Fishing Miami, Florida, was one of the most interesting and challenging fishing experiences of my life. As you know, we typically targetthree species for our shows. This time, however, we decided to double the challenge.
We targeted three freshwater species — grass carp, peacock bass and Midas Cichlids — and then we went after three saltwater species — snook, sailfish and tarpon. But, just to keep things interesting we kept the same timeframe for our fishing. That’s right, no more time, just more fish.
I love keeping it real!
They may not be all that exotic or pretty looking but they grow really big and once you hook one of them they fight hard, too. Adults grow to anywhere from 2 feet to the best part of 7 feet long and they’ll weigh up to almost 100 pounds if conditions are right. Most of them are smaller than that, though.
We fished for them in the freshwater canals that run in and through the city of Miami. It’s almost like New Orleans — they’re everywhere. And that’s something you should keep in mind if you live near a city on the coast or around one that’s prone to flooding. The canals have been built for water control but they’re full of fish. Fish them!
Back to the carp:
One of the things I found most interesting about them is that they are really hard to catch. They are not these dumb things that just swim around mindlessly looking for weeds to eat. We used light tackle in our chase and we were forced to spool up with all fluorocarbon because they were able to sense braid regardless of how long a fluorocarbon leader we used.
Our rod was a 7 foot, medium action Abu Garcia Ike Finesse Series Spinning Rod. We used a size 20 Abu Garcia REVO Ike Spinning Reel spooled with 6-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. We free-lined our bait on a VMC Ike Approved Wacky Hook — no weight at all.
But our bait was the thing. We used stale Wonder Bread that we bought at the local Dollar General store for a steep discount. It was not what I’d want to eat but the carp didn’t seem to mind it at all. We balled it up and stuck it on the hook. The carp went
after it wi?th no problem.
We only caught one, but she was a pretty good size. We estimated her at just under 20 pounds.
These things look like goldfish except that they grow much larger. A giant will be well over a foot long. They’re very territorial and they are extremely aggressive. A lot of people put them in their household aquariums. They look cool. However, your tank had better be big. I’m told they grow fast.
Our tackle and our bait was exactly what we used for the grass carp. Stale Wonder Bread is the thing!
We only caught one of these tough critters but it was around 14 inches long and maybe weighed 2 pounds.
Before we leave this species a little explaining is in order. The canals around Miami are full of fish, all kinds. Actually that’s true in any city where they have water issues and use canals to help control flooding and runoff.
Our grass carp came from the canals that were full of grass. Our Midas Cichlids came out of the ones that were naturally rocky or has a lot of riprap in and along them.
When you think of peacock bass you normally think about Brazil and the Rio Negro or the Amazon River. It’s true that they grow bigger in those places but don’t kid yourself about your chances of catching one in Miami. The freshwater canals in the city have good populations of peacocks in them and they grow up into the 8 or 10 pound range.
We didn’t do much special with this challenge. We made live bait rigs with basic black bass tackle.
Our rods were exactly like what we used for grass carp except that we upsized our reels to the 30 size. We used 15-pound-test Berkley 5X Braided Line for our main line and 12-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon for our leader.
We fished with ordinary shiners, not the big golden shiners that you hear so much about but the ordinary ones. I’d say they were 3 or 4 inches long. Our hook was a VMC 1/0 Ike Approved Wacky Hook. And, like I said we free-lined the shiners with no weight at all.
If I remember right, we caught three or four of them. The biggest one weighed right at 5 pounds.
I’d describe a snook as basically a saltwater largemouth. They hang around the same type of structure and cover, and they act pretty much the same way. A giant snook will be around 4 feet long but most of them never get that big. From what I could see they weigh heavy. I was told the world record is over 50 pounds.
We fished the backwater bays and places off of the main ocean bays around the city. One of our best places was the flats near Biscayne Bay. We live-lined live bait with a 7 foot, 6 inch medium heavy Abu Garcia Ike Finesse Series Spinning Rod with a 30 size Abu Garcia REVO Ike Spinning Reel spooled with 20-pound-test Berkley 5X Braided Line running to a 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader.
We fished a minnow they called a goggle-eye but, to be honest about it, it looked like a small bunker fish to me. Anyway, the snook seemed to like to eat them and we were able to get good, solid hooksets with a 1/0 VMC Sureset Circle Hook.
We caught enough of them to make me want to come back and do it again. Our biggest was between 5 and 6 pounds.
These are the thing! It’s hard to even describe what it’s like to fish for one of them. They are awesome, incredible, unbelievable, magnificent and every other word you can think of using that’s positive.
Before I talk about where we caught them and how I want to say something about the incredible catch-and-release ethic that the Florida anglers have when it comes to a sailfish. They are treated with kid gloves. They don’t just release them. They don’t even bring them into the boat.
You hook one, fight it to the boat, look at it and admire it but never actually put it in the boat, and then you turn it loose while it’s still in the water. They set an example the rest of us should follow. They don’t just talk the talk. They walk the walk.
So, you kite fish for them right off the coast of Miami, within 2 miles of the sand.
The way it works is that you hook a large goggle-eye with a VMC 5/0 Sureset Circle Hook. But before you do that you run the line from your reel through a clip at the bottom of a kite. The kite actually flies in the air — like when you were a kid — and the bait drops down to the surface of the ocean where sailfish feed.
When they grab the baitfish the line breaks free and the fish is on. I caught a good one that gave me a pretty good fight. When I got it to the boat I realized I was looking at one of the most beautiful creatures that live in the sea. It’s no wonder the local anglers are so protective of them.
Except for the hook, all the tackle was highly specialized and owned by the guys I was fishing with so I can’t tell you much about it except that it wasn’t as heavy as I expected. For me, that was a good thing. I like a fight.
We got one kite fishing. It was about 8 feet long and I’d guess it weighed 80 pounds. That is just a guess, though. I don’t know much about them. We caught another two or three on a live-line rig. It’s about the same as one you’d see in a freshwater setup — hook, bait, line and nothing else.
Every sailfish we caught was caught using live bait.
The Silver King — Tarpon
Tarpon are some of the great sport fish in the sea. They grow big — the world record is almost 300 pounds — but what makes them really special is that they are super wary and they fight harder than almost any other fish.
This was a night fishing excursion off the coast. We fished the flats with live shrimp using a VMC 4/0 Sport Circle Hook. We basically pitched our offerings out a short ways using a 30-pound-test Berkley 5X Braided Line main line and a 25-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader.
We used live shrimp for bait.
I caught several. The biggest one weighed about 110 pounds. It took me 40 minutes to get it to the boat. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a fight like that, not out of any fish, anywhere in the world. It’s a fish I’ll never forget no matter how many others I catch.
The rod and reel wasn’t mine so I don’t know much about it except that it was heavy and it was spinning tackle.
Miami’s a hot city, regardless of whether you’re fishing, vacationing with your family or looking for some after dark entertainment. If possible, take advantage of what it has to offer. You won’t be sorry.
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