coolest thing might've been the fact that we only saw two other boats the whole time we were there. It's an awesome place to fish if you get the chance.

The water is gin clear and it's full of fish of every kind. We saw tarpon every day we were there, and I managed to jump several of them. Never landed any, just got 'em up. Anyhow, the fish that we did land were snook. Here's how:

Bear's what's working where: Everglades
There were three captains there, Kevin Mihailoff, Bill Faulkner and Jeff Lagucki, and it was cool hearing how each of them approaches the Everglades.

Mihailoff fishes really skinny water. If the boat isn't scraping, he isn't happy. He tears up a lot of boats in the process. He goes up in these crazy creeks for two or three miles where the boat barely fits. He'll push the boat over mangroves to get into a certain spot that opens up into a pond packed with snook that have never seen a fly. He gets the stuff no one else will. It's wild.

Faulkner fishes 3 or 4 feet of water along big open shorelines most of the time, looking for fish cruising the bank or sunning themselves. He catches a lot of 20-pound snook beating bushes all day.

Lagucki is a combination of both. He fishes shallow stuff, and may go up into creeks, but he's always on the banks. He knows a lot of shallow spots in the bays. That is the cool thing about the Everglades. All of these guys, who have totally different approaches, catch lots of fish.

We were throwing mostly Muddler Minnows. If you're fishing deeper water, you need them big and bushy. If you're in skinny stuff, trim the head and tail down so they sink a little slower. The ideal thing to do is get the fly out in front of a cruising fish. Let it sit there until the fish is six inches in front of it then pop it real hard. Usually they'll tear into it then. In the shallows, accuracy is a little more important, but the same technique applies.

If you're throwing spinning or casting gear, small hair jigs are the ticket. The most important thing is placement of the cast.

The snook bite depends largely on the tide. You want to be in the low water on either an incoming or outgoing tide. They like the skinny water. This can create problems if you're in deep backcountry and judge the tide wrong. You have to be constantly moving with the rivers and tide as it flows in and out.

Be aware of water levels, keep a keen eye on the shoreline and a fly handy, and you should be in the snook all day.

Editor's note: Capt. Bryan Holeman is a competitor on the Redfish Cup, and guides out of Key West, Fla. Known affectionately as "Bear," Holeman and his clients enjoy year-round success on the flats surrounding Key West, making his insight to flats fishing invaluable to anglers everywhere. Bear's goal with his blog is to inform, inspire and entertain with weekly updates detailing his activities, be it guiding or tales from the RFC tournament trail.