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November 19, 2007

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The Tarpon Trail

Everglades National Park, southwest Florida
Target species: Redfish, snook, seatrout, tarpon
January avg. temps: 78 high, 60 low
Round-trip airfare to Fort Myers: $165
Accommodations: Camping at $2 per night

Camping by kayak among the myriad coastal islands of the Everglades is one of the best fishing deals of all time. Pick up a cheap car (about $185 a week) at Fort Myers and drive to Everglades City. Rent your kayaks from North American Canoe Tours (about $40 a day; evergladesadventures.com), which will transport them to the nearby Park Service ranger station. Here you can register for backcountry campsites and leave your car. Note that you must register in person; reservations are not taken, and weekends and holidays are crowded. Load your gear and start paddling, keeping an eye out for reds and trout along the oyster bars and mangroves as you go. Smart paddlers figure in the tides. You’ll want high outgoing as you paddle outward, for example. Camping overnight on a small island or chikee (elevated platform) gives you more fishing time in the backcountry. Back in Everglades City, meanwhile, you can stay with my pals at the Ivey House lodge (iveyhouse.com) for $85 a night and have a fresh grouper sandwich with a cold beer at the fish dock across the street as you watch the sun go down. For details, see the Wilderness Trip Planner on the Park Service website (nps.gov/ever).

--John Merwin


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Tony Fotopulos

Just returned from the Everglades 2 days ago. Fished out of Everglades City and Chokoluskee. Tides are everything here as the reds and snook just lie on the mud bottom if the water is not moving. Very tough to see but real easy to spook! Incoming tide will start fish cruising very skinny shore lines and create sight fishing opportunities.We managed to catch a few reds 5 to 8 pounds and Snook in the same size range. Only saw 1 laid up baby Tarpon in 3 days. As winter sets in the resident fish move way back in the back country. Caution, so do the Gators. Saw 2 of the biggest ones I have ever seen 15 miles back (bigger than any Kayak you can rent there. The bird life was awesome with a huge flock of White Pelicans (over a hundred) swirling on the mid-day thermals in the back country. If you have never been to the Glades, better go! This fragile ecosystem may be the first to suffer from global warming.

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