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Backcountry fishing

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On: Fri, Jul 18, 2008 at 1:34PM | By: Merry Beth Ryan


Backcountry fishing provides a special kind of tranquility that only shallow water fishing can provide. It is a world hidden deep in the mangroves where your GPS and fish finder will not come into play. Backcountry fishing, also referred to as flats fishing, is all about precision. There is something for everyone when it comes to fishing in Florida. If bluewater fishing is not your forte, and you want to avoid sea sickness at all cost, backcountry fishing is a true “get away from it all” adventure. If you are not up for a long offshore deep water fishing trip, backcountry fishing is for you. Backcountry fishing can be enjoyed by the entire family. More and more woman have gotten involved in this type of fishing, which is sometimes referred to as “skinny water” fishing. Being able to see the shoreline, and land in general, is a prerequisite of many anglers.

Backwater fishing is a good introduction to fishing in general. The pure beauty around you is enough to get your attention; catching fish is simply a bonus to an already perfect day in paradise. A fringe benefit of fishing the shallows is the scenery. You will witness ospreys, eagles, white pelicans, and spoonbills, as well as many other tropical bird species for no extra charge. You, the angler, have to do your best to not be distracted by all the beauty that surrounds you. The herons wading nearby or the pelicans and gulls diving to dip up their meal will at times get your attention. Dolphin and manatee, as well as alligators, will be among the many sights during your marine version of Jurassic Park. If you like the challenge of stalking and having to make a near perfect cast to a fish, you will be right at home in the backcountry shallow water.

Ladies can master this form of fishing just as well as their male counterparts. There is not a more relaxing form of fishing out there. Woman are often hesitant to go offshore to the deeper bluewater. The rough water sometimes encountered, as well as the travel time to reach your offshore fishing destinations, is not for everyone. I was recently able to go inshore fishing with a family who owns a 65 foot sportfishing boat. This particular family was used to catching Marlin and Swordfish, as well as Sailfish. An inshore slam was something they never had heard of. That was about to change. After reeling up Snook, along with some keeper Redfish, until their arms hurt, I do believe it is something they will definitely do more of in the near future. If you have been reluctant to even consider heading into the backcountry due to your boat’s draft, or maybe because you doubted there were really any fish up those creeks, you will be surprised at what you have been missing. There is a whole new world out there you have yet to explore. A large amount of water is unreachable by the casual angler, thus providing some of the best fishing you could ever wish for.

The transparent shallows are usually teeming with life. Most of the fish that feed on flats do so for one reason—prey is easier to chase down. In deeper open water bait can move almost in any direction to in order to escape. Bait cannot move up and down in the flats, making it easier to catch them. The dark brown bottom in the mangroves is basically a giant solar pad. The light coming through the mangrove leaves warms the water. Especially during the heat of the day, fish leave their deeper holes to lie in the sun in the shallow areas. These fish can be easily spooked, so your skills as an angler will be challenged when you target these fish. You will want a push pole when out for a day of backcountry fishing. Getting your boat to where the fish are located is challenging enough. Once there, a push pole helps you quietly get close enough to make the accurate cast needed to successfully land backwater fish. If you’re lucky enough to have someone pole you through the shallows from the stern of the boat, all the better. You will be amazed at how close you can get to the southwest shallow water fish such as Redfish, Trout, Snook, and Tarpon. Bonefish, Permit and shallow water Sharks are very popular southeast backcountry fish.

If you’re looking for a slow-paced day of fishing, look no further—head to the backcountry. We are seeing more and more flats boats on the water today than ever before. Many anglers start out being bluewater anglers until they experience the thrills of catching inshore fish. Before they know it, they are purchasing a flats boat at the same time they are putting a big For Sale sign on their offshore boat. Only certain designed boats can even attempt getting into the backcountry. There are a variety of boat manufacturers who have designed special flats boats. Maverick, Lake and Bay, Hewes, Dorado, and B/C are just a few of boats built for backcountry fishing. There is a reason so many flats boats are on the water. Skinny water fishing is as good as it gets. Backcountry fishing, as with fly fishing, provides a certain calm hard to come by. Slowly drifting in the backcountry shallow waters provides a priceless peacefulness. Patience is a must when fishing in shallow water. If you can see the fish, assume they can also see you. Even a simple shadow on the water can spook these fish. A good pair of polarized sunglasses with inshore green lenses will help you see the fish, hopefully before they see you. It is imperative to be as quiet as possible at all times. The slightest sounds can be heard by the fish. Move slowly around the boat and be ready to cast at all times. Communication is a must with this type of fishing as well. There is not a lot of extra space in a flats boat, so making use of all the available space helps everyone have a more successful fishing trip. It is all a matter of personal preference when it comes to the style of fishing you choose. Both styles of fishing attract many anglers; it is up to you to decide what style best fits you and your expectations.

It is a totally different perspective being able to see the fish you are casting to and watch them take your bait; your adrenalin level increases by the second. Other great benefits to shallow water fishing is it takes only a fraction of the time and gas to reach your fishing destination versus going offshore. With gas prices as high as they are backcountry fishing is a cheaper way to feed your fishing addiction. If you do not own a boat, or are not fortunate enough to live with a fishing guide like me, a canoe or a kayak will allow you access to the hidden world of backcountry fishing. Grab a rod and reel and go out and give it a try. Getting lost in the backcountry, fishing the day away is just what the fishing doctor ordered.




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