Not-so-Secret Fishing Spots

Secret fishing spots often get passed from father to son through the generations

Secret fishing spots – some call them honey holes – often get passed from father to son through generations. Of course the reality is that our secret spots probably aren’t as “secret” as we think they are. We may only get to them every few weeks while other anglers visit them in between without our knowledge.

I had some LORAN numbers at one time off South Florida that I thought no one else knew. I fished the area on a number of occasions, taking care not to let anyone mark my spot.

I even went so far as to pick up and move if a boat headed in my direction. Maybe you have done the same thing. Maybe you have done as I have when I saw a drifting or anchored boat with a hooked fish. I moved as close as I dared and then hit “mark” on my GPS. I would come back later and investigate the area looking for structure and live bottom.

There are, however, some fishing spots that never required a LORAN or GPS. Some were (and still are) back in Whitewater Bay in Everglades National Park. At least some of them are in small creeks that I may never again be able to fish.

I remember one in particular that saved many a trip on bad day. When the winds howled and there was no way to fish “out front” of Flamingo or in the Gulf of Mexico, this is one place we could count on to catch fish. I’ll tell you exactly where it is, because as of the last rule changes in the park, it is officially now a no-entry area.

My first experience with this particular fishing hole came on a day when we had caught nothing and had reverted to some exploring. We were half way across Lake Ingram inside Cape Sable very close to the only island in the lake. Ingram is a saltwater tidal bay completely enclosed with an entry canal on each end.

It’s easy to find on any map.

East Cape Canal enters the lake on the south side and Middle Cape Canal enters on the west side. Both of these canals were dug in the thirties to help in the foolish and wasted effort to drain the everglades. The tidal flow into and out of the lake has kept both canals deep and navigable over the years, although the lake itself seldom exceeds four feet in depth.

A single channel, marked with small sticks makes its way across the lake from end to end. On a good day with clear water, you simply follow the prop path that has been made by boats running the channel.

On the west end of the lake, the remnants of a concrete wall marked the entrance to Middle Cape Canal at one time. My father used to tell me stories about a man he called “Old man Brown”, who, with his family, lived in a house there on the canal. He caught shrimp for a living and, according to my dad, a small seaplane used to land in the lake and pick up the shrimp he had to sell.

If you have never been in this area in the summer time, me telling you about how bad the mosquitoes are is fruitless. I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams living with them. The southwest tip of Florida gets my vote for the most populated place in the world for saltwater mosquitoes.

I guess it was another time and it took a different breed of individual to live there.

The wall is gone now, washed away by the swift tidal currents that flood and drain the lake every six hours or so - a small piece of history that will go untold except for those of us who remember.

Half way across the lake heading west, an island sits to the north of the channel. Many of my fishing hours have been spent drifting the grass to the south of the channel for redfish. Many of my hours were also spent trying to get the boat up on a plane and in the channel after we had fished all the way to low tide.

My dad told me stories about renting a small skiff at Slagle’s Ditch in the ‘30s and running all the way to the lake with a 5 hp air-cooled Mercury. Some of those trips meant paddling back because of motor trouble. I was always enthralled to hear him talk about those trips, and I wondered what it would have been like to have today’s equipment in those early years.

One particular day while my dad and I explored the south shore of the lake, we came upon a small creek. It was hard to see from the channel because it turned sharply at the entrance. We saw it and began idling over to it only to find the water was too shallow even at high tide.

We both eased out of the boat and pushed and pulled the boat through the shallow water, finding surprisingly deep water at the entrance to the creek. We had no depth finder – my dad would always take a rod and poke it in the water to find the depth. This small creek bottom was deeper than he could reach, so we started the engine.

It wound around to the south to a very small bay and then continued west. The mangroves hung over the water in a canopy fashion, and one or two larger trees lay across the path ahead. We made a decision to clear the way, knowing we would be here through the low tide before we could leave.

As we set up under the trees, we drifted some live shrimp under a float and allowed them to move back toward the undercut bank thirty feet behind the boat.

Every time the float reached that bank, it went under as a fish took our shrimp. The take was redfish and snook in the ten-pound range. It was exciting to fight these fish in and out of the mangroves.

On many occasions when the winds howled and we could not fish any other place, we ended up in this creek. More often than not, we had to get out and push the boat into the creek. And on several occasions we had to wait an hour or two for the tide to come up far enough to get the boat out.

I mentioned earlier that I might never be able to fish this spot again. The reason is a closure of that entire area to any type of boat traffic. It seems this area is one of the last breeding areas for the American crocodile, and the National Park Service has taken steps to insure that the crocs are not encumbered, so to speak.

I remember those trips as treasures in my life and I keep those spots secret to this day. It just wouldn’t seem right to let someone else take my Dad’s spot.

Secret spots. We all have them. I wonder how many of us have one that we know holds fish but that we simply can’t get to any longer?