Thursday, January 4, 2018

Fishing the Tamiami Trail: Peacocks, Gar, and More!

Good morning Mr. Alligator!

The canals along the Tamiami Trail have been on my bucket list of fishing destinations for a while now. Mostly because it has a wild species diversity. As a multi species fisherman that makes it all the more interesting. The Tamiami has bass, tarpon, snook, sunfish, oscar, cichlids, gar, bowfin, plecos... it's one of those rare places where I actually didn't know what I was going to catch. I generally hate that idea... 'you never know what you're going to catch'. Yeah. Obviously. But if you don't at least have a pretty good idea, you have a LOT to learn. In this place I had a lot to learn. The first place Noah and I fished on the canal was a big spillway pushing a bunch of water, with tarpon and gar rolling all over but not at all willing to eat, some oscars sitting around, doing nothing, and plecos... everywhere. Pleco is short for plecostomous, an armored species of catfish that I believe found its way into Florida's canals from private aquarium releasing. They are now all over the place. And at this awesome looking spillway one pleco was all I could catch. But it was a fish I really wanted to knock of the list and finding hungry ones turned out to be tough, so I thank this one for grabbing the fly.

As it got dark the mosquitoes closed in, so we headed off to Big Cypress where we spent the night with the tree frogs and bugs.

In the morning we backtracked to an are with a canal intersection, and very quickly found schools of peacock bass blitzing on baitfish. These were eager, hard fighting fish, and it felt so good to find them so early in the day.

Below the peacocks were oscars, and unlike the ones we had seen the night before they were hungry. I caught the first one, but Noah ended up putting a hurting on them with a crappie jig, catching probably 50. These were yet another fish that overshadowed my expectations. Damn did they ever pull!

With the peacocks continuing to blitz, looking almost like false albacore as they slashed through the schools of bait, I figured I should try to get a fish or two on topwater. Easy peasy.

As the sun rose we decided to continue along hoping to find some different species. The next place we tried was around a bridge where the canal bled off south into the natural swamp. The first fish I spotted were gar. The first fish that took my fly was a gar. I was soon playing a very frustrating game that eventually just became funny, trying to keep a gar attached long enough to land it. Long SF blend flies that I had tied for the gar didn't work. Stinger hooks didn't work. repeated hooksets didn't work. some of the fish stayed pinned long enough to jump , which was immensely fun. After a while I hadn't landed any gar and only caught a few bass and oscars so we continued west.

The next spot, funnily enough, had even more gar. It also had blitzing largemouth that seemed nearly impossible to deceive and the most mayan cichlids we had seen in one place. After throwing bigger streamers at the gar for a while I gave up on them and tried to target mayans.

With a little carp fly on I discovered that not only were the mayans way pickier than I'd expected, but the gar were much more into the small fly. I jigged the fly next to their nose and they just gave it a cute, quick little nip. I swear it was just the cutest way a predatory fish could possibly catch its prey. Like a puppy catching a moth hovering next to its nose. Eventually, with that smaller hook and a hard trout-set, I had one well hooked. I yelled to Noah to bring the net. I had no expectation that the fish would stay pinned but I really, really, wanted it to. Gar, of any species, were a huge bucket list fish fr me, something I've dreamed of catching for years. They always seemed kind of unattainable, just a little out of reach, even though their range is dramatically closer than Florida. They seemed like the kind of fish I was just going to have to wait for. And all of a sudden there it was in the net. I couldn't believe it. I had just caught a gar!

With Florida Gar so seemingly quickly off my list, I tied on an even smaller nymph and focused fully on the bratty little mayan cichlids. Oscars plagued me and the mayan cichlids continued to be obnoxious.

Eventually I discovered that they would eat a fly that was resting on the bottom in front of them, and that resulted in the only one I would catch. Fine by me, another fish on the list. Fishing the small nymph turned a few of the gar too, so I got a few more great aerial displays before we moved on and stopped fishing on the Tamiami.

Big alligators. There were lot of them on the far side f the canal, and they were lazy!


  1. You sure added some interesting critters to your list. That was a great adventure. Well done!
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...