written by Miciah McNelius
This past December I had the opportunity to fish in southern Florida. On my previous trip to Florida I was short on time and could not pursue many of the micros in the Keys and Everglades. This time I unfortunately forgot my most important piece micro tackle; a 16 foot stiff extendible crappie pole so I had make do my 6 foot bass rod. This was a big disadvantage since Florida is full of wading birds and many of the micros were very skittish when I approached the water.
Fortunately, I did remember to bring my Tiemco long shank, barbed size 28 hooks that I bought from an online fly shop, and some 8x fly tippet so I had the right terminal tackle. The longer shank allows easy catch and release and the barb assures the fish stays on the hook and is not lost in streamside vegetation.
It is important to purchase all your gear before going to southern Florida because there is very little freshwater fishing tackle at the Wal-marts, Bass Pro Shops, and other tackle shops, and almost nothing for fly fishing, so your only option will be to dismantle small sabiki rigs if you plan on catching micros.
Besides tackle, good bait is also hard to find in southern Florida. Most of the fishing shops did not carry worms or minnows this time of year so micro fishing was extremely useful in acquiring bait to catch larger fish.
The best part of using local bait is you avoid introducing new species and it is what the fish are used to eating. A good knowledge of what you catch can help avoid killing rare or endangered species. I like to use Jewel Cichlids and Mosquitofish because they are overabundant and compete heavily with less common native species such as the Golden Topminnow and the Dollar Sunfish.
Another useful tool for micro fishing is a photo tank. Underwater photography of fish is extremely helpful in identifying many species.
One of the best things about southern Florida is most fish bite year round, especially below the frost line, which is anything from Lake Ocheechobee south. During colder months in Florida some of the non-native fish stop or slow down biting such as the Jaguar Cichlid and Black Acara, which makes it easier to target native species.
Saltwater can really cool down from January to April in all but the Keys, this is especially true in the shallow bays, where there is extreme temperature changes, keep this in mind if visiting during these months. When this happens, focus on freshwater areas. Some of the best places to fish in freshwater are the springs and spring fed creeks, the steady temperatures and clear water are great for site fishing.
If the shallow bays are warm enough and not windy there are many unique species you can find in this habitat;
The Florida Keys have some of the best salt fishing opportunities and sometimes you don’t have to use micro tackle to catch amazing species. By just downsizing to size 10 to 14 hooks I caught beautiful fish like these small mouthed Cowfish and Wrasses that are almost impossible to hook on conventional salt tackle.
The same is true for freshwater, here are two species I was only able to catch on very small hooks.
Finally, if you only have time to fish only one place in southern Florida, I recommend the Tamiami Canal, which runs all across the southern half of the state, ending in Miami. The canal is especially clear in Big Cypress Preserve and if you enjoy watching fish like I do, there are quite few places you can get this close to them, just watch out for the alligators.