Minnesota Homebody Returns to Florida

Since my first fishing in Florida I wanted a rematch with the snakehead that eluded me. Two years nearly to the day I returned to the same location better equipped to chase a snakehead. 



Many of us have kids and know that destinations are family vacations with the opportunity to fish at least a little bit. My wife, kids and I all headed to Florida for a warm vacation that started with a lot of reading and ideas of where I could go. My children had never seen the ocean and so I knew that the first day or two I may not get to fish at all. No solid plans were made for any activities so we were flexible. 


1st Fishing Day

I had another rematch with a large Florida Largemouth that got away after a long battle with too light of gear. Catching my bait was not problem at all and almost right away I got a hit and I was thinking about the largemouth of the small lake and how great it would be if just half an hour of daylight would be enough to catch this old friend. The bite went nowhere and was my first disappointment of the trip. A turtle had found the bait and destroyed it. Baitfish after baitfish was destroyed by turtles. My saving thought was, “I am in Florida fishing. Life is great.”



2nd Fishing Day 

For about an hour I had a chance to fish a small lake connected to the canals with the hopes of catching a Nile Tilapia. Pulling into the lot it was quiet but windy. Quite a bit of time passed without seeing any fish and no bites at all I went into the search mode. Finding a school of small fish I busted out the tenago hooks and managed a new unexpected fish. A very aggressive Seminole Killifish that reduced me to counting scales back at a computer screen to ID, just a part of the fun when fishing new areas. After the Killifish was back in the water I noticed a pleco eating at the edge of the weed line. Staying very low I cast i bit in front of the fish and the fish stopped feeding. After 5 minutes I moved wrong and off it went.




3rd Fishing Day



One of my dreams was to fish in the Everglades in a boat and we decided that we would do just that. We found a boat rental where I had been two years prior and rented a 14 foot johnboat that would be just enough for my two kids and wife. The day was windy but I was fishing in the Everglades a dream of nearly two decades that would be marked off my bucketlist. The first stop  my wife threw the anchor and it did not hold and we were drifting around in what felt like a fishless void. Drifting into some vegetation I caught my first fish, a small Copernose Bluegill.




Finding an out of the wind area with a boat that we now realize is leaking we sit with no bites or sign of fish. Unlike the last time I was in the Everglades we saw no birds and it seemed void of life other than the one fish and one alligator we saw. Sitting and waiting for eternity I had a bite. Being rusty from not fishing nearly enough I set the hook and lose the fish. This was repeated in one fashion or another for more than any fisherman would care to admit until I had a good hookup with a fish that seemed to be much larger and pulling out drag straight into the weeds.


Oscar Fight




After much maneuvering of the line I landed the first bucket list fish of the trip being an Oscar. A fish I would soon realize was like wanting to catch a bluegill. Simple and all over the place. 





I landed a few more fish including a Mayan cichlid and then a Redear Sunfish, that was not a lifer but a cool new upgrade picture. 

With a new spot and a different look I landed a new lifer Spotted Sunfish. The colors on the Spotted was beautiful in the sun and heat of the Everglades. The Forecast was 85 degrees and 95 percent humidity. The spotted Sunfish was a much more colorful fish than I had realized.


Spotted Sunfish


Redear Sunfish





With a 3 hour rental it was too long for the kids and much too short for me we headed back to the shop and returned the boat with much more water than we started with. It was an amazing experience that I would never forget. The fishing did not end there. The dock was a fruitful place to fish but the fish were smaller and not as plentiful from the many people who fish the dock. 


Daddy Daughter fishing


We heading to a park where there was a lake. Playtime for both the kids and for me. You never know what are in the waters you are fishing and it was a great way to wind down a long day for all of us. I caught small Mayan Cichlids and Juvenile Spotted Tilapias. 


Mayan Cichlid


Spotted Talapia


Fishing Day 4

With two years of being bummed about not catching the snakehead, I headed to the bait shop and bought some worms and shiners. I arrived at the drainage ditch to find that the water was nearly a foot lower than last time. I was worried that the fish would be no longer there. That feeling went away quickly with me casting out with a float and the float disappearing within minutes. The first fish did not hook up and the second tangled in some brush in the water and slipping away. Some people working at the place I parked came out and gave me suggestions so I tried upsizing my hook and  using different bait. In hind sight I should have stuck to my plan. Another fish hit while reeling in and it felt like a freight train had hit and kept going with the drag screaming before the dreaded slack. It was a larger baitfish and likely the baitfish had ripped off the hook. I stayed there and lost a fish after a lengthy fight where it had run nearly the length of the ditch and wrapped up in many weeds before the hook pulled out. The fish were all skittish so I left and felt a defeat. A low that I did not like in any way. Why was I even there. I had many places marked on the map and one that was close by had 10 cars in the lot and many people in the spillway. I kept driving. I got to a location that was a business district but the banks made fishing difficult. I fished there a while with live bait sitting on a bottom rig near where I spotted 2 large snakeheads. I caught a few nice coppernose and saw some large panfish but could not ID them. Nothing but seeing fish swimming away. I decided to head back to the first spot. I told myself “I know what I am doing. I can do this.”


I went back and saw the snakeheads were actively feeding and showing their locations. I knew i had a chance. I rigged my rod one of my favorite ways, with a size 2 hook. No lead, no float, no distractions. I put a shiner on and kept it in the bait bucket while spotting and stalking the fish. I saw a small snakehead of maybe 3 pounds so I cast and as the shiner was about to hit the water the fish turned and a bass took the minnow. A bass was the last thing I wanted at the at time. I landed the fish and released it. Sitting down waiting for the next fish surprisingly went quickly. two snakeheads were feeding and stalking prey. I over cast to avoid spooking the fish in only a foot of water In only two cranks the snakehead hit the shiner and was screaming drag. Not nearly as powerful as the first one I lost but still a snakehead, my first. These fish have the power of a sturgeon and the speed of a steelhead. I pulled the snakehead to shore in the mud and muck with a huge smile. I just sight fished a Bullseye Snakehead. Out of the corner of my eye I see another fish cruising the surface.

Bullseye Snakehead


After setting up the tripod in the back of my rental vehicle I see that fish still swimming around near where I can get in a cast. I still had to retie my rig. With one  shiner left I see that the fish is a Florida Gar, another fish on my bucket list for over 18 years. With my last shiner, I cast and the shiner bolted for heavy cover where I lost the shiner. I sat there and thought about my choices. I put on a tenago hook and caught a small fish for bait. I caught a larger fish than I wanted but did not want to wait. I cut the fins off to make the fish struggle to swim making it a desirable target for the gar. I cast and the gar ignored my bait. Further out the gar was near a clump of weeds so I cast right on top of the patch, pulled the bait off the weeds and it sunk like a rock. The gar disappeared also. I sat there for an eternity and left the bail open. I then saw the gar with my bait in it’s mouth swimming around. For 10 minutes I watched as the gar swam around with my bait in it’s mouth. I then saw the gar without my bait so I waited. What is another 5 minutes when I have waited all these years. I slowly reeled in all the slack with an uneventful fight to land another fish I have wanted for so long. 

Florida Gar


After those two fish coming so close together, I had to sit down and reflect on my day. It was 2pm and I spent the whole morning fishing for them. Fishing is my release and it is very personal to me. I don;t fish to impress anyone. I catch what I catch and fish how I want.


I had booked a party boat to fish in the ocean for my first time. I went with the attitude that I’ll catch what I do and have a good time. It was a typical experience from what I understand and I had a good time.The pics can speak for themselves. I did catch a large Porgy and my wife and I ate it the next day. 



Porgy Dinner


The fishing for me was about finding fish the way I used to. Hitting the water and finding out what was there. I had ideas of where to go for certain fish from my last trip but I did not bum any spots for this trip. All the coolfish I saw ws the reward.


Species List: 
Bass, Largemouth
Cichlid, Mayan
Cichlid, Oscar
Gar, Florida
Killifish, Seminole
Porgy, Saucereye
Snakehead, Bullseye
Snapper, Yellowtail
Sunfish, Bluegill
Sunfish, Redear
Sunfish, Spotted
Tilapia, Spotted


Cast_and_Blast's picture

Congrats man.  That is pretty awesome stuff.  You got some really cool lifers there, especially the Snakehead.  That's what I call some great R&R before Christmas.

Dr Flathead's picture

Man I could use one of them sunburns right about now!  Great job hanging in there with the snakeheads.  And you got some really cool new lifers including a really nice Florida Garr.  Florida is such a cool place.

BlueEye's picture

Woooh high five sight fished Bullseye! Cool trip man, I got mine on a white topwater frog intended to be casted right near its face and missed a foot high hanging from a single twig branch, without spooking it, heartbreak. instead,calmed down and vertically jigged that mofo from the shit cast twig hanger, as soon as that frog sunk a few inches it inhaled it. Batshit crazy fight for a medium sized fish.


IsaacsFishingCorner's picture

Man what an awesome trip! You caught some great lifers and your photographs are awesome! Congrats!

D.T.'s picture

Now that's a trip with great rewards. Great variety of fish and pricless time with family. Good on you.

Mike B's picture

Great job man. I can appreciated travelling with family while trying to knock off a couple lifelisters. Snakehead and Florida gar aqre high on my list too so congratulations.

mike b

Hengelaar's picture

That's good stuff, man!

Glad you had a great time. That Snakehead is especially rad. You earned that one!

Fishn sure is neat

Goldenfishberg's picture

Big Congrats man on an awesome snakehead! Lifers in florida with the familiy, cant get much better than that! Love the oscar too man they sure are purrrty!

Ya just Can't catch um from the couch.

Outdoors4life's picture

Truly a great trip. 

It is tough to balance family and fishing on a family vacation. I would have fished sun up to sun down every day if I could have. I had 9 locations that I had mapped out and did not go. I went to some areas only because my kids were playing on a playground nearby. It was all about taking advantage of the situation. 

Bucket list items were

-Explore some of the everglades with no help/guide

-Catch Snakehead

-Catch Florida Gar

-Catch Oscar

-"Deep" sea fish


Some goals were

-Upgrade pics!

-Catch spotted sunfish

-Have a good time

 -Research and stick to what I learned and know


Two failed fish attempts were 
Pleco (Spotted Catfish) and Needlefish both I had my chance and both I messed up. 

I was fortunate to catch some great specimens of different species. Many are great coloring and great sizes. My personal goal is not how many species but how well can I capture that species beauty in a photo. 

BlueEye I know just what you mean! Never give up. Change tactic because nothing goes as planned. I scouted some other areas that I lightly fished to get an idea. I think I found a spot with larger oscars and some new species that I am not even sure what they were. Guess there is always next time.

My kids want to get back there again some day and swim in the ocean again. Even being stung by jellyfish did not stop them from getting back into the water. My son got it the worst so I told him that it will be a great story. He battled a jellyfish and won.  

It is all perspective!

Acer Home Inspections

Matt Miller's picture

Very cool trip report. Snakehead is very, very high on my fish wish list.

I'll be in South Florida next month and have several days to fish after a work meeting. I know it's not prime time but I still can't wait to chase some new species.

DinoFish's picture

I'm loving the fish in this, the Oscars are especially beautiful and the snakehead's deep black color is super awesome. The Florida gar is another bucket list species for me, the pic here is great. I've never freshwater-fished in Florida myself, but have always wanted to. Next year, I'm heading off to Miami for college, so I'm excited to fish for some of these species! Thanks for sharing, sounds like it was quite an adventure.

And I was curious about the tiliapias/cichlids: are they picky eaters, or are they voracious like sunfish?

"Fishing is much more than fish... It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers." - Herbert Hoover

Corey's picture

Congrats on making the rematch successful! Great catches and cool adventure.

Outdoors4life's picture

You will be sick of the talpia and cichlids. They hit everything.  Same with the Oscars.
I had to weed through those species to get my sunfish.

It is all perspective!

Acer Home Inspections

Gunnar's picture

Way to go on the snakehead and gar! That's the kind of thing that makes a whole trip. 

In less than two weeks I'll be down there. Family vacation, but they understand me and I get decent amount fishing time. And now the kids are older and want to join in on the fishing adventures. Usually rent a boat for a day of saltwater fishing. Hoping to also get down to the Everglades for gar and whatever else is around. Got my lifer FL gar (followed by many more) there a couple years ago and have been itching to return and catch more of them.

Can't wait.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2018: 34 days, 39 species, 5 lifers. 2017: 49/52/14 2016: 48/33/5

roughfish29's picture

Great report man! All those fish look awesome, and looks like you had an awesome time! I think it's super rad that you explored the everglades unguided like that.


Look at the fins on that Snakehead!